GLEN GORDON: On FSCast 189 I’ll give you a whirlwind demo of some of the new features coming in JAWS 2021. There’s the new Voice Assistant, improvements in Picture Smart, OCR directly to Word, and more. Plus David Kingsbury is back with a new book, “When One Web Browser Is Not Enough.” All coming up on our podcast for September of 2020.
Hello, everybody. Glen Gordon welcoming you to another edition of the podcast. I have lots to show you this month because we’re right around the corner from the official releases of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021. Like clockwork they come out at the end of October. If you want to be informed about when it comes out, and you’re using an English version of one of our products, make sure that you have the latest 2020 updates installed. They came out in the middle of August. So if you allow auto updates, you’ve probably already installed it. If you’ve not, now would be a really great time to check for updates or go to the website and download the latest versions. But however you get them, once you have the August updates installed, the moment our 2021 releases come out we’ll let you know. Because historically one version of the software has not announced the next major version, but we’ve changed that for English-speaking markets.
In previous years, if you’ve been in the U.S., you’ve always gotten a letter indicating that a new version of the software is out and that you’re eligible for it. But starting this year those letters won’t be coming. So in order to get an announcement automatically, having the latest versions of the software really makes it easier. It’s hard to believe that both JAWS and ZoomText have been around for nearly 30 years. And although we’ve added lots of functionality, the basic way you use them has remained pretty much the same, JAWS mostly with a keyboard. The more commands you’ve committed to memory, the faster and more efficiently you can get things done. Similarly, ZoomText you use mostly with a mouse, but a keyboard can often make things more efficient.
Voice Assistant Demo
GLEN: Meanwhile, in the world around us, people are doing more and more with voice, which obviously caused us to start thinking about how voice commands might become a really significant part of how you interact with our products, and how using voice may make it much easier for people who are new to JAWS or ZoomText to really take to it more quickly and not have to instantly remember lots of commands with a keyboard, but gradually learn them over time.
The result is something we call the Voice Assistant. Works exactly the same as your home assistants except all the commands relate to doing something with our products. So if you’re using ZoomText or Fusion, you can increase the magnification level. You can invert colors. You can bring up the ZoomText UI. Similarly with JAWS you can bring up all of the managers. You can move between headings. You can move between links.
And we realized that not all of you are going to use this in exactly the same way. If you’re a new user, you may find yourself relying on this a whole lot more, simply because it’s often easier to remember the name of a command than a key combination. On the other hand, if you’re more experienced, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to use it. It just means you’ll probably use it for those things that you don’t do very often because I, for one, and I’m sure I’m not alone, don’t always remember some of those things I want to do once every couple of months. But yet when I want to do them, it would be much faster to issue the command by voice than going and looking up the command.
But however you plan to use it, we hope you’ll try it. You can try it now in the betas of JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion. And over time we’ll continue to refine it. We’ve created a platform. It’s amazing how long it took to get all of the infrastructure in place because we’re sending things up to the cloud, getting information back and integrating it with our products. But that whole framework is in place, and that puts us in a great position to be able to extend this and improve it over time. So just think of voice commands as one more way you can control JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion. Not the only way, but one way that may be a great add-on to the things that you can now do.
If you’re using ZoomText or Fusion, the way you bring the Voice Assistant to life is by saying “Zoomy.” If you’re using JAWS, you say “Sharky.” [Tone] “What time is it?” [Tone] “12:41 p.m.”
So you heard two tones there. The first one said that we recognize the wake word, and then the second one was we recognize the command and could respond to it. You’ll get a different tone if we have no idea of what’s being said. But the important thing is that we only listen, like those home assistants, after the wake word and for a short period of time afterwards. The commands do go up to the cloud. We have a record of what’s said, but we keep no information about who said it. And the only reason we keep track of what’s said is so that, over time, we can refine things and make sure we respond to more things being said, and said in a variety of ways.
So I have Chrome open now. And let me try a few voice commands in Chrome. Sharky, give me a list of links.
JAWS VOICE: Links list dialog. Skip to content. One of 62.
GLEN: I’m going to hit ESCAPE to get out of this. Sharky, list of headings.
JAWS VOICE: Heading list dialog. Headings list view. COVID-19 update: One.
GLEN: So those are a couple of the things you can do on the web. Let me go to Word now.
JAWS VOICE: When One Web Browser Is Not Enough.docx – read-only – Word. Edit.
GLEN: And that in fact is the book by David Kingsbury, who will be my guest a little later on in the podcast. But we’re going to subject him now to the Word grammar checker. Sharky. Next grammatical error.
JAW VOICE: Please wait. It’s pretty amazing that anything on the web works at all.
GLEN: Well, that didn’t sound that grammatically wrong. But, you know, we’ll believe that Word thinks it’s a grammatical error. Sharky, next heading.
JAWS VOICE: Heading 2, 1.2: Evolution of Screen Reader Usage.
GLEN: Admittedly, commands like that are not the best ones to use the Voice Assistant for. It’s just so much faster to do it with the keyboard, and you’re likely to be moving a lot. So ideally you should use command search to figure out what keystroke is assigned to the command. Sharky, command search.
JAWS VOICE: Search for JAWS commands dialog.
GLEN: For things like that, it’s a lifesaver; right? It’s going to be faster for me to use a voice command than it is for me to look up what the keystroke is, especially if I may not be back for a couple of weeks. Probably the command that you should remember most is “Sharky, what can I ask you?”
JAWS VOICE: VoiceAssistant.htm – Google Chrome.
GLEN: This is a relatively short document that talks about how you bring the Voice Assistant to life. You can do it by voice. You can also do it by keyboard. And then there are tables that indicate the general Voice Assistant commands, the ones you can do in browsers, the ones you can do in Word, what you can do in Outlook. But it’s also fine to just experiment; right? It’s not going to break anything. And the other thing that’s going to accomplish is it’s going to let us know the kinds of things that you have the imagination to try. And even if we don’t support it now, by trying it we’ll automatically get those commands and can consider them for things we try in the future. So it’s a way you can really help us and at the same time explore the Voice Assistant feature on your own.
Let me take you into the configuration screen because you, like I, may have gotten really tired of those tones. So INSERT+J.
JAWS VOICE: JAWS context menu. Option submenu. O.
GLEN: And the Voice Assistant is under Utilities, so I’ll hit U.
JAWS VOICE: Voice Assistant submenu. V.
GLEN: Press ENTER.
JAWS VOICE: Talk to JAWS, INSERT+ALT+SPACE. Settings... S.
GLEN: So if I go into Settings...
JAWS VOICE: Leaving menus. Default (all applications) – JAWS Settings Center dialog. Tree view. Level zero. Voice Assistant. Open. Four items.
GLEN: So we’re in Settings Center on the Voice Assistant tree.
JAWS VOICE: Level one. Enable Voice Assistant checked. One of four. Voice Assistant.
GLEN: So you can turn Voice Assistant off completely, if you want to.
JAWS VOICE: Listen for Wake Word Sharky checked.
GLEN: If that’s turned off, you will no longer be able to say “Sharky” or “Zoomy” to bring Voice Assistant to life, depending upon your product, but instead can only use the keyboard equivalent, which is INSERT+ALT+SPACE. Now one reason why that may be turned off and unavailable for you to turn on is if your microphone is set up to be your Bluetooth headset. As it turns out, when you have a Bluetooth headset, and it’s being used for a conversation, the only other thing you can hear is the person at the other end of the conversation.
So we found that there were some people who have their Bluetooth headsets set up to play JAWS. And as a result of us having the microphone always listening for the wake word, they couldn’t hear JAWS anymore. So we decided that was a pretty terrible situation and almost impossible for a blind person to get out of. And until we’ve worked out some more logistical details, we’ve disabled this for all Bluetooth headsets. We may be able to relax this over time because it seems that only some of them have the problem. The issue for us is we don’t know which ones.
JAWS VOICE: Enable Voice Assistant sounds checked.
GLEN: So this is the sounds one. If you turn this off...
JAWS VOICE: Not checked.
GLEN: And let me press ENTER here to save it.
JAWS VOICE: Freedom Scientific.
GLEN: So I’m back on the Freedom Scientific page. Sharky, list of form fields.
JAWS VOICE: Select a form field dialog. List one list view. Search: edit.
GLEN: So the sounds are gone. Life is good, at least for me, and maybe for you. I’ve demonstrated Voice Assistant in English. It is available or will be available by the time the product finally releases in all of the major Western European languages. That’s English, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, French-Canadian. I don’t think I missed any there. And more will be coming over time. We do need to do some extra work for each language, so it is sort of an iterative process. This is just the beginning. We spent a lot of time creating the framework to have a Voice Assistant in our products. And now that it’s here, there are all sorts of things that we can do with it and are really looking forward to taking it to the next level.
GLEN: So let’s talk a little bit about Picture Smart now. That’s the service that we have as part of JAWS that’ll get descriptions of images for you. It worked historically really well on files, but not so well on the web. You have to go through some extra steps to actually get an image on a web page described for you. We’ve fixed that to streamline it, and I’ll show you how that works in a minute.
But I do want to talk about two other services that may obviate the need in some cases to explicitly get a description of an image. The first is the service that Facebook provides. It’s actually been active for several years now where Facebook will try to come up with a description of an image that doesn’t have a good ALT tag. That often works really well, and you can pretty much tell it’s the Facebook synthesis of that description when you see something like “Image may contain.”
But if you’re not on Facebook, and you’re running Google Chrome, you have another option, too, because Chrome has a “get descriptions of images” option. You enable it, and I might add you need to enable it because it’s off by default. You enable it by going to File Settings. Then, once there, I would do SHIFT+H because Advanced is the last heading on the page. You’ll be able to press ENTER to expand the Advanced button and then continue to press H until you get down to accessibility. And under that there’s an option that says “Get descriptions of images.” Simply turn that on. And Chrome will then go off and retrieve the description of some, but not necessarily all images.
So there are two cases where Picture Smart is still really useful. The first is simply that an image that you have gotten the description for automatically seems inadequate, and you’re really hoping for more information. Try Picture Smart on it. The second one is that Chrome or Facebook comes up with no description at all. Picture Smart is likely to be much better.
GLEN: One place where Chrome does not properly describe images is on a USPS site called Informed Delivery. You can go there and find out what mail is due to arrive at your house that day. There’s a picture of the envelope. And so if you have information about what’s in that picture, it can let you know what to be expecting. And Rod Alcidonis sent us a Power Tip about this.
And I must admit that I just felt very ashamed when he mentioned that because I had signed up for this service several months earlier, realized that all that was in the email that they sent and on the website were pictures of mail, and said, oh, that’s not very useful. But Rod clearly is more clever than I. And he said, “This is a perfect use of Picture Smart.” And I figure this is a great time to share his Power Tip. So let me go to the Informed Delivery site. And I’ve gone down to the area where the scanned email is.
JAWS VOICE: Scanned image of your mail piece graphic.
GLEN: Let’s call Picture Smart into service here, see if it can do better for us. So I’ll do INSERT+SPACE and then P for Picture Smart.
JAWS VOICE: Picture Smart.
GLEN: And once you get into one of these layers, or even before you get into the layer after hitting INSERT+SPACE, you can always hit question mark. And that’ll bring up a web page of all the commands that are available in that layer. But I happen to know that C on a graphic in a web page will recognize it. And SHIFT+C will recognize it with more than one engine. So I’m going to do SHIFT+C.
JAWS VOICE: Picture Smart is in progress. Heading Level 2 caption is a screenshot of a cell phone. Heading Level 4, this logo probably appears in the photo. Chromebook. Heading Level 4, these logos possibly appear in the photo. Heading Level 4, this text appears on the photo. Official absentee balloting material – First-Class Mail.
GLEN: Now, you may have noticed a bunch of junk that was read as part of the OCR. I think it’s because these are not the highest quality pictures of mail. But it often is enough to understand what’s coming and what to be expecting. And we thank Rod for sending in that Power Tip. For his trouble and his creativity he gets an extension of either his JAWS Perpetual or his JAWS Home license. If you’re interested in submitting a Power Tip, by all means write to us. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Fscast@vispero.com. Keep in mind that we are looking for things that are less than obvious, creative ways of using our software or features that are really under-respected.
GLEN: Another thing I want to show you has to do with Windows notifications. And you, too, may have noticed just how many of them often pop up at times that I’m doing something else, and I tend to hit a key and interrupt them, or I’m on the phone and aren’t listening. We’ve added something to JAWS, something really simple. If you hit INSERT+SPACE and N...
JAWS VOICE: Zoom: 110%.
GLEN: You’ll get the last notification. Mine obviously was fat-fingering in Chrome and setting zoom to a higher zoom level than I really wanted. But whatever the last notification is, INSERT+SPACE+N will read it for you.
GLEN: Another thing I want to show you is the enhancements we’ve made to Convenient OCR. One of the problems in the past, if you’ve ever wanted to bring the text that Convenient OCR recognized into Word, you’d notice that everything came in as a table, even if the document had nothing to do with a table. So I’m going to do two things. I’m going to show you how this process works in JAWS 2020, and then I’m going to show you how it’s improved in JAWS 2021. So I’m sitting on a file here in File Explorer.
JAWS VOICE: SmartphoneEtiquette.pdf.
GLEN: And rather than bringing it into Acrobat, since I know there’s no text here, and I’m going to have to do OCR, I can short-circuit it, do INSERT+SPACE+O.
JAWS VOICE: OCR.
GLEN: O for OCR. And I’m just going to do F for OCR File.
JAWS VOICE: Document OCR started. Smartphone Etiquette. We’ve all been in a meeting where the person across the room is busy tweeting or Facebooking under the table, or out to lunch with a person who’s so tethered. Tethered.
GLEN: So I’m going to Select All.
JAWS VOICE: Selected, 4,017. Copied selection to clipboard.
GLEN: I’m going to ALT+TAB to Microsoft Word.
JAWS VOICE: Document1 – Word. Edit.
GLEN: And I’m going to paste this in with CTRL+V.
JAWS VOICE: Paste it from clipboard.
GLEN: And now if I go up to the top and just start reading by line, so I’m going to do a CTRL+HOME.
JAWS VOICE: Page 1. Top of file.
GLEN: And now I’m going to do a Say Line.
JAWS VOICE: Table 1. Non-uniform table. We’ve all been in a meeting with...
GLEN: Well, you see, it’s already screwed up, and I’m only on line one of the document. So I think you get the idea. Let me go back to JAWS 2021.
JAWS VOICE: Unloading JAWS. JAWS. Beta release.
GLEN: So I’ve gone back to JAWS 2021 now. I’m positioned in File Explorer on the Smartphone Etiquette document. Do INSERT+SPACE+O.
JAWS VOICE: OCR.
GLEN: And F for OCR File.
JAWS VOICE: Document OCR started. Link open in Word... Finished.
GLEN: So you notice at the top there, there is a link to open this in Word. And so let me read a little of the document.
JAWS VOICE: We’ve all been in a meeting where the person across the room is busy tweeting or Facebooking under the table.
GLEN: So I’ll do CTRL+HOME to get back to the top.
JAWS VOICE: Link open in Word...
GLEN: And press ENTER.
JAWS VOICE: Open in Word... Visited link. SmartphoneEtiquette1.docx – Word. We’ve all been in a meeting where the person across the room is busy tweeting or Facebooking under the table, or out to lunch with a person who’s so tethered to their smartphone that they place it on the table.
GLEN: I’m not going to read the whole document for you. But if I turn on Quick Keys here...
JAWS VOICE: Quick Keys on.
GLEN: And then press T...
JAWS VOICE: There are no tables in this document.
GLEN: So this document is free of tables, and it is something that you could easily edit, if that were your purpose in bringing it into Word. It’s not that we’ve stopped recognizing tables. We’ve just changed things around a little bit so that the tables we recognize, like let’s say if you scanned in a form, that likely would be represented as tabulary data, and we’d recognize that. But we’ve eliminated all the recognizing of things that we think are tables but actually aren’t.
GLEN: The last thing I want to show you has to do with a change in behavior in Microsoft Outlook and how we read messages that you’ve received. So I’m in the inbox now. And I’m going to arrow down to a message.
JAWS VOICE: And read. Eric Damery re: Automatic Reading of Email or Messages in Outlook, Thursday, 9/17/2020, 12:42 p.m.
GLEN: I’m going to press ENTER, and notice what’s spoken. And equally importantly, notice what’s not spoken.
JAWS VOICE: Message has 36 links. Glen, if there is time to demo this on FSCast also, it might be really helpful. Show the change of opening an email from the Inbox of 365.
GLEN: So you’ll notice that what’s missing is the window title, and also rereading of the From: and the To: and the Subject: fields, the idea being that, if you’re like I am and like many of us, we’re reading through our inbox, hearing the subjects and who they’re from. And then what we want to get to when we press ENTER is simply the text of the message. So that’s how it’s set up by default. We really hope you’ll try it for a while.
If it turns out that it’s not exactly what you want, you can go into Quick Settings and make a couple of refinements. And I’ll just describe those for you. If you do INSERT+V and go to Quick Settings, type in Message, and you’ll see two options in the list of the ones you’ve come up with. The first one has to do with whether or not you hear the headers as part of the message we read automatically. And there’s also Read Message Title for read-only messages. And that’s essentially reading the title of the window. So you can turn either or both of those one if you’d prefer it.
There’s one wrinkle here. And we may be able to refine it over time, but thus far we’ve not come up with a reliable way, and that is when you ALT+TAB back to one of these windows. Typically, if you’re using the keyboard, you’ll hear whatever window you’re about to land in, but we don’t reread the message title. And that’s because we’ve suppressed it when you’re at a read-only message, and we’ve not come up with a really reliable way of suppressing it sometimes but not always. So that’s one of the sacrifices for getting the quicker automatic reading experience.
So there you have it. Sort of a whirlwind tour of what’s coming in JAWS 2021, plus Fusion 2021, and the Voice Assistant feature also coming to ZoomText. If you want to try any of this right now, Public Beta 2 is just around the corner. Feel free to go to the website, find your favorite product, and there’ll be information on how you can download the public beta.
GLEN: With me now is David Kingsbury. His name may be familiar to you. He was on the podcast about a year ago, discussing his first book about formatting your documents with Microsoft Word, JAWS, and one of those other N screen readers. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one it is. He’s back with a second book now, in addition to being an instructor at the Carroll Center in Massachusetts. The book: “When One Web Browser Is Not Enough: A Guide for Screen Reader Users.” And David, welcome back to the podcast.
DAVID KINGSBURY: Thank you very much. It’s great to be back.
GLEN: What are the kinds of people who you typically see at the Carroll Center?
DAVID: There’s quite a variety of people we train, but it’s mainly people who become blind or visually impaired in midlife, and they have to do the adjustment, do the training that they need in independent living. So we typically have a residential program. It varies in length. But I took part myself in a 12-week residential program where we learned orientational mobility skills, independent living skills around the house, technology of course, braille, and a few other things. I was pretty amazed at the turnaround that took place at the Carroll Center. For me it’s almost – it was almost magical. A lot of that involved simply getting to know other blind people because I had never known any blind people myself before becoming blind. And when I was overseas blind, I really didn’t get to know anybody. So the combination of the training and getting to know other blind people and being back in a familiar environment in the United States, that really launched me on the way towards being better adjusted.
Now, sometimes sighted people think, you know, when you go for training for a few months, you’re going to come back home cured. I say “cured” in quotation marks. And of course the adjustment continued. And for me, frankly, that was 10 or 12 years ago. Well, 13 years ago, 2007. And I’m still adjusting. It’s still a work in progress. But the Carroll Center, the training that took place there, the emotional healing really transformed my life and put me back on track. And frankly, I don’t know what I would have done without that. And I know that my experience is not unique. I know many other people who have had sort of a similar transformation.
GLEN: What would your technology-aware self tell your blindness technology-unaware self back then that really would have been most helpful that you didn’t know?
DAVID: I guess one answer would be get training early if you can. I happened to be overseas. I didn’t have that possibility. I had to learn a lot of stuff on my own. Fortunately, though, JAWS had some great resources such as the training programs with Dan Clark. But it would have been great to have gotten that training a little bit earlier because you can just speed up the whole process if you have somebody who knows what they’re talking about guiding you along a bit.
GLEN: What about your self-expectations of what you would be able to do when you first started using this technology versus what you can do now?
DAVID: There is no comparison between what I thought I could do back then and what I can do now. Part of that is of course the power of the technology, programs like JAWS and the programs that it interacts with like Microsoft Office and the like. But then also learning technology has been an ongoing thing for me, and particularly when I became an instructor. It was great. I was paid to learn this stuff, and I’ve been paid to learn this stuff. And I’ll pick up something new most every day.
So where I was when I first started compared to when I started in as a trainer, there was a lot of progress. But since I became a trainer I know a lot more now than I knew a number of years ago. And of course you have to keep learning because technology doesn’t stand still, and programs like JAWS are constantly developing new and useful things, and it’s great to be on top of that stuff to the extent that you can.
GLEN: So why this book, and also why this book now?
DAVID: There’s been quite an evolution of availability of browsers, for a long time just Internet Explorer and Firefox. And that has changed recently, and things are quite fluid. We have Google Chrome. We have the new Edge. We have Internet Explorer, now on its way out. And as you know, not very long ago Microsoft said that they’re going to be phasing out support to Internet Explorer next August. So I first wanted to make sense in my own mind as to how I should manage this change, when you have all these different choices, so that I could perhaps train more effectively.
And then after I figured that out, I thought, well, this might be the topic of a new book because as far as I know there really haven’t been any books out there, or training materials, that consider all the browsers in one fell swoop and really sort of tease out the strengths and weaknesses of a number of them. And so I thought that might be an interesting topic for a book, and it would be something unique. So I plunged in and wrote it.
GLEN: So I think my favorite section of the book is the place where you talk about a lot of the keys in JAWS – and, yes, other screen readers, too – that are common across browsers. But you do spend a fair amount of time talking about why you might want to navigate by headings, or why you might want to move by links or use the links list dialog. And you also talk about my favorite, which is using Find. I use Find 90 percent of the time because I can search for 10 or 15 terms faster than I can read through a list of links sometimes. So I really appreciate your dedication to the why in addition to the how.
DAVID: I ideally wanted a book that could work for people who are relative novices, as well as people who are a bit more experienced. And I also wanted to make the point that, yes, there are all these keystrokes that you need to know, but you also need to sort of have strategies in your head as to how you’re going to move around effectively because it’s going to be different on different web pages and on different websites.
One thing I said there was, you know, how real estate agents say “Location, location, location.” Well, when you’re browsing it should be “Listen, listen, listen” because, as you’re moving through, your JAWS is giving you hints as to how maybe you can move more effectively in the future. You know, it’s telling you heading levels. Maybe the different heading levels could give me some idea as to how I could move around more effectively. Or I just, you know, I down arrowed 27 times to find this button, and now I know, well, I can just hit B for button and get there more quickly in the future. So you should always be sort of listening so you can get an idea of how you can be more effective at moving around, or more efficient in moving around as you get more and more used to it all.
GLEN: Let’s talk a little about each of the browsers. What do you think their strengths are?
DAVID: I think Chrome has, among other things, the cleanest navigation of menus. You can go into the settings, and it’s just very straightforward once you sort of know your way around, how to move through there using headings and the like. Chrome also has the easiest way to create desktop shortcuts, and I like creating desktop shortcuts. Chrome has a number of very useful extensions. So those are some of the strengths, I think, that Chrome has.
The new Edge, one example, I really like this immersive reader feature that it has for sort of cleaning out clutter and making your reading experience on a given page much more efficient, much more effective, less clumsy.
I can’t think of any specific feature of Firefox. But people who value their privacy, value security, don’t want their data going off to who knows where, I can see folks wanting to use Firefox for that reason. Because at the end of the day, do we really know what Google does with our information, or Microsoft? I’m not entirely sure.
GLEN: And what about the stepchild?
DAVID: You mean Internet Explorer?
GLEN: I do.
DAVID: Well, the much-maligned Internet Explorer. And this is where I have my strongest opinion of all, perhaps, for people who care about such opinions, is that I still really like Favorites in Internet Explorer, and I don’t particularly care for that much bookmarks in Chrome and Firefox. And although they’re called Favorites in Edge, they’re set up the same way as bookmarks. So I go through the process of managing your Favorites or your bookmarks solely in Internet Explorer. And then you are able to, even though you’ve created those Favorites in Internet Explorer, you’re able to easily access them in whatever your default browser is.
At this point in time I would say I use Internet Explorer for one thing only – and of course it used to be my default browser for everything I did – and that is for creating Favorites because I just think it’s so much better than the alternatives in the other browsers, the bookmarks.
GLEN: Why do you think it’s taken many blind people a really long time to leave Internet Explorer?
DAVID: I think there are a number of reasons. You know, first off, people get comfortable with a certain technology, and they feel secure, and they don’t want to leave it. They don’t want to jump into the unknown. But the point I try to make in the book is that it really is not that hard to transition over to one of the other browsers like Chrome or Edge. The main differences are in the menus. My experience in training people is they may have been using Internet Explorer forever. But after about a half hour, an hour of training, something like that, they almost forget that they’ve changed their browser. It’s really that easy to change.
Another thing that people may not realize is that, if I decide to use Google Chrome tomorrow, I don’t have to say goodbye to Internet Explorer forever. It’s still on the computer. And you can have as many browsers on the computer as you want, and it’s not going to hurt anything.
GLEN: And that actually is a point in favor of your argument in the book about doing all of your bookmarks in Internet Explorer because it makes it really easy to move between browsers and have access to those same bookmarks through Explorer for the most part; right?
DAVID: That’s right. And one thing that I know people complain about a bit, or that they find as one of the most difficult parts of the transition – again, not that it’s that difficult – is getting used to bookmarks in these other programs. And my opinion is, at least for the moment, don’t even waste your time getting used to bookmarks in the other programs. Use your good old Favorites from Internet Explorer and keep going with those for as long as you can, and it will make it easier to access those websites, even with whatever your new default browser becomes.
GLEN: So the elephant in the room here is that there are other places and other ways for people to access web content, namely on a phone or a tablet. What do you tell people who you’re training is a good rule of thumb in terms of when it’s most efficient to do something on a phone or tablet, and when it really is worth learning a desktop software like JAWS?
DAVID: Yeah, my own experience is I find Internet banking, I just find it much easier to use the iPhone apps, you know, because apps on the iPhone are essentially sort of simplified web pages. So for the basic things you need to do, you can do some of these things better or easier on the iPhone. I still personally vastly prefer browsing on the computer compared to on the iPhone. I just find it much easier to be using keystrokes rather than finger flicks and all of these types of things. And if my computer glitches on me, I know I have my iPhone, and I can get into my mail there. Maybe I’m not as efficient in there as I am using JAWS with Outlook on the computer, but I know I can do it. So I feel a little bit more secure because I’ve got the different technologies, and everybody should try to do that, too. Again, never put all your eggs in a single basket, technology-wise, if you can avoid it.
GLEN: Thus far we’ve talked a lot about some of the basic skills that someone needs to effectively use a browser. But you do have a chapter, I think it’s Chapter 9, that talks about advanced customizations, a large part of which has to do with customizing JAWS with different browsers; right?
DAVID: Yeah, that’s right. And so the chapter deals with JAWS and those two other screen readers. But I think in terms of customizing your browsing experiencing JAWS is certainly the strongest in terms of the different customizations you can do. And among other things, I do talk about the very powerful tool, the flexible web tool, which can be a pretty amazing instrument for really customizing your browsing experience on a given website. But there are lots of other really nice customizations that can improve the browsing experience, sort of cut down on all the extra noise and verbosity that you hear on websites. So JAWS has quite a number of really nice customizations that I use all the time, just to make things sound better, to make it so I can move around more quickly.
GLEN: The book is “When One Browser Is Not Enough,” written by my guest, David Kingsbury. David, if people are interested in obtaining it, two things: What formats does it come in, and how do they get them?
DAVID: Well, it is available in Word format. We’re hoping soon to get a downloadable BRF file also. And if that happens, it will be part of the package. So that’s available for $20, and you can get it on the Carroll Center website. We published it ourselves at the Carroll Center. And that is www.carroll.org, that is C A R R O L L dot org. And when you go there, you can go to the link for Shop, S H O P, because we have a Carroll Store. And when you hit that link, you’ll be right there, and you should be able to see where you can get the book.
GLEN: Sounds great. Thank you very much for coming back.
DAVID: Thank you, Glen.
GLEN: A couple of things have developed since my interview with David. The first is that his book is now available in BRF as one of the formats that’s part of the download from the Carroll Center. Secondly, I had this niggling thought in the back of my mind that Chrome has a Reader Mode, and indeed it does. It’s been around for a really long time, but it’s never been enabled by default.
So if you want to try it, you can always search on the web for “enable Chrome reader mode.” There are lots of people who have articles about it. But the quick description is go into Chrome, go to the address bar, type in chrome://flags. You’ll get a page with seemingly thousands of settings. But there’s a search box. Type “reader” into the search box. Go through the results. You’ll find Reader Mode as one of the top ones. Once Reader Mode is enabled, on any page where Chrome can handle it, you’ll have on the Chrome menu, the one you get to with ALT+F, if you arrow down far enough you’ll see Enable Reader Mode. You toggle it on, and it hides a whole bunch of the content on the page.
The only downside is I couldn’t find a shortcut to turn Reader Mode on and off. So in my initial tests it’s a little bit awkward, but might be worth trying if you’re a devoted Chrome user.
Signing Off on FSCast 189
GLEN: That pretty much does it for the podcast this month. I’m Glen Gordon. See you in October.