[AI] jaws and windows eye

firoz pathan firojjee at gawab.com
Sun Jul 22 01:52:02 EDT 2007

this i have taken from another list
Blind Confidential (Blog)
Friday, July 20, 2007

A JAWS User Explorers Window-Eyes

By Chris Hofstader

Since I started exploring Vista and, to a lesser extent, Office 2007, Blind
Confidential posts have given JAWS 8.0 quite a spanking.
With nearly a full week using Vista behind me, using Window-Eyes most of the
time, I feel I must comment on short comings of the GW
product and point out situations in which either System Access or JAWS
provide a more usable solution.

As it has been more than nine years since I last used Window-Eyes on a full
time basis some of my impressions of it in Vista are
likely also true in XP and earlier operating environments. Also, some of
the issues about Window-Eyes that have caused me to
struggle a bit result from my using JAWS so much over the last eight and a
half years and that I know the commands I use with any
frequency so well that I don't need to think in order to act. Finally,
various aspects of the Window-Eyes interface seem very
unfamiliar to a JAWS user which also requires a different way of thinking in
order to function properly.

I don't know if such a beast exists but I think a set of tutorials on the
subject, "Window-Eyes for the JAWS User: A Primmer on
Using a Second Screen reader," would serve users who want to use WE as well
as or instead of JAWS quite well. Of course, if such a
document existed, I would probably ignore it as I tend to only consult
documentation when I've already tried everything I could
think of on my own.

JAWS users, including me, think in terms of a modality based upon which
cursor (PC, JAWS, Virtual or Invisible) is active.
Window-Eyes has two or three cursors (equivalent to the PC cursor, a JAWS
cursor that moves the mouse pointer, an invisible cursor
that GW calls the WE cursor and, although not identified as a cursor per se,
a virtual cursor when in browse mode). Years ago, I
remember users complaining that the different modes that JAWS employs caused
some confusion. I found the simultaneous cursors in
Window-Eyes quite confusing over the past few days as, because I know JAWS
so well, I think in terms of a mode defined by the active

I can see advantages and disadvantages to each system. JAWS, in all of its
different modes maintains a single set of keystrokes to
perform similar and identical tasks. Thus, a JAWS user only needs to learn
one set of hot keys to perform the most common tasks
like reading a line, word or character. In Window-Eyes, there are at least
two cursors (the one that equates to the JAWS PC cursor
and either the WE or mouse cursor) active all of the time and, as a result,
a user must memorize two commands to read a line, word
or character. Of course, having the mouse cursor turned on all of the time
obviates the requirement that one switch between modes
to perform tasks best suited to a specific cursor.

Whether the modal approach or the double simultaneous cursors is more user
friendly is a topic that my friend Will Pearson can speak
to far better than me. To me, when I find myself in a place that
Window-Eyes does not read immediately, I think I should do
something like routing my JAWS cursor to the focus (PC cursor) which is a
mental artifact of having used JAWS almost every day for
more than 8 years. At the same time, I can see why a person more fluent in
Window-Eyes would find the different modes JAWS uses
quite confusing.

The cursor and modality issue is the same on all platforms and not,
therefore, specific to Vista. It did, however, slow me down
quite a bit as I had to stop and think about or even look up a keystroke now
and then.

This brings me to the JAWS keyboard layout that ships standard with
Window-Eyes (also not a Vista specific issue). The people at GW
provide just enough of the JAWS desktop keyboard layout to, in my opinion,
really confuse a JAWS user. Because of the lack of
cursor based modality, Window-Eyes cannot provide the consistent set of
keystrokes that exist in JAWS. Thus, I've been spending a
fair amount of time trying to create a keyboard layout as similar to the
JAWS Kinesis as I can. Once again, I cannot say which
system is superior, only that I am much more familiar with JAWS so
remembering that different keystrokes govern the mouse cursor
than the focal one slows me down and makes transitioning from JAWS to
Window-Eyes less smooth than I had hoped.

Recently, I've written about how I need multiple screen readers to
accomplish everything I use a computer for. In the areas in
which System Access does a good job, I definitely prefer it to Window-Eyes
as its default keymap mimics that of JAWS so I
immediately feel at home when using it. This specific issue probably keeps
most users locked into either JAWS or Window-Eyes as the
time to learn the different user interface metaphors can easily become an
expensive training issue.

My next complaint about Window-Eyes has to do with how it talks to audio
hardware (I don't know if this is true only in Vista or if
has been around for a while). I almost always wear headphones while working
at a computer. The headphones I most often use is a
Logitech USB headset which has its own sound card that resides on its USB
cable. When running JAWS, I can listen to it speak using
Eloquence through speakers and then plug my headset into a USB port and JAWS
will recognize that my default sound card changed and
will switch over to speaking through the headset sound device. This is not
the case with Window-Eyes (at least in Vista) so,
yesterday, while I had to juggle sound devices Window-Eyes had to be
restarted each time I either plugged in or detached my headset.

Perhaps because I spent a lot of years working on it, I find the JAWS UI
considerably more intuitive than that of Window-Eyes. In
JAWS, one need only go to a single place in the UI to globally change basic
behaviors like speech rate, running from the system
tray, hot key announcements and other simple settings that I tend to adjust
right after installing a new version of JAWS.
Window-Eyes provides some keystrokes for making global adjustments but, in
its own window, one must separately set things like
speech rate and pitch by using items under three different menus. Compared
to JAWS, I find this process to be pretty clunky and, in
general, I find the WE UI to feel a bit antiquated. If I remember
correctly, System Access only has global speech and other
settings so is, in my mind, the simplest to grasp.

Window-Eyes also seems to use different keystrokes to perform common tasks
depending upon which application is running. I've heard
some people claim that this is a more intuitive approach as each Set file is
tweaked to meet the specific use case. Frankly, I find
any system that requires me to memorize more keystrokes than I absolutely
must to be less intuitive than using the same keymap in
all situations. While the JAWS cursor based modality might confuse people
accustomed to Window-Eyes, JAWS users can get completely
confused by needing to remember differences in the keymap as one switches
between applications.

Likely due to my novice status as a Window-Eyes user, I can't figure out why
changes made to the hot keys do not immediately take
effect. In JAWS, if one goes to the Dictionary Manager, any changes take
effect as soon as one saves the jkm file. Also, with
JAWS, advanced users can open the keymap file for a given application or the
default in Notepad or some other text editor, change a
keymap, save the file and it will instantly take effect. This, in my
opinion at least, is far more intuitive than figuring out
whatever it is that one must do to make Window-Eyes learn a new keystroke or

Other settings and configurations are also much simpler in JAWS than WE.
Specifically, if I want to change the synthesizer I want
JAWS to use, I go to a menu that only includes synths that I have
installed; Window-Eyes, on the other hand, presents me with a
list of every synthesizer that they support, whether I have one or not. I
accidentally fat fingered a keystroke while in this part
of the WE UI and found myself entirely without speech, "Sue!" I yelled and
my lovely wife came to the rescue but if I had been home
alone, I'd have been SOL until I could find a sightie to help out.

JAWS provides a feature called "hot key help" which, by default, launches
when a user hits INSERT+H. As Window-Eyes does not have
virtual viewer functionality, it may not be able to offer a similar
feature. In JAWS, especially in applications where the
scripters and developers add a large number of keystrokes it is easy to
forget those one doesn't use frequently. JAWS hot key help
brings up a window that lists most if not all of the keystrokes available in
a particular situation (it is context sensitive at the
application level) and the user can arrow through the list, search with the
virtual find feature or navigate however he chooses and
when the user finds the feature he wants, he is told which hot key is bound
to the feature but, at the same time, can hit ENTER on
the feature name and JAWS will execute the command. This is a really nice
feature in programs like Excel and GoldWave which have
literally dozens of hot keys to perform lots of really interesting

On the other side of the argument, I find that, in Vista at least,
Window-Eyes runs faster than does JAWS. Window-Eyes rarely, if
ever, repeats a bit of text over and over, a really annoying aspect of JAWS
that really should be fixed. Overall, in my first week
with Vista, I still feel that Window-Eyes does a better job than JAWS in
most cases. At the same time, I find that JAWS "feels"
better than WE and that JAWS many help and tutorial features make it more
comfortable to operate.

I promised Mike Calvo that I would spend a week using System Access as my
primary screen reader in Vista so as to get a feel for it
in a more real world environment than I have gotten by simply starting it up
and checking if one or two things that either JAWS or
Window-Eyes does poorly. I will report on that experience when it is

A month or so ago, I wrote that if I had to live with only one screen
reader, I would choose JAWS. Today, now that I use Vista
daily, I am confident that I need at least two and maybe three screen access
tools to do everything I use a computer to do.

Today, I plan on trying the speech recognition features of Vista with
Window-Eyes. I want to get a copy of jVist but I don't know
where to purchase it in the US. I supposed if I wasn't so lazy, I could
find it on the T&T web site.

-- End


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