JAWS vs. NVDA: Hearing Another Voice

July 15, 2017 | 2 Comments

by David Flament

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Close up of hands on keyboard with white cane folded on desk.

I often talk to our clients about the need to learn a second screen reader and have even blogged on the subject.  I use both JAWS and NVDA on a regular basis.  I want to share my experience with a recent JAWS update and how NVDA came to the rescue.

The Crash

Back in April, VFO (parent company of Freedom Scientific)  released a JAWS update to JAWS 18 that made many users of Microsoft Office 2016 unhappy.  The update started crashing computers with Office 2016.  Like many people, I often have several tasks going at any one time and am constantly switching between programs, documents and spreadsheets.  My work computer began crashing several times a day.  It got so bad that I had to stop using JAWS.

Fortunately, I am just as comfortable using NVDA.  I switched to using NVDA as my primary screen reader after JAWS began crashing all the time.  Most of the commonly used screen reader keyboard commands are the same.  Also, all the Windows keyboard commands are the same, and for a majority of users, Windows keyboard commands are used most frequently.

NVDA: Pros and Cons

Previous to this incident, I used NVDA as my backup to JAWS at work.  I only used NVDA if JAWS could not read something or was acting strangely.  I was surprised to see just how much NVDA can do in the workplace.  It has really come a long way from its debut in 2006.  NVDA held up admirably even in Excel and our Access database.

Using NVDA has slowed my productivity in some ways.  For example, NVDA always announces the row and column numbers for tables in Access, and that takes time.  For other things like Outlook, it has been more productive.  NVDA announces all details in the Inbox list while JAWS only announces the Sender, size and date, skipping the subject.

As of this writing, VFO has come out with another update which may fix the problem.  I will have to see how much I go back to depending on  JAWS with NVDA doing such a good job.

If you would like to learn how to use NVDA, the free, open source screen reader, don’t miss our workshop on Thursday, August 9, 2017 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.  Call me to register!

David is the Manager of Adaptive Technology at Second Sense

2 comments on “JAWS vs. NVDA: Hearing Another Voice”

  1. bob jutzi says:

    David, I’ve used screen readers since their introduction back in the DOS era starting with 2.0 of JAWS and was migrated to JAWS once Window-eyes was discontinued. Since I am unemployed, I probably will stick with NVDA since I’ve found it to be an extremely powerful screen reader which more than meets my needs in addition to being free. I never can understand the reason for throwing down between $120 and $240 for upgrading screen access. JAWS must think it’s still 1995 and that this technology is new.

    1. Hi Bob, The release of NVDA 2017.3 certainly goes a long way towards supporting your comments.

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