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Blank Messenger History, trouble with edit fields in HTML forms mode and other JAWS quirkiness with Windows profiles.

June 26, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

For quite some time now, I have been dealing with a couple of perplexing, intermittent JAWS issues. First, edit fields in web pages were blank when in forms mode. The text could not be read with the arrow keys, text selection was not spoken and it was impossible to edit using backspace, delete, etc. This problem was becoming critical, as it reared its ugly head in a web based application on which I rely on a daily basis to perform the duties of my job. Second, the message history area of MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger was totally blank. Not only was it impossible to read the text using the arrow keys with the PC cursor active, but the text was also absent when reading with the JAWS cursor. These two problems were quickly becoming a source of frustration, so I began a serious effort to resolve or work around them.

After various unsuccessful trial and error procedures, including deactivating my video card’s diagnostic service and enabling “use legacy Internet Explorer support” in the JAWS 7.1 configuration manager, I found the culprit in the way JAWS seems to handle logging in to and out of Windows profiles. Since I telecommute, I use the same desktop computer for both personal and work related activities. I keep these relatively separated through the use of separate Windows profile accounts for home and work use. Switching between these profiles is typically a matter of simply opening the Start menu, choosing Log Off and selecting the desired profile from the list. This seems to work well with JAWS on the surface, except for the presence of these significant caveats. The unfortunate work around is to switch profiles by restarting the computer. Restarting the computer requires a great deal more time than simply logging off one profile and logging on to another.

The question is, what is the root cause of these issues? Is this just one more quirk observed when running JAWS as a service? Is the problem one of transitioning between system and user space? Has anyone else experienced this issue or similar difficulties? I would be interested in your opinions or other potential work arounds.

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