JAWS for Windows is a screen reader developed by Freedom Scientific, Inc, and is designed for the blind and visually impaired community. According to Freedom Scientific, it is the international standard for screen reading software. To learn more about its functionality and rich feature-set, as well as how to install the product, get help, and learn basic keyboard commands, keep on reading, and also consider looking at the Help system that will be described later. To get started with installing the product which will be outlined below, go to this link.


How to Install the Product


In this section, we’re assuming that you have already purchased a license for JAWS (JAWS Home Use or JAWS Professional edition) from the Freedom Scientific eStore. After downloading the installer from the link in the section above, go to your Downloads folder by selecting the Start button and typing Downloads, or going to the Run dialog by pressing Windows+R and typing Downloads in there also. Double-click on the installer and follow the instructions during the installation. Please note: for the best experience, it is recommended that all applications be closed prior to starting the installation. Also, during the installation, there will be talking prompts guiding you through the install process. After installing the product, your computer should restart and JAWS should start running. This is where your purchasing of a license will come in. In your email, you should have received a serial number and authorization code. You will need to click on Update Authorization on the dialog box that pops up when JAWS starts, and then, on the next screen, select Internet License Management (ILM) and enter your authorization code in the field on the next screen afterwards. Next, click Finish and you should be good to use JAWS.

A note on needing to authorize or not: If you’re planning on trying JAWS before purchasing it (if you haven’t purchased it already in this case), everything except updating the authorization will still apply to you. Instead of Update Authorization, however, you will need to click Continue Running in 40 Minute Demo Mode, and after the 40 minutes expires, a restart of your computer will grant access for another 40 minutes again.


Basic Navigation Commands And How to Get Help


The most useful keystrokes that you’ll need to remember to navigate JAWS easily and efficiently is by using the following commands:

  • Arrow keys (up/down/left/right arrow) move you through items in both horizontal and vertical directions in areas such as the Desktop and File Explorer.
  • Sometimes, arrow keys will work, but Tab and Shift+Tab will be the best way to navigate controls within a dialog box as the Tab key is passed through directly to the application. However, keep the Arrow keys in mind, as some dialog boxes may or may not use the Tab key as the navigation key to navigate that particular dialog box.


Here are the 3 most used/most important commands for getting help:

  • Insert+H gives you some basic JAWS keystrokes, or, depending on the application, the JAWS keystrokes that work in conjunction with the app currently running.
  • Insert+F1 is what Freedom Scientific calls “Screen sensitive help,” and places text typed in it into another window where you can read what is said using the arrow keys. In some other apps with customized scripting to optimize the app’s performance with JAWS, it can also sometimes open a user guide in your default browser.
  • For applications which Freedom Scientific has topics on in JAWS Help (JAWS window > Help > JAWS Help Topics), pressing INSERT+F1 twice quickly within the app that’s supported in that manner will open the help topic for that application. Press the F6 key to move to the text in which to read, or you can use the arrow keys to select a different topic in the JAWS Help system.


I hope that this helps you be able to use the world’s most powerful screen reader in Windows! If you’re not going to use it, I hope that you’ve learned something today in regard to the basics of using probably any screen reader in Windows. Of course, some screen reader specific commands may be different, but tab, shift+tab, and the arrow keys should act very similar in most situations.

Keep an eye out on the blog for more posts, including more of my podcast and other guides/other materials in this category of posts for my speech/English class.

Thank you for reading!