In-Process 11th September 2018

The big news this week, hot off the press, is that we released NVDA 2018.3rc1 yesterday!

NVDA 2018.3rc1

Highlights of this release include automatic detection of many Braille displays, support for new Windows 10 features including the Windows 10 Emoji input panel, and many other bug fixes.

Since I tend to get asked “XYZ doesn’t work, can you please fix it?” as often as “Can you please add new feature ABC?”, here are a few things we’ve fixed:

  • We’ve updated eSpeak NG to 1.49.3dev commit 910f4c2. Updating eSpeak NG has had mixed success in recent versions. Some issues have been fixed, and others introduced. So, eSpeak fans, please do try the RC and let us know what you think.

  • Updated Liblouis Braille Translator to version 3.6.0. Among other things, there are fixes for Chinese, Czech and Hebrew languages. See LibLouis’ what’s new for all the info on what they’ve updated. We introduced the previous version, 3.5.0 in NVDA 2018.2.

  • NVDA should only ask about sending usage statistics once now

  • Notifications are supported in Zoom, including mute / unmute status and messages.

  • NVDA reads more labels on the web, particularly in Chrome, but also in lists on other browsers too.

  • Braille improvements in Microsoft Word.

Read the full What’s new for NVDA 2018.3rc1 to find out what has been added, changed, fixed and broken* in NVDA 2018.3rc1.

As with any version, you can also find “What’s new” in NVDA’s Help menu.

*The what’s broken section may be missing from the release notes. Please help us out by letting us know what isn’t working? grin

Like most programs, we recommend closing all other programs, including browsers, when updating. The reason is that updates need to replace files. If those files are currently in use, it can make your system unstable. We also recommend restarting your system after updating, for the same reason. After updating NVDA, users occasionally report odd things not working or misbehaving. These invariably resolve themselves after rebooting and aren’t encountered again.

NVDA user group hits a thousand

Another big milestone this week is that the NVDA user group on has passed 1,000 members. Don’t worry, there is no test to remember everyone’s name! Not everyone is active, and the group is still a friendly and welcoming place. The group still averages around 1,500 posts a month. If that seems too much, you can also subscribe for a “Digest”. A digest is only one email every now and then with all the subject titles. Reading the digest, you have even more control over what you want to read more about.

Office 365 subscription or Office 2016 one-time purchase?

People ask whether it is worth buying the subscription Office 365, or whether they are better off buying Office 2016 as a one-time purchase.

The advantages of a one-time purchase are that it is an up-front cost with no more to pay. Once you’ve bought it, you can use it indefinitely on that computer. Plus, once you are familiar with how it works, it won’t change.

An Office 365 subscription also has advantages. Firstly, it is cheaper up-front. It includes Access and Publisher as well as OneDrive space and Skype credit. Office gets updated regularly, with new features and bugs fixed. Used on more than one PC, the “Home” license is also cheaper than buying two copies of Office home and student every three years.

One example of a feature which has evolved, which caught my attention recently is Spell Check in Word. In Office 2013, and continuing in Office 2016, spell check moved from a dialog box to a task pane. One feature which didn’t come across to the task pane was the edit box with the preview of text on either side of the error. The idea likely was that since the task pane pops in from the side, the view of the document itself jumped to the error and sighted users could read that. It is still possible with NVDA if you press escape or control+f6 to jump back to the document, the focus is on the error. But it still seemed a bit disjointed. Also reading the misspelt word itself involved using object navigation. Object navigation is one of NVDA’s most powerful features, but one which not everyone is comfortable with.

Since then, the spell check feature has evolved. Now, in Office 365, when you press F7, the task pane still opens, but NVDA reads the misspelt word, then spells it. Then, it reads the original sentence containing the word. To read the word again, press Numpad 5 in Desktop keyboard layout, or NVDA+control+. In laptop keyboard layout. To spell the word again, press the keystroke twice quickly. To read the sentence again, press NVDA+up arrow or NVDA+l.

Press TAB to move to the suggestions and NVDA not only reads out each word while moving through the list but gives the meaning of the word as well. Previously, getting to the definition again involved using object navigation.

Not everything has been fixed. For instance, the alt+letter shortcut keys still don’t work. However, from most places in the task pane, you can press the letter by itself to perform a function. For instance, I to ignore once, or A to add to the dictionary.

So, the choice is yours. Either way, NVDA will continue to support Office versions as far back as we can, at least as long as Microsoft does. Rest assured we are keeping abreast of improvements as they come out. We will ensure that NVDA remains the screen reader of choice for those on the cutting edge of Windows and Office.

By the time you next read In-Process, NVDA 2018.3 should be out, and we’ll definitely have more to say on that then!