In-Process 31st July

Ooh, 2019.2 is almost here! Let’s dive straight in:

NVDA 2019.2 RC1

Yes, we’ve released NVDA 2019.2 RC1. The “RC” stands for “Release Candidate” and is the last step before the final version is released. So close, that if no-one finds any major bugs in the RC version, it will be identical aside from the name.

We would really encourage everyone to please test out the release candidate. It’s a stable and solid build, and we’re confident that you’ll like it. Highlights of this release include auto detection of Freedom Scientific braille displays, an experimental setting in the Advanced panel to stop browse mode from automatically moving focus (which may provide performance improvements), a rate boost option for the Windows OneCore synthesizer to achieve very fast rates, and many other bug fixes.

All of your favourite synthesizers and add-ons which work in NVDA 2019.1.1 should continue to work in NVDA 2019.2. There are no big breaking changes to worry about.

Since the second beta release, there are several important new features. These include updating eSpeak NG and LibLouis. There are improvements to live region tracking and the browse mode find dialog. There are also new features and settings for developers.

Head over to the RC1 announcement to check out the full “What’s new”, and to download RC1 to try for yourself.

Release Candidate builds

So, what is a release candidate build? As the name implies, a build which is a candidate to become the final release if everything checks out. We put this build out there and encourage as many people as possible to download and use it. Unless a major issue is found, it will be identical to the final version.

We often get asked “In this upcoming release, can you please add feature ABCD (or fix bug EFGH)”. If that feature or issue isn’t already in the RC build, then unfortunately, we can’t include it in this release. To make each release as stable as possible, new code gets tested in alpha and then beta releases first. This ensures the code does what it is intended to do. It also minimises the chance of it causing any unforeseen issues along the way.

We do still want to hear about feature ABCD you want included in NVDA or bug EFGH you need fixed. The best way to report these is via GitHub. If you’d like to bounce your idea off others first, you can also create a topic in the NVDA user email group.

Using NVDA to improve email.

Well over 100,000 users rely on NVDA to navigate and use the PC. We also have others who use NVDA in a variety of ways to help ensure accessibility of the products they create. One company who use NVDA to make email more accessible is Litmus. Litmus help companies ensure the emails they send are as polished as possible. This includes things like checking that links work and making sure that images exist. Litmus now also let customers hear how their email sounds with NVDA. This enables companies to ensure that users relying on screen readers and smart voice assistants hear a coherent message. Read Litmus’ blog post detailing the importance of NVDA to this process.

Updates to the Switching from Jaws to NVDA wiki

The NVDA user email group is always a wealth of knowledge. One recent conversation discussed functionality which varied between screen readers. The community-created “Switching from Jaws to NVDA” wiki had much of this information. It has now been updated to include several new topics and more detail. New information includes accessing the notification area, Office ribbons, progress bars and emoji.

If you’re new to NVDA and have previously used Jaws, Switching from Jaws to NVDA has a wealth of information. If you’re familiar with both screen readers, feel free to read over the document to see if there is anything else which might be useful for a new convert.

WebAIM Screen reader survey

WebAIM are running their independent screen reader survey for the 8th time. This survey is a valuable chance to share your thoughts and experiences as a screen reader user. In their words, “Your responses provide valuable data and promote better accessibility”. We would encourage everyone to consider participating in the WebAIM screen reader survey

Building for the future

There has been some concern about whether future changes planned for NVDA later in the year might break some add-ons. Firstly, I’d like to reiterate that none of these changes are in 2019.2, so you should have no hesitation in updating to this build. Our intention going forward is to ensure that all changes are as smooth as possible and to minimise the chance of any functionality being lost. For full details on the changes, why they are unavoidable, and the benefits they will bring, please see This Post in the NVDA User Email group.

That’s all for this week. Next time around, we should be about ready to release 2019.2, if it’s not out already by then. In the meantime, do please download NVDA 2019.2 RC1, and let us know what you think!