In-Process Archive

  1. In-Process 21st April 2017

    The team has been busy through the middle of April. We have a couple of things you can enjoy now, and a few things that will make their way into upcoming releases of NVDA.

    Reef has continued his work on Aria. This month implementing NVDA’s support for Aria Placeholder. Reef has also been working on a presentation for the upcoming NVDACon. The presentation will be a great opportunity to hear from NV Access’ most media shy member. It will also provide some great insights into the triage process, as well as information on how YOU can help! See https://www.nvdacon.org/ for full information about NVDACon and how to take part.

    Jamie has been enthusiastic in hunting down, debugging and reporting bugs in Chrome. He has also tackled Liblouis issues related to the input of UEB grade 2.

    Mick traveled to Sweden for the Funka Accessibility Days conference. In Stockholm, he presented to web developers from around the world.

    Mick at Funka 2017

    Mick Curran presenting at Funka Accessibility Days in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Image credit to Antonio Santos @akwyz

    Quentin has been working on new sections of the Microsoft Excel with NVDA module. The module will be out later this year. This month has focussed on some of the formatting features in Excel. Topics include formatting numbers through to conditional formatting based on cell contents.

    This week the team have all come together in Brisbane. We have brainstormed issues, with the benefit of working together in one room. One issue has been tossing around ideas for how best to deal with “clickable” web elements. This is quite challenging, knowing an element is “clickable” is useful in some cases. In other situations, “clickable” is both repetitive and not useful. Together, we are working on a solution which we hope will be effective for the majority of websites.

    NV Access team in Brisbane

    NV Access team (from left: Mick, Reef, Quentin and Jamie) in Brisbane, April 2017

    Another issue we have started preparation on is something we call “speech refactor”. What we are planning is a complete reworking of NVDA’s aging speech code. This will enable NVDA to support new features in the future. Such features include switching synthesizers or speech rate for different languages or maths. Using sounds or voice changes for different text formatting is another potential feature.

    We have also recorded interviews for a new video. The video will highlight the wonderful impact NVDA has for users. In particular, those in developing countries. This is a very exciting project; we look forward to having more information to share with you in a few months’ time.

    The Windows 10 “Creators Update” is slowly making its way to users of Windows 10. For anyone running NVDA 2017.1, rest assured this version works well in the Creators Update. The Creators Update brings improvements to many areas for NVDA users. These include text echo in UWP apps and Edge, as well as changes to audio ducking.

    The new NV Access logo is starting to make an appearance. This is an exciting transformation to the NV Access image. I’ll leave you with that little teaser! Ok, a description of the new logo does come with the NVDA Expert Certification certificate. Don’t worry, we will definitely make a description available on the website in due course.

  2. In-Process 4th April 2017

    Hi everyone, welcome to a slightly late edition of In-Process. Rest assured, while not writing blog posts, we have still been busy working on lots of other great things for you.

    First up this week, NVDACon planning is well underway. Be sure to bookmark the NVDACon page for updates as they come to hand.

    Jamie has been tracking down and fixing some crashes in Adobe reader.

    Reef has continued to improve Aria support.

    Jamie has been busy working on our new unit testing framework.

    So, what is unit testing? Unit testing is a way of testing a little part of the code to ensure it gives the expected result. One set of unit tests might check how NVDA behaves when selecting text in Browse mode. Let’s use the example of “select all”. When NVDA’s “Select all” code runs, everything in the current document should be selected. Unit tests can check the result with the caret at the start, in the middle and at the end of the text, or with all the text already selected. Currently, if NVDA is in Browse mode, and the caret is in the middle of the document, it only selects text from the start of the document to the caret. Unit tests could run this code and check the result against the expected behaviour. The unit test to select all from the middle of the document would fail because the entire text is not selected.

    Someone might have changed the code when working on different functionality. “Select all” in Excel or File Explorer, for instance, works differently to how it works in Word or Notepad. If the way the code is written is correct, it might not give any errors when compiled. Compiling turns the code into a program that someone can run. Unit testing can help detect errors in the logic behind the code, rather than the syntax of the code. When a unit test fails, we know where to look, because it only tests a small section of code. Unit testing will ensure that the fix does not affect how the function works in other situations. If we did intend to change the behaviour, we could instead update the test to reflect the new output. Unit testing can save a lot of time in testing that behaviour is as expected, identifying the cause of an issue, and ensuring that new code is correct.

    Now to an exciting announcement from last week. NV Access are very pleased to announce that NVDA Expert Certification is now available! The system has been in testing with some of our brave and loyal test users for a few weeks*. We are now very pleased to open it up to everyone!

    *Note: No users were harmed in the testing of our certification system!

    Quentin has been busy sending out certificates to the first excited NVDA Certified Experts.

    The certification tests your knowledge of all aspects of the free NVDA screen reader. The exam is online and available now. Free for anyone to sit, the test is time limited and takes less than an hour. See our release announcement for full details of the new certification.

    The exam and the list of certified users are now online at the official certification webpage

    Finally, while we were all over at CSUN last month, we had the pleasure of chatting with J.J. from Blind Bargains. Hear the whole team talking about The Winding and Long Road for NV Access in this 37-minute interview, available on Blind Bargains.

  3. In-Process 17th March 2017

    In Process 17 March 2017

    The team are all back home from CSUN and all recovered from long flights and time differences. Thanks to everyone who met with us, came to our session, or otherwise caught up with us while we were in San Diego. As always, we had a great time, and the seeds planted in the meetings will slowly bear fruit over the next year. For anyone who missed our last post from CSUN, be sure to catch up on our CSUN In-Process post. There is heaps of great information in there.

    Derek Riemer with Jamie, Mick, Quentin and Reef at CSUN 2017

    NVDACon chair Derek Riemer with Jamie, Mick, Quentin and Reef at CSUN 2017

    NV Access team presenting at CSUN 2017

    Quentin, Mick, Reef and Jamie presenting at CSUN 2017 on recent and upcoming advances to NVDA.

    On our last day in the USA, we had a great time, letting our hair down with some of the other attendees. Well, except Quentin, who doesn’t have enough hair to let down. A great time was had by all, racing around San Diego bay in a speedboat. Though not too near the naval base with its destroyers and aircraft carriers!

    Mick driving a speedboat

    Michael Curran driving a speedboat at CSUN 2017

    Reef and Quentin

    Reef and Quentin in a speedboat

    Back to work, and to many e-mails, Facebook messages, tweets and other correspondence. To everyone who contacted us while we were away, thank you for your patience. We have worked steadily to catch up and reply to everyone.

    Mick is heading to Sweden for the ninth annual “Funka Accessibility Days” conference. Mick will present “NVDA: The open source software that levels the playingfield for the blind”. This session runs on Day 2, the 5th of April, from 10:45 – 11:30, in Track 2, upstairs. See Funka Accessibility Days for more information or to register.

    Early users of the NVDA certification system have provided valuable feedback on their experience. Thank you so much for identifying bugs and providing suggestions. Your contributions will improve the experience for everyone. A very big congratulations to our first NVDA Certified Experts! We’ve also made some last-minute updates to the design of the certificate itself. These accessible certificates will be in the inboxes of the first recipients shortly.

    Everyone has been hard at work on new and improved features for NVDA. Mick is currently improving performance in Microsoft Edge, for Windows 10 users. Jamie is working on several issues with a couple of HIMS braille displays. Reef has been squashing bugs like a boss, including sorting out a few issues some users had experienced with settings not saving correctly.

    There is lots of ongoing technical discussion and prototyping around upcoming changes to web browsers. The end result will be to ensure the best possible experience for the modern web. If there is interest, we could devote a future edition of In-Process to a technical post on this subject. Shout out on Facebook or Twitter and let us know what you’d like to see on In-Process!

    The India team are working on improving support for charts for Microsoft Word. There have also been lots of changes graduated from next snapshots to master. See Changes for more information on what has been updated since NVDA 2017.1 and go to: NVDA Snapshots” if you are interested in downloading Next or Master builds.

    That’s all for this week. Keep being excellent and I’ll be back with another In-Process soon.

  4. In-Process CSUN 2017

    Welcome to a special In-Process, coming to you from the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, in San Diego, California, USA.

    As well as many great meetings and discussions with others in the accessibility industry, this year we are presenting a session titled “NVDA, the free screen reader: 2017 and beyond”.

    This post will recap some of the points from that presentation, and provide links and more information for those at the session as well.

    For those not here, curious to find out more about CSUN, the conference website is: http://csunconference.org

    What is NVDA?


    NVDA is a free, open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows. NVDA reads text from the computer screen in a synthetic voice and can convert the text to Braille using a connected Braille display. It is used by over 80,000 users in more than 120 countries and upwards of 50 languages. NVDA provides access to the web, email, word processing, mathematical content, chat, entertainment and much more. In-depth information about the features and system requirements are available from our NVDA Features page.

    Additional voices are available, including Eloquence and Vocalizer. See the Extra Voices page for more information.

    Various add-ons can be downloaded for NVDA, which enhance features or abilities within certain programs. These include a audio themes, golden cursor, NVDA Remote support and focus highlight. See the Add-ons page for details. These add-ons can also be accessed from within NVDA itself by opening the NVDA menu, them choosing “Tools”, then “Manage add-ons”

    Who are NV Access?


    NV Access is the Australian charity which develops NVDA. The two lead developers are both blind, making it a project developed by users, for users. The history of the project, and Mick and Jamie who founded it, is recounted in Our Story.

    Mick and Jamie are the lead developers, focussing on big projects such as improving support for Kindle, Edge, Chrome and Firefox. Reef triages many of the issues users report; he has overhauled much of the user interface for NVDA and is also doing general development such as improving support for Aria 1.1. Quentin developed the Basic Training for NVDA and Microsoft Word with NVDA training modules, certification exams and is currently working on the Microsoft Excel with NVDA module. Quentin also does much of the community liaison, including writing In-Process (“Hi!”).

    Recent changes in NVDA


    NVDA 2017.1 was released on 22nd February 2017. Highlights of this release include reporting of sections and text columns in Microsoft Word; Support for reading, navigating and annotating books in Kindle for PC; and improved support for Microsoft Edge. Full release notes on the What’s new page.

    Other highlights of recent releases of NVDA include:
    Many improvements in Microsoft Word and Excel.
    You can now disable single letter navigation in Browse mode, which can be useful for navigating sites which implement their own single letter navigation such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.
    Improved support for Windows mail
    More accurate reporting of colours
    Ability to duck audio (lower volume of other sounds)
    Improved support for iTunes

    Over the past year, NVDA has incorporated numerous fixes and improvements for Braille users, as well as new languages. Support has been added for the following Braille displays:

    • Orbit reader 20
    • Baum SuperVario2
    • Baum Vario 340
    • Baum VarioUltra
    • Baum Pronto
    • HumanWare Brailliant2
    • HumanWare BI/B
    • HIMS Smart Beetle
    • APH Refreshabraille

    Training

    There are currently two courses available: Basic Training for NVDA and Microsoft Word with NVDA. A third course, Microsoft Excel with NVDA is currently being written and is expected to be available mid-year. Basic Training for NVDA is available in Electronic text, Braille and MP3 Audio. Electronic text costs $33 AUD (~$25 USD) and includes HTML, DOCX, ePub and Mobi formats. Braille costs $71.50 AUD (~$55 USD). Audio costs $49.50 AUD (~$38 USD) for a downloadable DAISY MP3 package. See the Shop for more information, or to purchase.

    Certification

    NV Access is very excited to unveil our new “Expert” certification, which you can sit right now. NVDA expert certification enables professionals, trainers, etc. to demonstrate proficiency in advanced use of NVDA. It is an online, time limited, question based test. The NVDA Expert certification tests your general knowledge of the NVDA screen reader by drawing from knowledge found in the NVDA Basic Training module, the NVDA user guide, and other publically available resources. It should be noted that purchase of the Basic Training module is beneficial, but not required in order to sit the certification exam. Being able to pass this online exam proves that you are proficient in the usage of NVDA, and that you have the skills to help others learn how to best use the product. The online exam is free for anyone to take, however if you pass the exam and wish to be officially listed as an NVDA expert, a certificate can be purchased from us. See the NVDA Expert Certification page for more information or to sit the exam.

    Phone support


    NV Access now offer telephone support for NVDA users or organisations. Local numbers for both Australia and the United States of America are available. See the Shop for more information.

    Community


    • NV Access Users e-mail list is a valuable source of discussion and information. Support is available from other users and NVDA staff. Subscribe via E-Mail or web page.
    • NVDA In-Process is our new blog.
    • NVDACon is an annual, online conference for users, developers and anyone else interested in NVDA. See the NVDACon page for more details.
    • If you encounter a bug or have a great idea for a new feature, there is an NVDA GitHub page.
    • For those interested in development, the

    Upcoming NVDA features:


    • ARIA 1.1
    • Contracted braille input
    • Kindle
    • Speech refactor
    • Edge improvements
    • Braille display detection
    • Touch screen improvements
    • Web improvements
    • Browse mode in rich text editors
    • Switching between synths for different languages
    • Automatic selection of best available synth
    • OneCore voices
    • Help for common controls

    New initiatives


    • AudioScreen is an NVDA add-on that allows you to “feel” images with your ears, while moving your finger around a touch screen on Windows 8 and above. See the AudioScreen project page for more information.
    • OSARA stands for “Open Source Accessibility for the REAPER Application”. REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for Windows and OS X, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset. REAPER supports a vast range of hardware, digital formats and plugins, and can be comprehensively extended, scripted and modified. See the OSARA page for details on OSARA or REAPER.FM for more information on REAPER.

    Finally, thank you for either reading this or attending the session. If you did attend the session, please don’t forget to go to sessions.csunconference.org where you can find the session evaluation form.

  5. In-Process 16th Feb 2017

    Welcome to In-Process. This edition sees the release of audio training material, as well as a release candidate for NVDA 2017.1. There is also information about our upcoming appearance and presentation at CSUN. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!

    Audio training material available

    The long awaited audio version of the Basic Training for NVDA is now available from the NV Access Shop.

    The material comes as downloadable Daisy MP3 for easy navigation. There is also a sample of the audio material which can be downloaded or listened to online.

    CSUN

    Held in San Diego, California from the 27th Feb to the 4th March, CSUN is one of the largest assistive technology conferences in the world. Sponsored by the California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the conference has been running for 32 years. NV Access will be presenting a session on “NVDA, the free screen reader: 2017 and beyond”. If you will be at CSUN, we’d love to see you at the session or around the conference.

    Our session is on Wednesday 1st of March at 1:20 PM. The location is Hillcrest AB which is on the 3rd Floor of the Seaport Tower.

    2017.1rc1

    2017.1rc1 is now available for download. To explain what that is, it’s worth a quick explanation of our development cycle.

    When a new feature is added or a bug is fixed, it initially goes into a “Next” build for testing. “Next” is our version of an “alpha” build. A new feature in a Next build may not be completely stable and may even cause other unexpected side effects. It is important for a few users to try it on different machines and confirm that it works as expected. A feature stays in Next for at least a fortnight for testing. The next step is to put the feature into a “Master” build. Master is a “beta” quality build with features that are a little more polished and closer to release. If no major issues are identified then it is considered ready to go in the next stable version. We don’t encourage most users to run Next or Master builds as their only version of NVDA.

    The last step before the release of a new version of NVDA is a “release candidate”. Widely distributed, a release candidate is like a final check to ensure there are no major bugs. The final release, a week or so later, will be identical to the last release candidate. A fortnight before the release candidate comes out, we freeze master builds from any changes which will affect text strings such as messages. This gives the translators time to ensure translations for their language are up to date as soon as the next release is available. We have a great community of translators, but we are always keen to hear from people interested in becoming new volunteers, particularly for out of date or missing languages. Please see the NVDA Translating and localization page for more information.

    We would encourage you to try out the release candidate and let us know any issues you find. If any major bugs are discovered, then we will endeavour to fix them and release “rc2”.

    So, after all that, where can you get the 2017.1 release candidate? I’m glad you asked! Here is the release notice and link to download: 2017.1rc1 released

    Highlights of this release include reporting of sections and text columns in Microsoft Word; Support for reading, navigating and annotating books in Kindle for PC; and improved support for Microsoft Edge.

    Finally, after we’re confident there are no major bugs in the release candidate, we roll out the next stable release of NVDA (in this case, it will be NVDA 2017.1). We aim for four releases per year in approximately February, May, August and November. NVDA itself automatically checks to see if there are new releases and prompts to update if there is a release of the same kind (if you are using a Master build for instance, it will alert you if there is a new master build. If you are using a stable release, it will alert you when the next stable release is out).

    Reporting bugs

    If you do find any issues with any build of NVDA, the best place to report them is our GitHub page.

    You do need to create an account before you can post an issue on GitHub. Any comments or questions about an issue are all in one place which you can follow. You will also get an e-mail when your issue is resolved and available in master snapshots.

    It is worth searching for the issue you are having, as it may be that it has already been reported. If an issue has already been resolved, then a build with a fix may be available. If not yet resolved, you may be able to provide extra information on the problem.

    It is important to include as much detail as possible when reporting a bug. At the very least include:


    • NVDA version or build and whether installed or portable

    • Windows version, and if using Windows 10, which build

    • The steps you took which caused the issue to present itself

    • The expected behaviour

    • If the issue involved NVDA crashing or freezing, include the NVDA log, ideally with the log level set to debug.

    There is a page with information on NVDA logs and crash dumps, including how to find them on the NVDA Wiki.

    All things going well, I will have one more February update for you when we release 2017.1 and before we leave for CSUN. Failing that, I’ll be back after CSUN to let you know how it went.

  6. In-Process 3rd Feb 2017

    Welcome to the second edition of In-Process. Last Thursday was Australia’s national holiday, Australia Day, and we all had the day off instead of compiling what we were up to. We’re back again this week!

    The server upgrade has successfully completed. Thanks for putting up with a small amount of downtime last week. Every page on nvaccess.org now uses https:// rather than http:// making the whole site more secure. Previously https:// security was available only in select areas of the site such as the shop.

    The upgrade slightly delayed the release of the Daisy MP3 version of the “Basic Training for NVDA” module. We are pleased to announce it is now available in the NV Access Shop. The product page for the audio version, also includes a link to a sample of the material to give you a feel for the full product (the sample is provided as one MP3 file for convenience. The complete module comes with full daisy markup).

    For those who have completed the Basic Training for NVDA module, or who have an extensive working knowledge of NVDA, we have also started testing the certification system. It’s not quite ready to roll out fully yet, but it is on the way. A big thanks to Derek and Joseph for their excellent bug finding. If you are interested in the training material, it’s available from the NV Access Shop. Note that you won’t have to have the training material to sit the certification, but it is very good preparation.

    Reef has been quite busy this week working on increasing ARIA 1.1 support in NVDA. In a nutshell, ARIA is a technical specification that can be used to make web applications accessible. It doesn’t replace the traditional web building blocks of HTML or CSS, but works alongside them to make modern applications such as dynamic content and various user interface components more accessible. Essentially, used properly, it enables web developers to write web pages that have fancy dynamic content which is accessible.

    As we approach NVDA 2017.1, we have now entered the translation freeze period. That means that all the new and updated features which will be in NVDA 2017.1 have now been submitted, and the translators now have a couple of weeks to finish localising the text and messages so that they can be included. The first release candidate for 2017.1 is NOT yet available. We will be sure to let you know as soon as it is (in about a fortnight).

    For those using insider builds of Windows 10, we have worked around the latest issues with Microsoft Edge. If you’d like to test that Edge with those fixes, they are currently available in NVDA Next builds, and that will also be incorporated in NVDA 2017.1.

    That’s all for this week. Have a great week and if you missed it, check out the great video by @EnableIndiaTV on how NVDA is changing lives in India.

  7. Introducing In-Process

    Welcome to the first edition of “In-Process”, The new NV Access blog, where we’ll keep you informed of happenings within the organisation, our staff and of course, NVDA.

    Over the past year, our 10th anniversary celebrations have highlighted what a fantastic community NV Access has. We love seeing how important NVDA is to the blindness community around the world. We want to ensure communication is a two-way street. Our new year’s resolution for 2017, is to keep you better informed. We intend to use this blog to keep you abreast of milestones, updates and projects.

    If you are on the NVDA users e-mail list, you may have met me; I’m Quentin Christensen, NV Access’ tame resident training developer. The NVDA users e-mail discussion list is a great place for tips, advice and peer support. If you would like to join the NVDA users discussion list, please see the NVDA Users e-mail list.

    If you’d like to contact us directly, NV Access now also has a new e-mail address for general queries. The new address is: info@nvaccess.org.

    The Basic Training for NVDA module has been extremely well received. We are pleased to share that the Daisy MP3 audio version will be available for download very shortly (I am listening to the recording as I write this). Following the “Basic Training for NVDA” module, “Microsoft Word with NVDA” is also available. The certification for these is in the pipeline. Further information will be available shortly. The modules are available from our shop.

    Thank you to everyone who participated in our branding survey last year. We have been working through all the great information you shared in the survey. We’ll have some exciting developments coming from this over the next few months.

    Also coming in the first quarter is NVDA 2017.1. One of the biggest developments in this release will be support for the Amazon Kindle PC app. A beta version of NVDA with Kindle support is currently available from the NVDA Kindle beta page.

    Back to NVDA 2017.1 and there are a lot more exciting features coming. Some highlights include:


    • Kindle 1.19 support.

    • Lithuanian is now a supported language.

    • Microsoft Word: Section numbers are now reported. Imported tables are identified. Several freezes have also been fixed.

    • WordPad: Language switching now supported.

    • Microsoft Edge: Find in browse mode is available. Quick navigation to buttons (b and shift+b) is also now supported.

    • Microsoft Excel: Unavailable menu items are now identified. Attempting to type text in protected view now produces an error sound. There is also better detection of overflowing or cropped text in cells.

    • ARIA read-only checkboxes now detected.

    These are currently in NVDA Master (beta quality) builds if you are keen to try them out straight away.

    A note for those using Insider builds in Windows 10. We are aware that from build 15002, Microsoft Edge is currently not accessible. We have raised this with Microsoft as a matter of urgency.

    Speaking of beta programs, speech recognition users might be interested in Dictation Bridge. Dictation Bridge works with either Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Microsoft speech recognition. Note this is not an NV Access project. It is a third party project, developed with crowdfunding support and sponsorship from the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco. See the Dictation Bridge website.

    Some big events are coming up this year. CSUN is the premiere assistive technology conference. It is held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California. NV Access are thrilled to announce that Mick, Jamie, Reef and Quentin will be presenting at CSUN. The session: “NVDA, the free screen reader: 2017 and beyond” is on Wednesday 1st March at 1:20 in Hillcrest AB.

    Once again, the supporters of NV Access and users of NVDA are coming together for NVDACon 2017. NVDACon an international community-driven and user-run conference. We would like to thank Derek Riemer, the chair of the organising committee, and the entire committee for their tireless efforts and dedication. Their work will no doubt make this year’s NVDACon even bigger than ever. More information on NVDACon can be found on its new, official website at: https://www.nvdacon.org/.

    What else are we working on? How about contracted Braille input as well as improved ARIA 1.1 support? Jamie is also working on a server upgrade, bringing HTTPS support everywhere (key areas such as the shop already use HTTPS). The server upgrade also moves the site to http2, which should make everything faster.

    Phew, that was a lot to get through in one post! Our intention is to post these updates regularly from now. They won’t all be this long but will keep everyone in touch with what we are up to from week to week. If you have questions, comments or feedback on these posts, do, please get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you at our new info address: info@nvaccess.org.

    Finally, be sure to bookmark the main In-Process page to stay up to date.