[Athen] For people teaching and learning JAWS (long)

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Mon Apr 29 07:50:39 PDT 2019

*** I wrote this up for someone - decided to share it here

Don't Panic

You are walking, or maybe driving down a long road , and it gets darker and darker. Some buildings are boarded up, and half the street lights broken. You turn a corner and the path narrows more and you realize you are entering dangerous territory. Plus you are lost and don't know how to find your way back.

Has this ever happened to you using JAWS? Fear no more, the don't panic button is pressed, and this post will show you how to back out of most scary situations.

The Where Am I Key

Hold the JAWS key, which is either Insert or caps lock, depending on your setup, and press the T for Title key. Insert-T reads the title bar.

Most windows have a title bar, and the window that is currently active is the one whose title will be voiced. This is like reading a street sign; it tells you where you are in general.

But Where Am I Really?

Knowing the name of the current road isn't enough; it helps to have the current address, and maybe the closest intersection and the name of a nearby business. The JAWS equivalent of it is the number 5 on the numeric keypad. Press it by itself to hear the current character. Hold down Insert while pressing the numeric pad's 5 key and you'll hear the current word. Hold Insert and press the up arrow to read the current line. Hold Alt and press the numeric keypad 5 to hear the current sentence. Now you know exactly where your cursor is positioned.

But what else is here?

If you are being asked to supply information, you might be inside a dialog box. It's called that because you are "dialoging" with your application. To read the entire contents of the box, and often the current window, press Insert-B. This differs from Insert-Down arrow the say all key which moves through an open document or web page, reading everything as it goes. Insert-B reads just what's on the screen in that box.

Often a window can have more than one "Pane" or section. To move between panes, try pressing the F6 key. Some applications have more than one window open as well, and F6 will often navigate to the next open window in that application.

In Windows more than one application is usually running, and perhaps you aren't where you think you are. This is easily fixed by holding the Alt key and repeatedly but slowly pressing and releasing the tab key. Alt-tab moves between your open applications, reading the title bar of each one as you cycle to it. Eventually you will alt-tab back to where you originally were.

If you want to switch to a particular application, simply release Tab when the chosen application's title bar is voiced.

Using Alt-Tab in conjunction with Insert-T lets you keep multiple windows open and quickly switch between them. Like beaming up on the Enterprise, it's efficient!

If you prefer to arrow through a list of open applications, hold Insert and press F10. This pulls up the JAWS task list which shows a list of open applications and lets you move, using the arrow keys and tab, to any one. It's also a way to find applications which are open but still hiding from the alt-tab way of switching.

But Everything here is Strange

You might feel threatened on that dark and lonely street, but with JAWS, even when it is reading strangely, you can always tell it to take another look around and reconnoiter. To do this, press Insert-Escape, the keystroke to refresh the JAWS view of the screen. You can also try holding the Windows key and pressing the up arrow key. This causes the current window to maximize, that is to fill the whole screen. This forces JAWS to take a new snapshot of what it can see in your application and often corrects problems it has reading things. Also many applications, including web browsers and Windows Explorer use the F5 key to refresh, so pressing F5 can often make things right.

You can also try running optical character recognition (OCR) on a screen JAWS is unable to read. To do this press Insert-Space to invoke a layered keystroke. Next press O for OCR followed by S for Screen. You will notice the JAWS cursor is now active and it will let you navigate everything the OCR process can convert onscreen to text.

But I just want to go Home

Holding the Windows key and pressing M "minimizes" all open windows and returns you to your desktop. This leaves all the applications open, but hides their windows so only the desktop is visible. Sometimes returning to the desktop is the best way to keep from loosing your work but get re-oriented.

You can also exit most applications by insuring you are able to read its title bar which signifies it is active, and then holding the Alt key while you press F4. If that doesn't work, hold the Alt key, press space and a "window" menu appears. From there you can arrow down to Close and press Enter. This is the keyboard equivalent of clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner of your currently active window.

If you want to play it safe and close just the current window without closing the entire application, try pressing CTRL-W or Ctrl-F4. For example, CTRL-W will close the current web page and leave other pages in the browser open. CTRL-F4 will close the current Microsoft office document without closing the office application.

If you want only to step back to something familiar, you will often find that the backspace will help. On web pages, it moves back to the previous page. In documents it erases the previous character. And if some automatic formatting is happening, such as bullets or numbering, backspacing can erase those auto-formatted characters as well. Press Home to get to the beginning of a line and backspace will erase anything Microsoft Office automatically typed at the start of that line for you.

Oops, I pressed the wrong key

If you are editing or typing text, use CTRL-Z to "undo" whatever you did by mistake. Hold control and press Z (think Z for Zap) and each time you press it, the previous thing you typed or did will be undone.

If you were not editing text, your best bet is to use the previous techniques to figure out where you are and what you might have accidently invoked.

Uh-OH, I missed what it said

Did JAWS speak some important message you failed to catch? The speech history feature comes to your rescue. Press Insert-Space to invoke a layered keystroke. Then press H for Speech history. You'll be able to move through the last fifty items spoken using the arrow keys, and even arrow through them character by character or word by word. JAWS has pulled up its virtual viewer for you, so you can also copy and paste from this window, handy if you need to grab a contact's email address or name.

And besides using the virtual viewer to reread anything spoken, you can virtualize the currently active window using the JAWS key, Alt and W. Hold the JAWS key down with Alt, then press the W key. You'll get a JAWS virtual viewer with everything it can read in the current window. Remember it's easy to make that virtual viewer disappear by pressing escape.

But How do I do this With JAWS?

Can't remember what you forgot? JAWS command search is your secret weapon. Press Insert-F2 for a list of JAWS managers. Command search is the first choice, so just press enter. You can now type in a search phrase - press Enter again if forms mode isn't active - and after you type your phrase, press tab to look through a list of results. Each result is the name of a command, followed by the keystrokes to invoke it.

You can also press Insert-W at any time to get a list of common Windows commands or Insert-H to get a list of common JAWS commands or JAWS commands that are specific for the currently active application. And in most applications, pressing F1 invokes that application's specific help.

If all else fails, ask Google. Type in the name of your application followed by the word keystroke or hotkey and Google can probably locate a list of keystrokes used by your application.

Has your Data Been Saved

You might know your soul is saved by your faith, but only the computer can save your data! In most standard Windows applications, if you have work that needs saving, pressing Control S, Alt S or F12 will usually do the trick. Before you exit an application, if you are unsure, save again.

I'm just Dazed and Confused

The best way to become a competent computer user is practice and training. Take advantage of all the free training offered online, and don't be afraid to ask for help locating those trainings. And be sure to schedule time to practice the new skills you are learning.
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