NVDA is a free alternative to screen readers like Jaws and Window-Eyes One of its features- in fact, the one I’ll be covering today- is extensibility. So, how is NVDA extensible? Through add-ons, which are packaged zip files with an .nvda extension that contain the necessary files to add or modify the functionality of NVDA. So, let’s discuss how to download and install add-ons, as well as how to manage them afterward.
The first thing you need to do is find a website from which to download one or more of these add-ons. A good place to start is the official NVDA add-ons page. You can find others, but I’ll leave that up to you. If you go to the above link, you will be able to navigate the list of add-ons with the 1 key on the top number row, this navigates by heading level 1, (the largest fonts). If you find something you like, press enter on it. You can read about its functions and download it. The download link is under the author’s name and you can press the K key to navigate through the links. Alternatively, you can press INSERT+F7 to bring up the elements list and find the version number and press enter on it. It’s up to you whether or not to run or save these files, as you can install them right from your browser’s download manager.
When you have a file downloaded, you can either open it from your browser’s download manager or by navigating to the place your browser downloads files to. Simply typing, “downloads” in the run menu without the quotes and pressing enter should suffice. Find the add-on you wish to install and press enter on it. You will see a dialog box that asks you whether or not you wish to install it, if you answer yes, you’ll then be asked if you want to restart NVDA. If you’re installing multiple add-ons, you can say no to this second dialog until the last one, but honestly, it restarts so fast that you will not likely notice it so I always answer yes to both questions. When NVDA restarts, you will be able to use the add-on. Simply follow the author’s instructions on how to use it.
If you’d like to see the add-ons that you have installed, remove or check their status, this is possible through the “Manage add-ons” option under the “Tools” menu in the NVDA menu. You can invoke the NVDA menu at any time by pressing NVDA+N. Your NVDA key will usually be the INSERT key unless you have changed it or have set up the laptop layout.
In the “Manage add-ons” dialog you can check the status of your add-ons, uninstall or install add-ons and look at the about window for an add-on. Some authors add helpful information such as what keys to press to activate the functions of the add-on, and others just place version numbers in there. You can also click the get add-ons button to be taken to the NVDA add-ons page.
In closing, it is not only possible to add or modify the functionality of NVDA, it is fast and easy. Once you have installed an add-on or two, it’s a breeze. If you know Python, it is possible for you to develop your own add-ons.