Re: Moving From JAWS to NVDA

Joe Orozco

I just wanted to thank Mike for this awesome resource. Extremely
helpful. And thanks to everyone in general for helping each other out
throughout the year. This is the best list I know for tech

On 12/24/20, Mike B <mb69mach1@...> wrote:
Hi Joe,

Check this out, article is below the URL:

José Manuel edited this page Apr 9, 2020 ·
15 revisions

Switching From JAWS To NVDA

The purpose of this guide is to assist users of JAWS (Job Access With
Speech), a commercial screen reader by Freedom Scientific to switch to the
screen reader NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) with ease. It assumes prior
knowledge of JAWS and that you are proficient in its use.

It is not intended to be a replacement of the included user guide, rather as

a means to make NVDA seem less daunting.

Strengths And Weaknesses

The intent of this guide is not to be a comparison of JAWS and NVDA, but it

is necessary to mention some things that work differently. In most daily
NVDA works just as well as JAWS, if not better in some cases.

A Quick Note about NVDA's Laptop Keyboard Layout

Selecting the laptop keyboard layout does not automatically set the CapsLock

key to act as the NVDA modifier key. In NVDA's keyboard settings, a
is provided next to the Keyboard Layout combo box to toggle this setting.
Press NVDA+control+k to open these settings.

Note On The Insert Key.

As you may be aware, both JAWS and NVDA can use the insert key for its
modifier key. Both screen readers treat it slightly differently, which could

to some confusion if you are used to one or the other.

With JAWS loaded, the insert key is solely for its use. This means that, in

order to use the original function assigned to it (such as switching
insert and overwrite modes in a text editor or word processor), you first
have to activate JAWS's pass key through command.

NVDA, on the other hand, allows you to carry out the insert key's original
function by pressing it twice quickly. Keep this in mind the next time
editing text while using NVDA and find yourself erasing what you've already

written by typing over it. This also works for caps lock when it is
as the NVDA modifier key (press it twice to toggle caps lock).

Alternative Synthesizers

Windows OneCore voices, included in Windows 10, is used by NVDA as the
default synthesizer in Windows 10. Windows OneCore voices are responsive,
and available in many languages. To add extra voices install a new language

in Windows 10 itself, including the language pack. Variants of a language,
such as "English (United Kingdom)" and "English (United States)" each
include different voices.

The eSpeak NG synthesizer is also included with NVDA. It is used as the
default in Windows 8.1 and earlier. Like NVDA itself, eSpeak NG is also free

open-source, which is one of the reasons for its inclusion. Another being
the sheer amount of languages it can speak.

Both Windows OneCore Voices, and eSpeak NG, have access to features such as

"rate boost", enabling the speech rate to effectively be doubled. You can
press SHIFT to pause, and continue, speaking, instead of CONTROL which
simply stops speech.

To change synthesizer, press NVDA+control+s. To set other voice options,
press NVDA+control+v.

However, you may find that, for whatever reason, neither Windows OneCore,
nor eSpeak NG is right for you. If this is the case you will be glad to
that there are alternatives, which will be discussed in the following


Code Factory has released a version of
eloquence as an NVDA add-on which can be purchased from this link..
A license to use Nuance's Vocalizer synthesizer is also included in the

See the section entitled "Scripts" for information about NVDA add-ons.

Even more voices

If you still cannot find the perfect voice for you, the
Extra Voices page
lists several other speech synthesizers (both free and paid you can use


Most of the time, both NVDA and JAWS share a lot of the same terminology to

describe controls e.g. radio buttons, combo boxes, checkboxes etc.

One notable difference is that NVDA differentiates between single and
multi-line edit fields, and will also tell you if a field is "protected"
you type will be replaced by asterisks). It will also alert you if text is
selected in a field when you tab over to it. If so, typing will replace the
highlighted text.

NVDA refers to the different languages a speech synthesizer can speak as
voices, and the different voices supported by your synthesizer as variants.


NVDA has various cursors to aid in navigating Windows and applications,
similar to JAWS. The terminology is slightly different as described below.

The PC cursor in NVDA's documentation is referred to as the system focus and

system caret.

The equivalent to the JAWS cursor is a combination of object navigation, the

review cursor and the various review modes; such as Document review, object
review and Screen Review. The Screen Review function is the one perhaps most

similar to the JAWS cursor. However, it is beneficial to become familiar
all of these. You will find thorough, easy to understand instructions in the

user guide, or the
Basic Training for NVDA
($30 AUD).

Unlike JAWS, you don't have to switch between the PC and JAWS cursor
equivalents as the numpad is reserved exclusively for working with the JAWS

like functions.

It is worth noting that when you use object navigation or the review cursor,

the mouse does not, by default, move in sync. You have to press a command
to move the mouse to the location of the review cursor, which is similar to

how JAWS' "invisible cursor" works. There are also commands to simulate
or locking both mouse buttons.

However, if you simply want to activate the current object you are focused
on when using object navigation, there is a command to do this without
to move the mouse cursor to it first.

Accessing the notification area (system tray)

NVDA does not provide a dialog to access the notification area, as this is
accessible natively. Press WINDOWS+B to access the notification area. To
between notification area items, either use the arrow keys or press the
first letter of an item. Pressing the spacebar on an icon is the same as
the mouse. Pressing enter is the same as double-clicking the left mouse
button (there is no distinction between these in Windows 10). Pressing the
key or shift+f10 to open the context menu for an item.

If the first item in the notification area is "Notification chevron button",

Windows is not set to show all icons. Press ENTER or spacebar to open this
and then arrow through the items. To set Windows to always show all
notification area icons, open "notification area" windows settings, or
"select which
icons appear on the taskbar", and ensure "Always show all icons in the
notification area" is checked.

If you prefer to have a dialog you can access with NVDA+F11, there is a
"SysTrayList" add-on available in the
Add-ons website.

Accessing the ribbon

Microsoft Office 2007 replaced the menu and toolbars with a "ribbon". Like
the notification area, these are accessible so NVDA does not provide a
ribbon" replacement. Microsoft has a page on
Using the keyboard to work with the ribbon.
Essentially press ALT or ALT+letter to access individual ribbons. Press
CONTROL+LEFT and RIGHT ARROWS to move between groups within the current
(eg Clipboard, font, paragraph, etc in Word's Home ribbon). Press TAB to
move between individual items in each ribbon and spacebar or enter to
the current ribbon item. The Ribbon also includes "tell me". Press alt+q,
type the command or feature you would like to access, use the arrow keys to

it from the list and enter to activate it.

Checking the status of progress bars

Jaws provides a command control+insert+b to check the status of progress
bars in the current window. NVDA has options to have progress bars
reported as they update. This can be done verbally ("5%", "6%", "23%", etc),

as beeps, increasing in pitch, or both. To adjust this, press NVDA+U.
it is available from the Object Presentation settings. Press NVDA+control+o

to open these settings.

Accessing characters and emoji

Jaws has a command INSERT+4 to select symbols. In NVDA INSERT+4 (assuming
INSERT is your NVDA modifier key) toggle speak command keys, which reports
non-alphanumeric keys, such as spacebar or arrows are pressed. To select
special characters can be done in different ways in many programs. For
press CONTROL+ALT+E to type a Euro symbol in Word. The insert symbol
functionality in Word (ALT+N, then U) is accessible, although some of the
listed in the "more symbols" dialog are not read correctly in all versions
of Word. Similarly, the "charmap" program in Windows itself allows any
from any font to be inserted. Again, not all characters are completely

The Windows 10 Emoji window is accessible. Press WINDOWS+. (WINDOWS+full
stop). Press TAB to move to the categories, select a category then press
Press SHIFT+TAB to move to the list of emoji for that category, use the
arrows to move between the available emoji and enter to insert the current
into text. Press escape when done.

Touch cursor

In JAWS 15 or later, you can use numpad keys to navigate apps using a
tree-like structure, similar to how users of smartphone screen readers such

as VoiceOver
would navigate touchscreens. in NVDA, object navigation and object mode
touch commands can be used for this purpose

Virtual Cursor

The virtual cursor in NVDA is known as browse mode. It functions in much the

same way as JAWS, giving you access to navigation quick keys, or in NVDA
single letter navigation.

Following are some common issues you may encounter when browsing the web
with NVDA for the first time, and how to address them.

Why Is Everything On One Line?

In case you are unaware, JAWS has two modes for displaying webpages or other

documents using the virtual cursor; simple layout and screen layout. Simple
layout is the default, which displays content in a linear fashion - putting

each link or control on its own line. Screen layout formats the content
to how it's displayed on screen.

The default in NVDA is screen layout, but you can easily switch to its
version of simple layout by pressing NVDA+V while in browse mode. This will

Screen layout off. Be sure to save your configuration after making this
change with NVDA+CTRL+c.

It Keeps Saying Clickable Clickable Clickable.

While reading webpages, you might notice sometimes that NVDA says
"clickable", even multiple times on the same link or control.

As of version 2018.4 and later, NvDA will now only say clickable once, so if

you experience this issue, please upgrade your copy. Because there is no
associated with upgrading, NV Access recommends always using the latest
stable release of NVDA.

You can also turn off the announcement of clickable elements entirely by
going to document formatting in settings (NVDA+control+d) and unchecking
in the elements group.

Find doesn't work on the web.

While JAWS is loaded, pressing ctrl+f in Internet Explorer or Firefox brings

up the JAWS Find dialogue rather than activating the browser's built-in
command. This is to allow you to search for text using the virtual cursor.
The regular find command will search for the next occurrence of the entered
text, but will not move the virtual cursor to that location. This is due to

how screen readers interact with web pages.

NVDA has its own find command to search in browse mode, but it has not been

tied to CTRL+F, so pressing that shortcut key calls up the browser's find
hence find not working as expected.

To bring up NVDA's find dialogue, press ctrl+NVDA+F. Type in what you wish
to find then press enter.

No commands to view forms and headings?

In JAWS, you can press JAWS+F5 to list forms, JAWS+F6 to list headings and
JAWS+F7 to list links. In NVDA, the latter two have been combined into an
list dialog, and you can access it by pressing NVDA+F7. You can then press
ALT+H to select Headings (the default), ALT+F for form field, ALT+B for
and ALT+D for landmarks.

Forms Mode

The equivalent of forms mode in NVDA is focus mode, and it behaves very
similar to JAWS, Even switching modes automatically when navigating through

a webpage.
It will play a sound alerting you to which mode you are in. If desired, NVDA

can speak the mode change rather than use a sound.

Details about Focus Mode can be found in the user guide.

NVDA talks too much.

Sometimes you may find that NVDA can seem overly verbose, particularly in
some list views. This is because as far as NVDA is concerned, list views
tables. NVDA is configured by default to announce each column or row

To turn that option off, uncheck "Report table row/column headers" in the
"Document Formatting" screen of NVDA's settings dialogue. Press
to open this setting screen.

the Speech dictionary

NVDA has always included a function to edit "Speech Dictionaries", which are

similar to JAWS' dictionary manager files. There is a group of radio
in the Add/edit dictionary entry labelled type, which determines how the
text in the pattern, (NVDA speak for actual word), box will be treated.

list of 3 items
• anywhere, which is the default behavior.
• Whole word, which is how JAWS handles dictionary entries.
• Regular Expression, which is complicated.
list end

You will also find a case sensitive checkbox.

Access the speech dictionaries with NVDA+n (to open the NVDA menu), then P
for preferences, then D for dictionaries. There are three options. Default
works across the board, Voice dictionary works only for the current voice,
and temporary works only for the current session. Unless you know you want
of the other two, most of the time "default dictionary" is the desired
dictionary to edit.


Like JAWS, scripts can be added to NVDA to provide support for other
applications or to add new features that can be accessed from anywhere.
These script
packages are called NVDA Add-ons. You can find add-ons on the
NVDA Community Add-ons page.

These include a few that emulate JAWS features not currently present in NVDA

such as a system tray list, virtualise window function and ability to
text to clipboard. Scripts for popular applications such as GoldWave are
also available. The user guide has details on installing add-ons, and you
read help documentation that comes with each add-on to learn more about how

to use the add-on.

There is an
NVDA Developer Guide
with information on how to create add-ons.

Screen Shade

From version 2019.3, NVDA includes an equivalent to JAWS' Screen Shade
feature called Screen Curtain, which will blacken the screen. By default it

is not
assigned to a keystroke, but you can assign one from the input gestures
dialogue. See the users guide for details on how to do this.

Activating the command once will enable or disable the screen curtain until

you restart your computer, whereas doing so twice quickly will enable it
until you disable it. You can also toggle it in the vision category in

Remote access

In 2015, Christopher Toth and Tyler Spivey released a free add-on to allow
NVDA users to provide remote support, similar to JAWS Tandem. To learn more
about this add-on, go to the
NVDA Remote site.

Application-specific settings

NVDA can use configuration profiles, which make it possible to configure
certain settings to be applied only when using a program. This is done by
an app-specific configuration profile. To create an app-specific profile,
open the Configuration Profiles dialogue while using the app in question.
open the dialogue, hit NVDA+N, to bring up the NVDA menu. arrow down until
you hear configuration profiles and press enter, or press NVDA+control+P.

When the dialogue opens, select New, and select "current application" when
asked when to use this profile. Any changes made to NVDA settings (eg
speech rate or punctuation level) are applied to this profile.

Alternate say all

In recent versions of JAWS, you can configure a different speech synthesizer

to be used when say all is active. You can do this in NVDA by creating a
all profile in the configuration profiles menu.

Here are the steps.

list of 3 items
1. Open the configurations profile from the main NVDA menu. Press NVDA, N,
then arrow down to configuration profiles.
2. Create a new profile by tabbing to the new button or press alt, N.
3. After you name your profile, tab to the profile usage radio butttons.
arrow down until you hear "say all". Hit OK
list end

Stay safe and take care. Mike.

----- Original Message -----
From: Joe Orozco
Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2020 9:54 AM
Subject: [TechTalk] Moving From JAWS to NVDA

Okay, I’m not actually trying to move fully from JAWS to NVDA, but I
am trying to learn to master NVDA. There are things JAWS does poorly
that I would like to see if the free option does better. Is there a
guide that helps users understand keystrokes in relation to the
familiarity of JAWS? Object navigation, for example, I don’t know what
the parallel would be for JAWS.

Thanks for any referrals to guides and the like.


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