Saturday, October 6

Initial thoughts on JAWS 9 beta

Greetings. Well, I’m sitting here trying out the new JAWS 9.0 beta, and I must say, things are working pretty well. I usually don’t try beta software for the basic rule that its not supported by the company. And, the fact that I’m a wiser computer user. In my younger days, I would have jumped on each beta just to see what’s new and what had changed. Now though, I’m a bit more cautious. Since betas aren’t supported yet by the company and are by nature testing software, there’s no one to help if something does go wrong. Anyway, there were a few things that jumped out at me with this JAWS version. First, the fact that you can now copy text from websites and have the formatting be retained. Granted, this might just be a benefit for sighties as I call them, but after thinking about it, I realize the benefit for bloggers. Now, if there’s a story that I want to post on my blog that has links in it, in theory, I can copy that article and post it on my blog with the formatting intact. Though I’m still playing with this feature, its pretty cool.

Another one that I thought would be great is the improved support for Word, ranging from Word 2002 (XP) to 2007. I have Word XP on my home computer and 2003 at work. Word 2003 with JAWS 9 works great, but then again, there was never any real slow down. However, Word XP on my home machine with JAWS has presented some sluggishness. The sluggishness was there with both JAWS 8 and now with 9. When I first pull up a document JAWS is fine. After spending a few minutes navigating though, it slows down a lot. To the point that I’d rather edit with my Braille display than navigate with JAWS, and for me, that’s kind of saying something since I tend to prefer auditory editing rather than Braille.

Freedom Scientific has been pretty responsive to user feedback thus far, posting a revision two days ago which already addresses some of the user issues. There is a definite pause between when I arrow up in Word or do a say line in JAWS, to when JAWS reads the information or when the Braille display shows it. Granted, this might be due to an older computer, but I don’t think that all of it falls at the 4-year old machine’s fault. While editing this post, I’ve also had issues where, when I press one of the routing keys on my display to route the cursor to that cell, the text goes blank on the display and I’m moved to the bottom of the document. Currently, JAWS seems to be reading things fine and I can navigate fine, but the display is giving me trouble. At any rate, unless something changes, I’m probably going to invest in some System Access software for my next computer, in hopes that it will pick up where JAWS leaves off. This all assumes that the JAWS reading and access will be the same in Vista, which hopefully it will be better than what I’m dealing with now and not the same. Anyway, as I stated before, this is beta software. Those not comfortable with using “test” software should wait for the final release later this year.

One change in Thursday’s revision that I am pleased with is the continued tracking of the System Tray when you click on an item to open there. Previously, when I was ready to stop the transmission of material to my Victor Reader Stream and when to the Safely Remove Hardware item in the System Tray, after choosing the Safely Remove option, JAWS lost focus. I had to try at least 3 times before I was able to stop the processes. Now though, JAWS retains focus and makes the process smoother. Refer to the JAWS 9 beta page on the FS main site, or elsewhere on this blog, for the direct link to the list of changes and to keep up with all changes in this beta cycle. Enjoy, and remember, try at your own risk.

Afterward: I need the spell checker to correct what I miss. If it weren't for that, then I'd compose all of my posts in Blogger itself instead of Word. I really hope the issues in Word are addressed, since it makes me not want to use Word at home, and Word is one of those packages that you need to have available and use from time to time. I have done numerous JAWS screen refreshes and made sure my window was maximized in Word with no positive effect. Is there anyone else who's beta testing JAWS 9 that uses Word XP who is having these same problems? If so, please follow my lead and let FS know so we can fix these issues once and for all.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wayne,

    I agree with you that word documents are very important for every person. I am student at Columbus State Community College, and I use Microsoft Office Word 2003 for my every assignment. Some times we have to post some assignments online, first, I type my answers in word document, spell-check, and then I post my answers. Moreover, if I type a paper in my Braille note, I transfer it to my computer, spell-check, and then I print it out. Using word documents regularly improved my writing skills a lot, and word 2003 is very important for me.

    I use Microsoft office Word 2003, and I have the same problems what you are having with word documents. When I type more than three lines, the screen starts flickering, and the reading commands move very slowly. It gets very frustrating when you are typing or proof reading long documents. I have been having this problem since I updated my computer to Windows Vista Business. I complained about this problem to freedomscientific two days ago. I hope that freedomscientific will resolve this problem in next beta update.

    --- Zaheer Sheikh