We’ve got a bumper issue for you this week: A release candidate, conferences and add-on info!
NVDA 2023.1 Release Candidate
The big news this week is the release of the NVDA 2023.1 Release Candidate. We encourage all users to download the release candidate and provide feedback. Unless any critical bugs are found, this will be identical to the final 2023.1 release.
What is new in 2023.1? Here are some of the highlights:
A new option has been added, “Paragraph Style” in “Document Navigation”. This can be used with text editors that do not support paragraph navigation natively, such as Notepad and Notepad++.
There is a new global command to report the destination of a link, mapped to NVDA+k.
Support for annotated web content (such as comments and footnotes) has improved. Press NVDA+d to cycle through summaries when annotations are reported (e.g. “has comment, has footnote”).
Tivomatic Caiku Albatross 46/80 braille displays are now supported.
Support for ARM64 and AMD64 versions of Windows has improved. There are many bug fixes, notably Windows 11 fixes.
eSpeak, LibLouis, Sonic rate boost and Unicode CLDR have been updated. There are new Georgian, Swahili (Kenya) and Chichewa (Malawi) braille tables.
This release breaks compatibility with add-ons made for NVDA 2022.4 and earlier. More on that further down in this issue.
It’s only a few days to go until CSUN 2023! We are looking forward to sharing all the latest news and information about NVDA with you there. We are presenting a session, and would love for you to come! Here are the details:
Date: Wednesday 15th March 2023
Time: 3:20 PM (Pacific Daylight Time – note the change to summer time this weekend!)
Location: Grand GH
We’ll be at the convention all week from Tuesday – Friday so do say hi if you run into us.
For those coming to our session, we have put a HEAP of information up on a special page for you: nvaccess.org/csun
Please note: As we will be out of the office until around the 23rd March, replies to correspondence may be delayed during this time.
For any NVDA queries, the NVDA Users email group are a great resource.
The NV Access shop has training material and telephone support (or all together in the NVDA Productivity Bundle). Our telephone support agents ARE available on call even while we are away (and it doesn’t have to be telephone, they can use services such as Team Viewer, Google meet or Teams as well).
Also on next week is Deque’s Axe-Con. What is Axe-Con? From Deque’s Axe-Con page
“Axe-con is the world’s largest digital accessibility conference that welcomes developers, designers, business users, and accessibility professionals of all experience levels to an accessibility conference focused on building, testing, and maintaining accessible digital experiences.”
Axe-con has forgone registration fees so that accessibility may be more accessible to everyone who builds digital experiences. This resonates with our own goal: To make technology accessible for all, regardless of language, location or financial situation.
Each year, Deque partner with a like-minded not-for-profit organisation. They ask Axe-Con attendees to give the fees which would have been spent on conference registration to support that not-for-profit. This year, we are very pleased to have been approached by Deque. We thank Deque and all the Axe-Con attendees for their generosity. That support will help to enable us to continue keeping NVDA up to date with ever-changing technology, and free for anyone, anywhere in the world who can use it!
If you aren’t coming to CSUN, or even if you are and will have some time free to join an online conference, Register for Axe-Con as well.
As we approach the release of NVDA 2023.1, we know that many users are interested in whether their favourite add-ons have been updated yet. We have been working closely with the add-on community. We are keen to ensure that upgrading to NVDA 2023.1 is a smooth experience for users. With the availability of the NVDA 2023.1 release candidate, I’m pleased to report that over 50% of add-ons have been updated. You can check out the add-ons site for more information on specific add-ons. There is also contact details of add-on authors. We encourage you to reach out to any add-on developers who haven’t yet updated their add-ons.
A couple of people have asked us what is changing which requires add-ons to be updated? It’s a great question. We publish our deprecations and upcoming breakages widely. This includes in the “Changes for developers” section of the what’s new file, and in our NVDA API mailing list. I’ve been over our API changes and compiled this list of breaking changes included in NVDA 2023.1:
- Several security related fixes
- Fix configuration option conflicts
- Improve Windows terminal responsiveness
- Streamline importing and loading of add-ons
- Support Browse mode and other features in AMD64 apps on ARM64 Windows
- Improve robustness of Braille handler and tones
- Avoid a situation where no NVDA key is defined
- Improve registering for UIA properties
- Improve time reporting in programs such as Foobar2000
Some of these items, such as security fixes, are vitally important for the minimisation of potential risk to all users. Some, such as making NVDA work with AMD64 apps and ARM64 processors is increasingly necessary. While support for AMD64 apps and ARM64 processors won’t affect current x64 PC users, it may give you more options for your next computer purchase. Some changes may present in specific scenarios but allow us to streamline code which will improve things more widely going forward. For instance, improving time reporting in Foobar2000 seems like a very specific scenario. However, to fix it required, and gave us the opportunity, to improve handling of internationalised time formats. These changes allow us to make more time strings translatable to other languages, and better deal with time formats used around the world.
Are all of those changes vital for you to use NVDA in March 2023? Arguably, maybe not. Or maybe, especially if you use ARM64. But, if we don’t make those changes, there is potential other code would be introduced over the course of this year which would eventually break when we implemented these changes, or which caused other problems in the meantime. We do try not to break things if we don’t need to. When we do have a breaking release, we try to pull in all the other pending changes which may not be as critical to all users, but which would also be breaking. That’s why the list contains some things which may seem a lot more crucial than others.
Note that this list doesn’t include features which have been added or are now able to be added, which were waiting on those changes, but which themselves aren’t breaking.
Some users have noted that we didn’t used to make add-on authors check compliance each year. In 2019.1 we introduced version compatibility information for add-ons, but it wasn’t until 2019.3 that we introduced an update which required add-ons to declare compatibility with a specific version. Since that time, we’ve made that process yearly.
Before then, we DID introduce changes which broke various add-ons, it was just that no-one was required to check. And because no-one checked, breaking changes could occur with any release, without a specific warning. Then, as now, not all changes broke every add-on, so it may have been that one or two add-ons were broken with a particular release. When users complained of something not working, we investigated, found it was due to a particular add-on and got the user to notify the author and stop using it until the add-on was updated. Yes, overall, to an end user it seems like less effort – only having to replace add-ons as and when they break, but an add-on not working in this situation could potentially crash your whole PC and you may lose your day’s work. Version compatibility and add-on updates with new releases each year are what we have introduced to try to ensure NVDA is as stable as possible.
We acknowledge that it isn’t a perfect system, but improvements are coming! We are working on new developments which will make the whole process easier for everyone. That isn’t quite ready yet, but stay tuned for more information likely later this year.”
That’s all for this week. Please do test out the 2023.1 Release Candidate if you haven’t already. We look forward to catching up with at least some of our readers at CSUN. And we’ll be back with more information on our return!