Learn More, Do more, New Features in JAWS: The JAWS Scan Cursor

Over the next few weeks, we want to highlight some of the new features in the recently released 2020 updates to JAWS and Fusion. For our first post, we want to briefly cover some changes to the existing JAWS and Invisible Cursors which help improve access to many of the universal applications found in Windows 10. These types of apps, also known as Universal Windows Platform apps, are typically obtained through the Microsoft Store and can run on any Windows device from a small hand-held tablet computer to a full desktop PC.

Background

For years, JAWS has provided the ability for users to quickly review text on the screen without changing the system focus. For instance, if you need to access information in a dialog box that is not accessible using TAB or SHIFT+TAB, you could press NUM PAD MINUS or NUM PAD MINUS twice quickly to activate the JAWS or Invisible Cursor and then use the ARROW keys and other standard reading commands to move around the screen while the system focus remained on the current control. The primary difference between the JAWS and Invisible Cursors is that the mouse pointer follows along with the JAWS Cursor so you can click items using the NUM PAD SLASH or NUM PAD STAR commands.

In order to access screen content with the JAWS and Invisible Cursors, we use a technology called the Off-Screen Model (OSM). However, in the last few years, an increasing number of applications are now using newer technologies such as User Interface Automation (UIA) to present screen content which made the JAWS and Invisible Cursor useless in these situations. When activating these cursors in applications like the Calculator, Weather, or most apps from the Microsoft Store, you would only hear “blank” when attempting to review the screen.

The JAWS and Invisible Scan Cursors

JAWS 2020 now detects when focus is in an application where the OSM is not supported and will automatically use the new JAWS or Invisible Scan Cursor in these situations. You will use the same navigation commands as you would with the traditional JAWS or Invisible cursors.

For example, if you press NUM PAD MINUS in the Weather app so you can review a forecast, you will now hear JAWS announce “JAWS Scan Cursor” as this is an app that does not support the OSM. Similarly, if you press NUM PAD Minus twice quickly, you will hear JAWS announce, “Invisible Scan Cursor.” You can then use the same commands you always have to review text with the difference being that you are now navigating through the UIA elements of the app.

For instance:

  • LEFT or RIGHT ARROW moves by character through the text of the current element.
  • CTRL+LEFT or CTRL+RIGHT ARROW moves by word.
  • UP or DOWN ARROW moves to the previous or next element or line of text.
  • HOME or END moves to the beginning or end of the current element.
  • CTRL+HOME or CTRL+END moves to the first or last element on the screen.

You can still use JAWS commands such as INSERT+UP ARROW to read the current element or line of text as well as CTRL+F to search for text currently visible on the screen. When using the JAWS Scan Cursor, the mouse pointer follows along as you navigate so you can still press NUM PAD SLASH or NUM PAD STAR to perform a left or right click.

While the JAWS and Invisible Scan Cursors work in many places, we are continuing to improve this functionality in more areas. Look out for improvements in future 2020 updates.

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