\What’s New in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2021

Installing Updates vs Upgrading to the Latest Version?

Many individuals do not realize there is a difference between installing updates to JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion and upgrading to the latest version. If I am running JAWS 2020 and there is a dialogue box indicating there are updates appears, you would install updates to JAWS 2020 only. To upgrade to the new version of JAWS from 2020 to JAWS 2021, you will need to go to the Freedom Scientific and download JAWS 2021. The license should transfer from your current version of JAWS and apply itself to the newly installed one.

Why (or Why Not) Upgrade to the Newest Version of your Screen Reader or Magnifier?

In the past five years or so, many companies have changed to a “subscription based” payment system. For JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion users, this means you’re paying $80 or $90 a year instead of over $1,000 up front. And since browsers such as Chrome and Firefox as well as Windows itself update fairly frequently, having the latest version of your screen reader can help make sure that it is compatible with any updates installed on your computer or in programs you use frequently.

Note that there’s a fine line between wanting to update for the latest software improvements and taking the stance that “if it an’t broke, don’t fix it”. If things are working fine for you and you don’t want to update to the newest version of your screen reader or screen magnifier, that’s fine. But note that if you experience problems with web browsers or programs you had not been having before, first consider installing updates to your current screen reader

Whether you upgrade or not may come down to personal preference. If you have questions about whether to upgrade or not, please contact the Help Desk and someone can help you.

What’s New?

Following are just a few features in JAWS with brief descriptions of each

New JAWS Assistant

JAWS 2021 is equipped with a virtual assistant to help those who may not remember key commands or, in some cases, may lack the manual dexterity to enter them. The voice assistant can only help with JAWS commands and functions with the exception of getting the correct time and telling a joke.

The Voice Assistant is turned on by default, but it can be disabled or enabled again in the settings (press Alt + U then expand the Voice Assistant submenu and select (or deselect) the Talk to JAWS button.

At this time, the Voice Assistant does not work with a Bluetooth Headset. It also must be used when your PC is connected to the internet.

Simply say “Sharky” followed by your request. Examples include:

  • Talk faster

  • Talk slower

  • Set Speed to specific percent or rate

  • Open Links List

  • Open Settings

For a full list of commands, say “Sharky Help”

Picture Smart Improvements

  • Identify a picture without alt text description on a webpage

  • Command: Insert + Space, followed by P for Picture Smart, followed by C

  • This command summits the photo to be analyzed online by Microsoft

  • Results Viewer now contains a More Results link which submits the image again to additional services for analyzing and displays an updated description.

  • You can also add SHIFT to a Picture Smart command to use multiple services

OCR Text Directly into a Word Document

For those who do not use it, Convenient OCR enables you to access images containing text that is part of the image and displays this information in the Results Viewer. This can include graphics that contain text, inaccessible or “scanned” PDFs, or other graphical text

A new OCR feature is the ability to pull text from an image and insert it into a Word document rather than a virtual viewer window. Note that the OCR command below must be executed when in Windows Explorer with the file in focus NOT with the file itself open.

The command is Insert + Space followed by O for OCR then the letter R

After the command sequence is used, JAWS will insert the text pulled from the file directly into a Microsoft Word document.

Key Points

These are only three of the many new and improved features in JAWS 2021. Please check the link in the resources section below for more information. I’ve also included some links to videos about updates in Fusion Suite, which includes JAWS, so check those out if you are interested.