Freedom Scientific announced that version 13 of the popular Jaws screen reader will be available as a public beta next week. According to Eric Damery of Freedom Scientific, anyone will be able to download and install the beta during this period. A response form will be provided on the Jaws HQ web site for reporting bugs and other problems. The official release is expected in late October or early November.
The most exciting new feature in Jaws 13 is built-in OCR (optical character recognition). This feature, called convenient OCR, is designed to read text contained in graphical images not normally readable by Jaws. It will help solve the common problem encountered when the bank or utility company presents account information online in graphical form. The text hidden in the image can be read using regular Jaws navigation commands. Convenient OCR will also read those annoying PDF files that contain scanned images instead of text.
Jaws 13 will include a number of other useful enhancements including simplified commands for reading tables and a redesigned user configuration facility called quick settings. There is also expanded Aria support for Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox. Another very nice addition to the Internet Explorer support is web site specific search history. Search keywords previously entered for a particular web site can be quickly retrieved and recycled in new searches.
We are looking forward to the new features and performance enhancements coming in Jaws 13 and we think that Convenient OCR is a giant step forward in screen reader functionality. It is important to note that although Convenient OCR provides groundbreaking support for reading text contained in graphical images, it will not allow the text to be copied or saved. Freedom Scientific stated that they could not get this feature ready in time for the release. It seems to us, as outside observers, that it would be just as easy to display the translated text in the new results viewer as it is to output it to the voice synthesizer. It is our hope that Freedom Scientific will be able to include this functionality in the future.
Source: FSCast Episode 58