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JAWS 9.0 Public Beta 1 – First Impressions

October 2, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Although we aim to keep our readers informed, we are also not strictly a news blog. Since the news concerning the impending JAWS 9.0 public beta, and its release yesterday, were broadcast all over the online connected blind community, we elected to hold off for the chance to report some real world first impressions of this new version.

Freedom Scientific released JAWS 9.0 Public Beta 1 yesterday, October 1. The enhancements and new features of this version were demonstrated last week in episode 10 of the company’s FSCast podcast. The release notes were posted last Friday and the JAWS for Windows 9.0 Public Beta was made available on Monday.

As an advanced blind computer user who depends on reliable screen access in order to perform my day job, among other tasks, I believe it essential to take every opportunity to test new public beta versions and releases of all the assistive technology in my toolbox. This includes, of course, this JAWS 9.0 public beta. In this regard, the ability to install and run new versions of JAWS while retaining previous versions remains a significant advantage. In the event of a crash, instability or a new feature with which I simply can’t live at the moment, I am able to quickly return to a previous version and get on with the business at hand.

Though I’ve spent less than a day with the JAWS 9 public beta, my first impressions are quite positive. The most significant improvement I have experienced thus far is increased overall responsiveness across the board. Though I have not yet taken the opportunity to experience the new features of this public beta, the following seem to be the most significant:

  • Improved support of Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista.
  • The ability to copy and paste content from the virtual buffer (such as virtual PC cursor mode in Internet Explorer) into a Microsoft Word document or HTML e-mail while retaining live links and visual formatting. Though I do not necessarily consider this a “break through” feature, it is, nevertheless, a potentially useful tool for working more effectively with sighted colleagues.
  • Initial support for the standard Gmail web user interface, possibly without the need to use the basic HTML view. I haven’t yet had a chance to test this functionality, but would certainly consider this significant, especially if it really makes that view accessible now. Are we finally starting to see JAWS seriously tackling an AJAX enabled web site?

Other JAWS users, including Rick Harmon are reporting Windows Vista enhancements not currently listed in the release notes, along with some new issues. I also note that the improvements made to the blank virtual buffer issue and FSBraille crashes in the limited release build 2178 were not listed in the JAWS 9.0 What’s New write up. All the same, I have yet to experience either issue so far. It is absolutely critical that we use the Beta Report Form to provide thorough feedback regarding any issues encountered while using this public beta. The programmers at Freedom Scientific can fix problems only when they are made aware of their existence.

Though JAWS 9.0 will add some new functionality to our overall computing experience, I do not feel it warrants a 9.0 version designation that results in a reduction of our SMA count or an additional financial cost for those who are not part of Freedom Scientific’s SMA program. Instead, it seems a version number such as 8.5 may have been more in line with the feature set being offered. As always, comments are quite welcome.

Categories: JAWS

6 opinions on “JAWS 9.0 Public Beta 1 – First Impressions

  1. Hi Darrell. I, too, have just downloaded and installed the first public beta of JAWS 9.0. I haven’t played around with the new features yet, but this beta does seem to be quite good. I have noticed the omission of some extraneous speech though which is good.I don’t yet have Windows VISTA so can’t comment too much on that. But one thing that impressed me was that the JAWS Startup Wizard was launched immediately when my computer was rebooted. I am moving in a few days and will be without a computer for a short time, but I hope to try out VISTA soon.

  2. I must agree that, while this is a step in the right direction, the features and enhancements do not warrant a 9.0 designation. These are all good improvements, but not so significant as to be worth losing an SMA count.

  3. I am very much encouraged reading these positive experiences with the new beta. I listened to the FSCast and they did not mention at all some of the things you mention here that I consider the some of the best improvements. Those would be the gmail standard view support and hopefully more across the board access to sites like it as well. I do use gmail all the time in the html view and very much look forward to gaining access to the features only found in the standard view if access to it can be had. I agree that other features mentioned both here and or in FSCast are useful to have although not worthy of the 9.0 designation. I am not able to try it because I have not shoveled enough money their way to be among the 8.x authorized.

  4. I agree with the 9.0 version comments. I really didn’t think that 8.0 features warranted a full version number increase either. Perhaps, Freedom Scientific has ran out of ideas.

  5. I have windows vista on my computer, and Jaws 9.0 beta is running better than Jaws 8.0 final release. However, it feels like that Jaws 8.0 is still a beta worsion… I agree with you that this version of Jaws should’ve been 8.5.

    — Zaheer Sheikh

  6. I have windows vista on my computer, and Jaws 9.0 beta is running better than Jaws 8.0 final release. However, it feels like that Jaws 8.0 is still a beta worsion… I agree with you that this version of Jaws should’ve been 8.5.

    — Zaheer Sheikh

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