In-Process 21st December 2023

The last In-Process of the year is here! But we’re already well-advanced preparing for a big 2024 with the first beta of 2024.1 now available, so this is a long one:

NVDA 2024.1 Beta 1

As we reach the end of the year, we are not slowing down. In fact, we are ramping up development in preparation for NVDA 2024.1. The first beta of NVDA 2024.1 is available already and features lots of exciting updates. Please note: as 2024.1 is an add-on compatibility breaking release, this first beta won’t work with existing add-ons. The release of the NVDA 2024.1 Beta 1 is a sign for developers to start checking what needs updating in their add-ons for 2024.1. So do expect to start to see add-ons labelled as 2024.1 compatible soon. Note also that NVDA 2024.1 will NOT work with Windows 7. Windows 8 users will need to be on Windows 8.1. We encourage all users to upgrade to Windows 10. Windows 10 it is still supported, and it is a free upgrade for earlier users. Please do read the NVDA 2024.1 Beta 1 release announcement for all the details.

But what is new? I’m glad you asked! There are a lot of highlights:

A new “on-demand” speech mode has been added. When speech is on-demand, NVDA does not speak automatically (e.g. when moving the cursor) but still speaks when calling commands whose goal is explicitly to report something (e.g. report window title). In the Speech category of NVDA’s settings, it is now possible to exclude unwanted speech modes from the Cycle speech modes command (NVDA+s).

A new Native Selection mode (toggled by NVDA+shift+f10) is now available in NVDA’s browse mode for Mozilla Firefox. When turned on, selecting text in browse mode will also manipulate Firefox’s own native selection. Copying text with control+c will pass straight through to Firefox, thus copying the rich content, rather than NVDA’s plain text representation.

The Add-on Store now supports bulk actions (e.g. installing, enabling add-ons) by selecting multiple add-ons. There is a new action to open a reviews webpage for the selected add-on.

The audio output device and ducking mode options have been removed from the “Select Synthesizer” dialog. They can be found in the audio settings panel which can be opened with NVDA+control+u.

eSpeak-NG, LibLouis braille translator, and Unicode CLDR have been updated. New Thai, Filipino and Romanian braille tables are available.

There are many bug fixes, particularly for the Add-on Store, braille, Libre Office, Microsoft Office and audio.

All of the details, download link and the full what’s new can be found on the NVDA 2024.1 Beta 1 release announcement.

Translation updates

NVDA is served by a dedicated group of translators around the world. They are the ones who make it possible to use NVDA in over 55 languages. This year, we have been working on improvements to the way we translate NVDA. In particular, we have started moving to a new translation system. We are currently testing out CrowdIn and expect to have it ready early in the new year. Please do look out for updates from us in the NVDA-Translators mailing list. We wanted to take the opportunity to thank our translators, and to reassure you that the release of Beta 1 does not mean the final 2024.1 is imminent. Getting it out before the end of the year gives add-on authors time to start updating their add-ons. We will still ensure translators have plenty of time to update each language before the translation string freeze for 2024.1.

NV Access Christmas trading hours

At various times from now through to late January, most of the NV Access team are taking a well-deserved break. Please do be patient if you need to contact us over the Christmas / New Year period. Please do take advantage of the following resources to assist you with any queries you may have:

Most of these links are also available on the “Get Help” page.

Note for telephone support, the telephone support helpdesk is staffed right through the break. If you purchase telephone support or the NVDA Productivity Bundle, you can continue to access support at any time.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from NV Access (on black with Christmas lights)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from NV Access (on black with Christmas lights)

Portable copies of NVDA

Those who rely extensively on add-ons may wish to wait until closer to the final release of NVDA 2024.1 to install it. But, rest assured, you can still test out the beta without losing your existing setup. When you run the downloaded file, it displays the license screen, just like any other build of NVDA. Once accepted, you then have four buttons. Instead of activating the “Install NVDA on this computer” button, choose the “Create portable copy” option. This asks for a location, and then sets up a full copy of NVDA in that folder. You can run the portable copy of NVDA and test out all the new features and fixes. When you exit it and return to your installed copy, all your add-ons and settings will be as you left them.

Screenshot of the NVDA launcher window showing the license agreement.  Of the four action buttons, the "Create portable copy" button is selected

You can even have your installed copy running while you navigate to the portable copy. When you launch the portable copy, it will exit any other running copy.

Gmail update

Earlier this year, Google announced they would disable Gmail Basic HTML view in early 2024. Google have shared a Gmail guide to help screen reader users make the switch from HTML to Standard view. Please do work through the guide if you have been accessing Gmail via the Basic HTML view. If you have any queries, please do reach out to Google directly.

NV Access survey update

Earlier this year we ran the yearly NV Access survey. We are still sifting through the results and finding ways we can improve. There were many excellent comments and suggestions made! One pleasing thing we can share to end the year. The overall satisfaction rating has continued to improve year on year!

Of course, the best indicator of how well things are going is feedback and suggestions from YOU. If you do have any suggestions for new features or fixes in NVDA or if you’ve found a bug, please do report it on the NV Access GitHub Page.

If you would like to share how you use NVDA and what amazing things it empowers you to do, we would love to hear your story. If you’d be interested in us sharing it even wider – such as in an NVDA Story – that is also an option.

Another way of sharing ideas and getting support is the NVDA community. There are local and international NVDA groups where you can contact NVDA users all over the world.

Web overlays

Web accessibility overlays have long been criticised as snake oil for those wanting to make their website more accessible. The Overlay Fact Sheet has many hundreds of signatures including contributors to NVDA and other screen readers.

The European Commission (the executive branch of the EU) have come out condemning overlays. They also note that they can in fact make websites less accessible.

This is potentially useful as a resource when campaigning against web accessibility overlays.

H/T to Craig Abbot on Mastodon!

Three new year activities

Finally, let’s finish off with three NVDA-related activities you might like to try over the break:

  1. Try NVDA 2024.1 beta 1! Test out the new “On Demand” speech mode and share what you think! If you use Firefox, have a go at the new Native Selection Mode and do let us know how that works for you. Check out the full what’s new for all the changes and updates
  2. Improve your skills. Are you au fait with object navigation? Practised in profiles, and skilled at speech adjustments? If you’d like to get better, do consider the Basic Training for NVDA module from the shop. If you do consider yourself a bit of an expert, why not make it official? Take the NVDA Expert Certification today and see how well you do! It’s free to sit, and only costs if you would like to purchase the certification
  3. Join the community. One of the greatest things about NVDA is the amazing community all around the world. Check out our list of groups and resources in many different languages and see if you can find a group to join. And if you know of one we don’t currently list, do let us know!
That’s all for 2023. Do have a safe, happy, and holy Christmas and a prosperous and joyous new year! Don’t forget to try out NVDA 2024.1 Beta 1, and keep on the lookout for beta 2 over the break!