In-Process Archive

  1. Microsoft Edge 2 years in: Where are we at for accessibility?

    NV Access is committed to ensuring that blind or vision impaired people are able to independently and efficiently access the Windows Operating System and its applications, no matter their location, language or economic status. This means much of our work involves keeping up with changes in the Windows Operating System, and ensuring that NVDA can work with the latest technologies available; Blind and vision impaired people must not be left behind. With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft replaced Internet Explorer with its new and modern Edge web browser, setting it as the default browser in the process. Therefore, it is extremely important that NVDA provides support for Edge which is equivalent to other browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, or indeed Internet Explorer.

    Due to the extremely fast release of Microsoft Edge and the fact that its accessibility model makes it incompatible with other existing web browsers, no 3rd party assistive technologies were able to provide any meaningful access to Microsoft Edge at the time of its release.

    NV Access first heard about Microsoft Edge in early 2015 (back then known as Project Spartan). We were initially hopeful that it would offer roughly the same means of accessibility as Internet Explorer; i.e. a simplified view of the document via Microsoft Active Accessibility, an implementation of UI Automation for complex controls such as edit fields, and most importantly, direct access to the entire browser document object model (DOM) via COM. It is this final feature that NVDA (and other prominent assistive technology) relies on entirely for access to Internet Explorer.

    The early preview builds of Project Spartan did provide much of what we needed to support it in NVDA using existing code for Internet Explorer. Thus, it only took a little bit of tweaking to have NVDA working fairly well with Spartan. However, there were some general statements made in various Microsoft technical articles warning that although there may currently be some compatibilities with Internet Explorer, assistive technologies should not rely on them as they may no longer exist in the future. Rather, assistive technologies should instead access the browser entirely via UI Automation. But while it ain’t broke… don’t fix it, as the saying goes. If the compatibilities were to be removed at a later date, we’d deal with it at that point.

    In around April 2015 (only 3 months out from the release of Windows 10), we not only found out that those compatibilities had now been removed, but also Microsoft Edge (as it was now called) was going to be the default web browser in Windows 10 right from initial release. This meant that not only was Microsoft Edge completely inaccessible (due to there simply not being enough time for assistive technologies to implement entirely new browser support), but blind users of Windows 10 were not going to be able to use the default browser. Yes, Internet Explorer was still there, and you could also install a 3rd party browser such as Firefox or Chrome, but for the average user, this may have been beyond their knowledge. No matter what other advantages there were for users to upgrade to Windows 10, NV Access could not in good conscience recommend the upgrade at that stage.

    It has to be said that right from the beginning of Microsoft Edge development, accessibility was not technically ignored. Edge exposed a rather rich accessibility tree via the UI Automation API right from the start, as one of Microsoft’s goals with Edge was to try to simplify and standardise accessibility support across the entire Operating System, thus decreasing the need for assistive technologies to maintain custom code or rely on application-specific APIs. See the blog post: Accessibility: Towards a more inclusive web with Microsoft Edge and Windows 10 for further details. Tests on html5accessibility.com also showed early on that Edge actually surpassed other browsers by scoring 100% in its html5 compatibility for accessibility. However, At the time, due to extreme performance issues, serious deficiencies in the API which were hindering useful text navigation, and the fact that no assistive technology had yet entirely relied on UI Automation to access a browser, this point really had no practical meaning. See the blog post: Serotek’s Position on Microsoft Edge for a background of how assistive technologies provided efficient access to browsers in the past.

    Although there were definitely glaring limitations and bugs in Edge, NV Access decided to take some time to prototype support for Microsoft Edge, not necessarily because we thought we could provide a great experience straight away, but so that we, and the rest of the industry, could clearly understand what was possible and what was impossible for Edge support in assistive technology. You don’t know until you try!

    Our prototyping greatly aided the discussion and work between Microsoft, NV Access and other assistive technology vendors in understanding and prioritising the issues. And at the same time, NVDA users could also slowly watch support for Edge evolve over time.

    Roughly 2 years on, thanks to the collaboration between Microsoft, NV Access and other assistive technology friends, Microsoft Edge has certainly become much more usable, not only with NVDA, but also with other assistive technologies such as Microsoft’s own narrator.

    For the best experience today with Microsoft Edge using NVDA, you will need to be running both the latest version of NVDA (2017.2 released at the end of May) and Windows 10 Creaters Update, which started rolling out to users in mid April. With this combination of screen reader and browser, it is certainly possible for a blind user to navigate a great deal of pages, including reading news, filling in forms and searching the web. All NVDA browse mode features users have come to expect in other browsers are now available in Edge, such as finding text; table navigation; automatic language switching; quick navigation by heading, table, button, etc.; and much more.

    There are still a few major limitations which require work by both Microsoft and NV Access, including no support for same-page links, inaccessible or confusing composite controls (E.g. audio, video and file upload controls) and a lack of support for ARIA live regions. This final point currently makes Edge insufficient for quite a few modern services such as Google Docs and even some of Microsoft’s own online collaboration products. It is also true that performance when navigating around a page is still significantly slower than with other browsers. However, thanks to recent work between NV Access and Microsoft, it is now more than three times faster than what it was in earlier versions of Edge. These performance improvements were due to a lot of under-the-hood changes in Edge’s UI Automation text implementation, in which NV Access played a major consultative role over the last year. You can read further technical detail from Microsoft in their Accessibility improvements in EdgeHTML 15 blog post. Although there are still more performance improvements needed, we do urge NVDA users on Windows 10 to give Microsoft Edge a go and provide feedback so that we can improve the user experience. It is extremely evident from the collaboration between Microsoft, NV Access and other assistive technology vendors in the past year or so that Microsoft is today very committed to ensuring a great accessibility story on Windows. The Windows Insider program is ensuring early feedback from users. Annual face-to-face meetings between Microsoft and assistive technology vendors are facilitating fruitful and friendly discussions, and weekly progress calls between Microsoft and its assistive technology partners are ensuring issues are flagged as early as possible. We still have some way to go before NV Access could say that Microsoft Edge can provide an equivalent or better experience than other browsers, but with the progress we have made in the last year, we are confident that further improvements are certainly possible. Around 34% of NVDA users are now on Windows 10. We hope that more NVDA users will choose to upgrade and experience the advancements that Windows 10 offers in the near future.

  2. In-Process 26th May 2017

    Wow, what a big week it has been! NVDACon, NVDA 2017.2 RC1 and a new training module about to drop!

    This past weekend saw the annual NVDACon online conference. Full of great presentations and conversations. There were so many great NVDACon highlights. Nektarios Paisios from Google gave an overview of advancements in the Chrome browser. There were updates on Windows 10, Dictation Bridge and tips for new NVDA users. There were sessions from Jamie and Reef from NV Access. Reef shared how the community can participate and make non-code contributions. We look forward to seeing lots of new issues and discussion from that talk! Jamie presented on making audio production accessible with REAPER and OSARA. The growing following OSARA and REAPER are gaining is fantastic. Then, of course, NVDACon was capped off by the inspiring keynote presented by Jamie. If, like me (Quentin), you got pulled in too many directions and missed any sessions, fear not! Keep an eye on the NVDACon website and Twitter for updates. The sessions were recorded and will be made available to listen to in your own time. For myself, I do apologise for missing most of the sessions. To make up for my tardiness, if you missed asking any questions of the team during the keynote, send me your questions at info@nvaccess.org. I’ll be sure to reply and also compile the best questions and answers for the next In-Process.

    Now, to the news that everyone is always keen to hear. The next version of NVDA, 2017.2 is getting closer! On Monday, the first release candidate was released for NVDA 2017.2. What is a release candidate? That’s a great question! Here’s a post on release candidates which we prepared earlier!

    That’s all well and good, but what’s coming in 2017.2, you ask? Well, let’s have a look! “Highlights of this release include full support for audio ducking in the Windows 10 Creators Update; fixes for several selection issues in browse mode, including problems with select all; significant improvements in Microsoft Edge support; and improvements on the web such as indication of elements marked as current (using aria-current).”

    If you think a lot of those are for Windows 10 users, fear not! There is indeed something coming in 2017.2 for everyone. Reading through the what’s new of the RC, you will find references to not 1, not 2, but 42 resolved GitHub issues! As we know, 42 is indeed the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything. Coincidence? Almost certainly. Relevant to anything? Well, it was Towel Day on the 25th… In any case, do go check out the NVDA 2017.2rc1 release announcement and download the RC. Finding anything show-stopping now will help give us a chance to resolve it before the final version of 2017.2 comes out!

    And did I mention a new training module? Well yes, I did! The “Microsoft Excel with NVDA” training module to be precise. The module is so close to being available on your hot little hard drive! There is a slight delay as it is prepared and uploaded to the server though. So, Excel lovers, your homework for this week, is to check the shop and be the first to snag a copy when it appears! The “Winner” will be announced next In-Process (note: there’s no actual prize, aside from the glory of being first).

    If you missed it, Jamie recently penned an insightful post about Microsoft’s Windows 10 S announcement and the opportunities and challenges such a version of Windows could present. Windows 10 S is designed to be a lightweight Windows 10 with restrictions to aim the product at the education sector. Read more in Jamie’s post about Why can’t NVDA run on Windows mobile and Windows 10 S.

    That’s all for now. Have a wonderful week, and as always, we look forward to hearing from you. Don’t forget to send in all the questions you wanted to ask at the keynote but didn’t get to (or were too shy).

  3. Why Can’t NVDA run on Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 S?

    With the recent news about Microsoft’s new Windows 10 S, which can only run third party apps from the Windows Store, we’ve been asked by several users whether we can make NVDA available in the Windows Store. In the past few years, users have also asked about making NVDA available for Windows 10 Mobile. Unfortunately, neither is possible. Some of you are no doubt curious as to why, so we thought we’d take a few paragraphs (and a major deviation from our normal In-Process format) to explain.

    Windows 10 S is a feature-limited edition of Windows 10 targeted at education. Like Windows 10 Home and Pro, it runs on devices with Intel processors. Although it can only install apps from the Windows Store, it can run desktop apps converted using the Desktop to UWP Bridge. It was recently announced that Apple’s iTunes is coming to the Windows Store, very probably using this Desktop Bridge. This is in contrast to the earlier Windows RT, which runs on ARM processors and cannot run third party desktop apps at all.

    Although the Desktop to UWP Bridge does allow many desktop apps to be converted, this is not possible for screen readers and some other assistive technology software. Screen readers such as NVDA require special privileges which are not permitted in the Windows Store, even for apps converted using the Bridge. For those interested in the technical details, this Microsoft article details the restrictions on converted desktop apps. Specifically, NVDA requires UIAccess, loads modules in-process to processes outside the app and modifies the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive (in order to install as an Ease of Access service). It is impossible for a screen reader to function fully without these facilities.

    Windows 10 Mobile runs on devices with ARM processors. Windows 10 Mobile cannot run desktop apps at all, even those converted using the Desktop Bridge. It can only run pure UWP apps. First, it’s not possible to use Python in UWP apps, so a Windows 10 Mobile version of NVDA would have to be written from scratch; there would be no common code. Second, UWP does not provide sufficient facilities for implementing a screen reader, such as intercepting keyboard keys and touch gestures while in the background or responding to accessibility events from other apps while in the background.

    We strongly believe in the importance of competition in the screen reader space. Unfortunately, it is simply not possible for third party screen readers to be made available on these platforms as things currently stand. It is our sincere hope that Microsoft will make it possible for third party screen readers to be offered on these platforms in future.

  4. In-Process 4th May 2017

    In-Process 4th May

    Greetings and May the Fourth be with you! Sorry, I couldn’t resist that little Star Wars opening. Also, thank you to all the firefighters out there, as today is also International Firefighters’ day.

    The team have all been busy as well. Jamie and Reef are still hard at work on ARIA support in NVDA, particularly for Chrome. You might be wondering, what exactly is ARIA? ARIA is a way of making the newer controls used in modern, dynamic websites accessible. Good web authoring practice goes a long way. ARIA allows developers to define the role and functionality of elements. This enables programs such as NVDA to interact with controls on web applications logically, based on the role of the object. It also enables better handling of dynamic content which can change automatically.

    Jamie is working on the NVDACon keynote and Reef is working on his session. The NVDACon planning committee are doing great work getting ready. This years NVDACon promises to be bigger and better than ever. See NVDACon.org for details.

    Quentin is working on the last couple of sections of the Excel training material. For everyone waiting keenly for this training module, its release is drawing ever closer. The “Basic Training for NVDA” and “Microsoft Word with NVDA” modules remain popular. Even advanced users have commented on how much they have learnt from these modules. The certification for the “Basic Training for NVDA” is in high demand. Many users are now able to share their accreditation as an NVDA Certified Expert. See The NV Access Shop for the training modules, and the Certification System for information on becoming an NVDA Certified Expert.

    Jamie has also been working on support for Microsoft’s new OneCore or Mobile voices, which have been added to Windows 10. These are more responsive than the SAPI 5 voices and also cover more languages. Unfortunately, support for OneCore voices won’t make it into NVDA 2017.2 but it is something to look forward to in 2017.3.

    Speaking of which, yes, the next release, NVDA 2017.2, is drawing closer. Keep an eye out for a release candidate around the time the next In-Process comes out. More details on the new features, fixes and other things to look out for will be in the next In-Process.

    I’ve been asked lately about the difference between installed and portable versions of NVDA. Many users wonder what the best setup is for using NVDA on a shared computer.

    When you download NVDA and run the setup file, a temporary copy of NVDA is loaded. This is used to speak details of the install and associated instructions and information. You can choose to “continue running” this temporary copy. The temporary copy is useful when using a snapshot build and wanting to check a new feature or fix. NVDA will work as normal until you quit it or shut the computer down. You can change the configuration, eg the synthesizer or speech rate, but these aren’t saved when NVDA exits.

    A portable version of NVDA can be setup on a memory stick. This is useful when using a computer that you may not have administrator access to, such as in a library or shared computer lab. Nothing is added to the computer’s registry, but you can still save changes to settings. There are several restrictions to both temporary and portable versions of NVDA. These restrictions are documented in the NVDA User Guide

    The main restrictions of temporary and portable versions are:

    • The inability to automatically start during and/or after log-on,
    • The inability to interact with applications running with administrative privileges, unless of course NVDA itself has been run also with these privileges (not recommended).
    • The inability to read User Account Control (UAC) screens when trying to start an application with administrative privileges.
    • Windows 8 and later: the inability to support input from a touch screen.
    • Windows 8 and later: the inability to provide features such as browse mode and speaking of typed characters in Windows Store apps.
    • Windows 8 and later: audio ducking is not supported.

    When you install NVDA, none of these restrictions applies. The full features of NVDA are available on any screen. NVDA can be used on UAC dialogs, and the login screen.

    If you are using a shared computer, you may not want NVDA starting automatically on the login screen, or after logon. When installing, one of the setup screens has checkboxes to create a shortcut, and one to “Use NVDA on the logon screen”. When checked, this option will start NVDA when the computer boots and gets to the logon screen. Having NVDA running on the logon screen should not affect the way sighted users interact with the logon screen. Depending on the setup, it will simply read the information aloud, and/or make use of a connected Braille display. The welcome dialog has an option to “Automatically start NVDA after I log on to Windows”. If this is unchecked, NVDA will not start when this user is logged in. Even if this option is checked, NVDA won’t start when other users log in to their accounts on this computer, unless they have set that up. Both of these options are also available in the General settings dialog. Press NVDA+control+g to open the dialog. Note that the NVDA key is either INSERT or CAPS LOCK, depending on how it was setup.

    It is perfectly possible to have NVDA installed on a computer, but only started when a user presses CONTROL+ALT+N. In that way, an NVDA user can share a computer, even a login, with sighted users and have NVDA only run when desired.

    Have a great couple of weeks everyone. Don’t forget to block out your diary for NVDACon from the 19th to the 21st of May!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.