NVDA, which stands for Non Visual Desktop Access, is a free, open source and (in my opinion) a community driven screen reader for the Microsoft Windows platform. Steadily popularizing in the visually impaired community, it is actively developed by a global community of contributor, and shaped to remain in compliance with user feedback and compatible with rapidly changing technology.
Before Stable Release
NVDA version 2015.4 RC 1, a release candidate branch which would be identical to the public release if no critical issues were detected, went live for wide public testing on November 16. As scheduled, since no major issues were found, a week later, on November 23 that is, NV Access proudly unfurled the stable release of NVDA version 2015.4, the fourth and last release for the year 2015.
Note: Last year, NV Access, the Australian charity organization behind NVDA, finalized a release cycle process which has resulted in a major NVDA update to surface every quarter; three months. Mathematicians might have already calculated February 2016, to be when we may expect the next NVDA update.
Also, apart from the quarterly public updates of NVDA, you can test Beta and Alpha leading edge features and code through NVDA’s development snapshots of Master and Next branches respectively.
While announcing the release of version 2015.4, NV Access stated the following:
Version 2015.4 of the free NVDA screen Reader from NV Access is now available for download. Highlights of this release include performance improvements in Windows 10; inclusion in the Ease of Access Center in Windows 8 and later; enhancements for Microsoft Excel, including listing and renaming of sheets and access to locked cells in protected sheets; and support for editing of rich text in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Mozilla Thunderbird.
This award-winning software has been changing the lives of thousands of blind and vision impaired people who can now independently use computers to produce written content, read news, socialize, shop and bank online, and, most importantly, actively participate in education and employment. All of this would otherwise have been impossible due to the high cost of existing commercial software.
NV Access relies on financial support from organizations and users. Please consider helping the Australian-based charity to continue lowering the barriers to technology for blind and vision impaired people by becoming a monthly donor.
To download a copy of NVDA, please visit our Download page. ”
The What’s New document containing information about the newest in this update can be viewed online, as well as in an installed copy through NVDA Menu > Help submenu > User Guide.
For your reference, the What’s New section for 2015.4 has been copied as under:
• NVDA now appears in the Ease of Access Center in Windows 8 and later. (#308)
• When moving around cells in Excel, formatting changes are now automatically reported if the appropriate options are turned on in NVDA’s Document Formatting Settings dialog. (#4878)
• A Report Emphasis option has been added to NVDA’s Document formatting settings dialog. On by default, this option allows NVDA to automatically report the existence of emphasized text in documents. So far, this is only supported for em and strong tags in Browse Mode for Internet Explorer and other MSHTML controls. (#4920)
• The existence of inserted and deleted text is now reported in Browse Mode for Internet Explorer and other MSHTML controls if NVDA’s Report Editor Revisions option is enabled. (#4920)
• When viewing track changes in NVDA’s Elements List for Microsoft Word, more information such as what formatting properties were changed is now displayed. (#4920)
• Microsoft Excel: listing and renaming of sheets is now possible from NVDA’s Elements List (NVDA+f7). (#4630, #4414)
• It is now possible to configure whether actual symbols are sent to speech synthesizers (e.g. to cause a pause or change in inflection) in the Symbol Pronunciation dialog. (#5234)
• In Microsoft Excel, NVDA now reports any input messages set by the sheet author on cells. (#5051)
• Support for the Baum Pronto! V4 and VarioUltra braille displays when connected via Bluetooth. (#3717)
• Support for editing of rich text in Mozilla applications such as Google Docs with braille support enabled in Mozilla Firefox and HTML composition in Mozilla Thunderbird. (#1668)
• Support for editing of rich text in Google Chrome and Chrome-based browsers such as Google Docs with braille support enabled. (#2634)
◦ This requires Chrome version 47 or later.
• In browse mode in Microsoft Excel, you can navigate to locked cells in protected sheets. (#4952)
• The Report Editor Revisions option in NVDA’s Document formatting settings dialog is now turned on by default. (#4920)
• When moving by character in Microsoft Word with NVDA’s Report Editor Revisions option enabled, less information is now reported for track changes, which makes navigation more efficient. To view the extra information, use the Elements List. (#4920)
• Updated Liblouis braille translator to 2.6.4. (#5341)
• Several symbols (including basic mathematical symbols) have been moved to level some so that they are spoken by default. (#3799)
• If the synthesizer supports it, speech should now pause for parentheses and the en dash (–). (#3799)
• When selecting text, the text is reported before the indication of selection instead of after. (#1707)
• Major performance improvements when navigating the Outlook 2010/2013 message list. (#5268)
• In a chart in Microsoft Excel, navigating with certain keys (such as changing sheets with control+pageUp and control+pageDown) now works correctly. (#5336)
• Fixed the visual appearance of the buttons in the warning dialog which is displayed when you attempt to downgrade NVDA. (#5325)
• In Windows 8 and later, NVDA now starts a lot earlier when configured to start after logging on to Windows. (#308)
◦ If you enabled this using a previous version of NVDA, you will need to disable it and enable it again in order for the change to take effect. Follow this procedure:
1. Open the General Settings dialog.
2. Uncheck the Automatically start NVDA after I log on to Windows checkbox.
3. Press the OK button.
4. Open the General Settings dialog again.
5. Check the Automatically start NVDA after I log on to Windows checkbox.
6. Press the OK button.
• Performance enhancements for UI Automation including File Explorer and Task Viewer. (#5293)
• NVDA now correctly switches to focus mode when tabbing to read-only ARIA grid controls in Browse Mode for Mozilla Firefox and other Gecko-based controls. (#5118)
• NVDA now correctly reports “no previous” instead of “no next” when there are no more objects when flicking left on a touch screen.
• Fixed problems when typing multiple words into the filter field in the Input Gestures dialog. (#5426)
• NVDA no longer freezes in some cases when reconnecting to a HumanWare Brailliant BI/B series display via USB. (#5406)
• In languages with conjunct characters, character descriptions now work as expected for upper case English characters. (#5375)
• NVDA should no longer occasionally freeze when bringing up the Start Menu in Windows 10. (#5417)
• In Skype for Desktop, notifications which are displayed before a previous notification disappears are now reported. (#4841)
• Notifications are now reported correctly in Skype for Desktop 7.12 and later. (#5405)
• NVDA now correctly reports the focus when dismissing a context menu in some applications such as Jart. (#5302)
• In Windows 7 and later, Color is again reported in certain applications such as Wordpad. (#5352)
• When editing in Microsoft PowerPoint, pressing enter now reports automatically entered text such as a bullet or number. (#5360)
• NVDA version 2015.4 packs useful features, ranging from minor GUI and web fixes, upgraded Skype support and Braille enhancements to much more important features and support.
• Inclusion in Ease of Access centre implies much quicker start when Windows boots up, Windows 10 is made yet friendlier an environment with NVDA, text selection announcement order has been slightly changed yet greatly positively impacted, and support for office suites have been professionalized further.
• An NVDA development team from India (another demonstration of how globalized a project NVDA is) is responsible for many of the Microsoft Excel features, simplifying and making the process of navigation, viewing and editing spreadsheets using Microsoft’s tool even more efficient.
• Adding to the feature set, web-based rich text editing has also been significantly optimized. Extensive and advanced editing, formatting and content creation as a whole on the web in browsers like Mozilla firefox and Google Chrome, has been a highly demanded feature which has finally made its way into version 2015.4. Bloggers and website designers or online content publishers will lead life with a bunch of troubles sorted out with the introduction of this rich text editing support.
Should I Upgrade
There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t. I would presume thousands of NVDA users around the world already would have got themselves empowered by the latest and greatest screen reading software, NVDA. No critical issues or regressions have been experienced by users, but there are certain elegantly work-around subjective changes that haven’t been received by the community happily. Read about them below with work-arounds mentioned alongside.
• NVDA says ‘Strong,’ ‘not strong,’ ‘emphasized’ and ‘not emphasized’ in Facebook News Feed and elsewhere over the web – This is a new reporting feature that was added on request of an advanced web designer and HTML author using NVDA. Emphasis and strength are attributes (not technically, but comparatively similar to bold) used to draw special attention of the user, which is now conveyed to NVDA users too. However, due to inappropriate usage of emphasis in contexts not intended to be emphasized, these announcements are occurring frequently and acting as an annoyance to the average user. This reporting option along with its introduction was defaulted as enabled, but can be disabled by unchecking the ‘Report emphasis’ check box in NVDA’s Document Formatting Settings dialog. For your information, NV Access did state that they had plans to default this emphasis reporting to unchecked, in NVDA 2016.1, to prevent confusion and annoyance by the novice or intermediate NVDA user.
• NVDA keeps saying ‘Inserted’ in Outlook edit field – In version 2015.4, NVDA’s report editor revisions setting was enabled by default, causing this superfluous announcement of ‘inserted’ in Outlook. NV Access expressed their intention to disable track changes altogether for Outlook as editor revisions were not really relevant in Outlook. For the time being, you may want to uncheck the ‘Report editor revisions’ check box in NVDA’s Document Formatting Settings dialog to get rid of this redundant announcement.
• NVDA often says ‘instead’ – As you may have noticed, NVDA often
In replacement of ‘selection of.’ This simple change was made to shorten the long announcement of ‘selection removed’ simply to ‘instead’.
• NVDA says the lesser than (<) and greater than (>) – For mathematics students who may encounter the important comparison signs of greater than and lesser than, these symbols were categorized under the Some symbol level, as opposed to there previously being under Most. If this change is something you don’t appreciate, you can revert these symbols back to the Most symbol level or All, as you choose, through the Symbol/Punctuation Pronunciation dialog in NVDA Menu > Preferences submenu.
NVDA continues to deliver the satisfaction and quality that we users expect from it, and NV Access ensures that our expectations and hopes from this product are not let down. NVDA is a great example of how effective being open source in nature can be. If viable, to reciprocate your service to NV Access, you may consider donating whatever little amount is within your reach, or even become a monthly donor. Over the years, NVDA has matured to what it is now, and of course, version 2015.4 was another leap in its level of competency and maturity. Some of you might not have realized that NVDA is turning ten years old in April 2016, for which the NVDA community has big plans! Stay tuned as that curtain will be slowly taken off, and CoolBlindTech promises to keep you posted about it!