JAWS (screen reader)

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Developer(s) Freedom Scientific
Initial release January 1995 (1995-01)
Stable release 17.0.1214 / November 18, 2015
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Type Screen reader
License Proprietary
Website freedomscientific.com

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a Refreshable Braille display.

JAWS is produced by the Blind and Low Vision Group of Freedom Scientific, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.

A July 2015 screen reader user survey by WebAIM, a web accessibility company, found JAWS to be the most popular screen reader worldwide; 30.2% of survey participants used it as a primary screen reader, while 43.7% of participants used it often. This level of usage is significantly lower than that found in the January 2014 survey, where the respective figures for JAWS were 50% and 63.9%.[1]

JAWS supports all versions of Windows released since Windows Vista. There are two versions of the program: the home use edition for non-commercial use and the professional edition for commercial environments. Before JAWS 16, the home use edition was called Standard, and only worked on home Windows operating systems.[2][3] A DOS version, sometimes also known as JDOS, is free.

The JAWS Scripting Language allows the user to use programs without standard Windows controls, and programs that were not designed for accessibility.


JAWS was originally released in 1989 by Ted Henter, a former motorcycle racer who lost his sight in a 1978 automobile accident. In 1985, Henter, along with a $180,000 USD investment from Bill Joyce, founded the Henter-Joyce Corporation in St. Petersburg, Florida. Joyce sold his interest in the company back to Henter in 1990. In April 2000, Henter-Joyce, Blazie Engineering, and Arkenstone, Inc. merged to form Freedom Scientific.

JAWS was originally created for the MS-DOS operating system. It was one of several screen readers giving blind users access to text-mode MS-DOS applications. A feature unique to JAWS at the time was its use of cascading menus, in the style of the popular Lotus 1-2-3 application. What set JAWS apart from other screen readers of the era was its use of macros that allowed users to customize the user interface and work better with various applications.[citation needed]

Ted Henter and Rex Skipper wrote the original JAWS code in the mid-1980s, releasing version 2.0 in mid-1990. Skipper left the company after the release of version 2.0, and following his departure, Charles Oppermann was hired to maintain and improve the product. Oppermann and Henter regularly added minor and major features and frequently released new versions. Freedom Scientific now offers JAWS for MS-DOS as a freeware download from their web site.[4][5]

In 1993, Henter-Joyce released a highly modified version of JAWS for people with learning disabilities. This product, called WordScholar, is no longer available.[6]

JAWS for Windows

In 1992, as Microsoft Windows became more popular, Oppermann began work on a new version of JAWS. A principal design goal was not to interfere with the natural user interface of Windows and to continue to provide a strong macro facility. Test and beta versions of JAWS for Windows (JFW) were shown at conferences throughout 1993 and 1994. During this time, developer Glen Gordon started working on the code, ultimately taking over its development when Oppermann was hired by Microsoft in November 1994. Shortly afterwards, in January 1995, JAWS for Windows 1.0 was released.

Currently a new revision of JAWS for Windows is released about once a year, with minor updates in between. The latest version is 16.0, released in October 2014.


The software includes a mode designed specifically for web use, activated when Internet Explorer is in the foreground. For web pages, JAWS first declares the title and number of links. Speech is toggled on/off with the Ctrl key, lines are navigated with the up/down arrow keys, and the (shift)Tab key moves between links and controls. Forms are found and read with Ctrl+Insert+Home, then the F key.[7] JAWS can access headings in Word and PDF documents and web pages[8]

JAWS' feature set and configurability have been described as "complex", with training recommended for users such as web designers performing accessibility testing, to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions from such testing.[9]

Release history

Version Release date Significant changes
JFW 1.0 January 1995 First version for Windows, supported Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11
JFW 2.0 About 1996

Added support for Windows 95

JFW 4.0 September 14, 2001
  • Many changes to user interface
  • Optional tutor and access key help added[10]
JFW 4.5 August 30, 2002
  • Quick navigation keys added to Internet Explorer, for navigating between HTML elements on a page[11]
JFW 5.0 October 9, 2003[12]
  • Many improvements with Internet support
  • Speech and Sounds Manager, for indication of fonts, controls and web page elements.[13]
JFW 6.0 March 3, 2005[14]
  • Introduction of Internet licensing
  • Introduction of separate user settings
  • Comes with a demo of FSReader, a DAISY reader manufactured by Freedom Scientific, for reading JAWS training material[15]
JFW 7.0 October 14, 2005[16]
JFW 7.1 June 21, 2006
JFW 8.0 November 17, 2006
JFW 9.0 November 19, 2007
  • HTML composition support
  • New "adjust JAWS options" dialog box[20]
JFW 10.0 November 3, 2008
JFW 11.0 October 23, 2009
  • Research It, a feature that provides quick access to information such as word definitions, weather forecasts and sports scores
  • Now comes on a DVD rather than a CD
  • Ships with the full version of FSReader 2.0 rather than a demo[22]
JFW 12.0 October 21, 2010
  • Provides a settings center to replace the old configuration manager to easily change settings
  • Allows consistent navigation of ribbons using the "virtual ribbon menu"
  • Supports the ARIA specification for making webpages more accessible[23]
JFW 13.0 October 24, 2011
  • Provides in-built optical character recognition for graphics on the screen
  • Provides a new "Quick settings" feature as a replacement for the old "Adjust JAWS options" dialog box[24]
JFW 14.0 October 22, 2012
  • Supports Windows 8
  • Introduces Flexible Web, a feature that allows the user to hide unwanted HTML elements on webpages or to go to a particular HTML element when a page launches[25]
JFW 15.0 October 28, 2013
  • Supports the touch screen in Windows 8
  • Comes with FS Reader 3.0, which can read DAISY files as if they're HTML documents.[26]
JFW 16.0 October 28, 2014
  • Introduces "JAWS command search", a feature that allows the user to search for JAWS commands.
  • Introduces optical character recognition for PDF documents
  • Supports MathML
  • No longer supports Windows XP[2]
JFW 17.0 October 29, 2015[27]
  • Supports Smart Navigation, an alternative method of navigating links and tables in webpages
  • Uses Liblouis, an open-source Braille translator, for updated support of Unified English Braille.[28]


  1. "Screen Reader User Survey #6". WebAIM. Retrieved September 3, 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 16", Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  3. "JAWS System Requirements". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  4. "DOS Software Toolkit". Trace Research & Development Center. University of Wisconsin. 2007. Archived from the original on June 13, 2007. 
  5. More JAWS downloads. Freedom Scientific. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  6. "Henter-Joyce Newsletter". September 1993. 
  7. Thatcher; et al. (2006). Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance (1 ed.). Friends of ED. p. 109. ISBN 978-1590596388. 
  8. Thatcher et al., p. 385
  9. Thatcher et al., p. 501.
  10. Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 4. Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  11. Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 4.5. Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  12. "Freedom Scientific Newsroom: JAWS for Windows 5.0 is released". Press Release. St. Petersburg, Florida: Freedom Scientific. October 9, 2003. Archived from the original on 4 December 2003. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  13. Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 5. Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  14. "JAWS 6.0 is Shipping to New Purchasers and SMA Holders". Press Release. St. Petersburg, Florida: Freedom Scientific. March 3, 2005. Archived from the original on November 22, 2005. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  15. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 6". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  16. "JAWS 7.0 Ships to New Buyers and SMA Holders". Press Release. St. Petersburg, Florida: Freedom Scientific. October 14, 2005. Archived from the original on December 18, 2005. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  17. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 7". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  18. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 7.10". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  19. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 8". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  20. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 9". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  21. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 10". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  22. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 11". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  23. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 12". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  24. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 13". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  25. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 14". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  26. "Enhancements and Improvements in JAWS 15". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015
  27. "Freedom Scientific Releases JAWS 17". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved November 5, 2015
  28. "What's New in JAWS 17". Freedom Scientific. Retrieved October 29, 2015.

External links