Over the coming weeks on our blog, we’ll be looking at some of the new features in the next version of our JAWS® screen reading software, version 2018. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded the public beta and put it through its paces.
One of the most anticipated enhancements to this version of JAWS is support for Microsoft Edge, the browser built into Windows 10. Edge not only gives you another tool for working with web pages and web-based applications, it’s also going to be used increasingly by Microsoft to display content in Windows.
In FSCast, which is Freedom Scientific’s official podcast, we’ve been keeping you updated as we have worked towards this milestone. Since people depend on JAWS on the job and in study, we were determined not to rush out support for Edge, just to check it off our list of tasks. We wanted to create an experience for you as a user that, as much as possible, looks and feels like the browsing experience you’re used to.
Freedom Scientific and Microsoft have been collaborating closely on the accessibility of Edge for some time. Not only have we made big changes to JAWS, Microsoft has made changes on the Windows side as well.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft takes the needs of JAWS users seriously. Recently, several senior engineers from Freedom Scientific spent a few days in Redmond at Microsoft’s headquarters, meeting with key people. Long gone are the days when a new version of Windows would be released, and you’d have to wait while our best and brightest found ways to hook into the new version with minimal support.
The first demonstration of this collaboration between Freedom Scientific and Microsoft to make Edge accessible with JAWS is now available in JAWS 2018 public beta 1. While we’re not all the way there in terms of creating an experience that is identical to other browsers, we’re close. Many of our navigation quick keys work in Edge just as they did in Internet Explorer. We’ll add more navigation quick keys as we refine our Edge support.
JAWS 2018 isn’t the only beta you might be using right now. Some of our users enjoy being part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program, and we’re glad they’re there. If you’re not familiar with the Windows Insider Program, anyone can sign up to test versions of Windows that aren’t officially released to the public yet. If you have a computer that you don’t depend on for your livelihood, it’s a great way to provide useful feedback that can make the next release of Windows more stable for everyone.
So, if you’re really brave, you may be running a beta from us, and a beta from Microsoft too, as they get ready to release the Windows Fall Creators Update on October 17.
If you’re running with that configuration, there may be times when you see different issues from most people. Members of our engineering and testing teams are running the insider builds too, so if Microsoft makes a change or we find a bug, which is of course the point of beta testing, we can accommodate the change in JAWS or report the bug in Windows.
Sometimes, when you’re testing so much unreleased software, it can be easy to get a bit pessimistic. What is it they say? Seeing how software and sausage is made can be pretty scary. Rest assured that thanks to the close relationship between Freedom Scientific and Microsoft, JAWS 2018 will work well with the final release of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, including the version of Microsoft Edge in that update.
Windows is changing more quickly than ever. Many of those changes relate to accessibility. Be sure to keep your software maintenance agreement current for JAWS. Not only do you get a major update every year, you get frequent updates throughout the year, taking advantage of accessibility changes from Microsoft, Google and others.
Remember, one rare advantage of testing a beta of JAWS compared with many other betas is that we don’t overwrite your stable version. JAWS 18 and JAWS 2018 will co-exist on your system just fine. This means that if you find something that’s a show-stopper in terms of you getting things done, your previous JAWS is still right there.
If you find a bug, please let us know about it, so we can get right on to squashing that pesky critter. Submit it via our beta bug report form and we’ll definitely take a look.
Rest assured, you’ll be able to live life on the Edge going forward.