In-Process 22nd February 2022

We start this In-Process with breaking news! A surprise NVDA release:

NVDA 2021.3.3

Although we are nearly up to talking about the first 2022 release, we have released NVDA 2021.3.3 with several important security fixes. This release addresses a couple of security issues identified by users. Although unlikely to pose a significant real-world risk, we take security very seriously. Both issues would have required physical access to the PC and relatively good knowledge but we did not want to take any chances. We have released this unscheduled update to ensure these fixes are available to everyone, before starting the NVDA 2022.1 beta and release cycle.

We encourage all users to download NVDA 2021.3.3 now.

And, yes, for those wondering, there was briefly an NVDA version 2021.3.2. Unfortunately, I was excitedly telling people about it over lunch and spilled some sauce on it, so we had to replace it. My apologies.

Responsible disclosure

For general bugs and feature requests, we encourage creating an issue on GitHub. For security issues, however, responsible disclosure guidelines request that such concerns should be raised privately. If you do encounter something which may be a security issue, or even if you are not sure, please in the first instance, always email us. This ensures confidentiality, and allows a fix to be implemented or at least worked on before any potential vulnerability becomes more widely known. As a transparent and open-source project, information will still be available once a fix is in place.

Note that responsible disclosure is also called “Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure“.

Switching Windows

Most people know how to switch Windows using alt+tab. Hold down alt, tap the tab key and release both to move to the last active Window. Hold down alt, and keep tapping tab to move through all open windows. Release both when on the desired Window.

Did you know though, there are at least four other keystrokes you can use to change windows?

  • windows+tab: Opens a screen showing all open windows. On this screen you can arrow between Windows. You can also press tab to go to a history of open windows or shift tab to a list of virtual desktops. Once on the desired window or virtual desktop, press enter to move focus to it.
  • alt+escape: instantly moves to the last window, but keep pressing it and it cycles through the windows. This is different to alt tab which if you press and let go will keep going back and forth between only two windows.
  • control+alt+tab, like alt+tab but “sticky”. Press it to bring up the alt+tab “window”. Then use the arrows to move through programs. Press enter to move focus to the desired window.
  • Windows+number. This actually runs the program at that position on the taskbar. Windows+1 is the first program on the taskbar, then Windows+2 and so on. Note that if that program is running, it will switch to it, and pressing that keystroke again will move between open instances of that program. If the program is not open, this keystroke will open it.
  • Do you know any other ways of switching between open Windows that we haven’t thought of? Please Let us know!

    Thanks to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for their insights. Remember, the Disability Answer Desk are a great resource for issues you run into with Microsoft products.

    Note that none of those commands are NVDA specific. These are all Windows commands so anyone should be able to use them. I did have one NVDA specific use in mind though:

    Emulating system keys

    NVDA’s Input Gestures are a powerful way of changing the default keystrokes NVDA uses. We’ve put a lot of thought into the default keystrokes, but there are times you may want to add or change a keystroke. There are also some functions which don’t have a keystroke assigned by default. Screen curtain, for instance, is a popular function which does not have a keystroke by default. When we introduced the feature, we included a piece in In-Process detailing how to add a keystroke for screen curtain.

    As well as creating shortcuts for existing features, NVDA’s Input Gestures can also emulate system keys. This lets you create a new keystroke for nearly anything. There are some keys already defined in “Emulated system keys”. These are gestures to emulate toggling the alt, control, left windows, NVDA or shift keys. You can assign a gesture to these the same as for any other gesture. With this category, you can also create a completely new gesture to assign a keystroke to. To do this, move to the “Emulated system keys” heading, and then pressing alt+a there. This is particularly useful for adding a gesture on a Braille display. It can also be useful for adding a new touch gesture, to an otherwise keyboard only keystroke. Let’s explore now:

    1. Open NVDA’s Input Gestures dialog (NVDA+n for the NVDA menu, then p then n to open input gestures)

    2. Press E to jump down to “Emulated system keys”.

    3. Press alt+a to add a new emulated system key.

    4. Press alt+escape – that will add alt+escape as a new emulated system key. Next we can assign a Braille key to it.

    5. The focus is now on that new emulated system key. Press alt+a to assign a gesture to it.

    6. Press the key or keys on the Braille display to assign.

    7. Use the arrows to select whether to assign this gesture to the current keyboard layout (desktop or laptop) or all layouts, then press enter.

    Changing the keystroke to launch NVDA

    While we’re looking at keystrokes, let’s cover one more – the shortcut to launch NVDA. When you install NVDA, the desktop shortcut is assigned the keystroke control+alt+n. This is fine in most instances, and is a standard Windows convention. You can create a keyboard shortcut for any desktop icon. The default keystroke is usually control+alt+letter. But what if you don’t want to use control+alt+n? You can change it in the same way as changing the shortcut key to launch any program.

    1. Press Windows+m to minimise everything and move focus to the desktop
    2. Press the first letter of the icon name until the focus moves to it (Press “n” for NVDA)
    3. Press alt+enter to open the properties for the icon
    4. Press tab twice to move to the shortcut key
    5. Press the shortcut key you would like to use. Note that if you just press a letter, it will insert control+alt+letter
    6. Press ENTER to save the changes to the icon properties
    7. You will be prompted to provide admin approval. Press ENTER to “Continue”. If needed, type the admin credentials and press ENTER.

You can now press the shortcut you assigned in step 5 to launch that icon. In the case of NVDA, if you press the shortcut while NVDA is already running, it will close and restart NVDA.

What keystrokes or shortcut keys have you changed? Let us know in the NVDA users email group!

That’s all for this palindrome and ambigram 2’s day Tuesday! A palindrome can be read left to right or right to left. An ambigram is a bit more visual, but is a word which reads the same upside down. Enjoy experimenting with new ways of changing between windows and do let us know how you find NVDA 2021.3.3.