Put the Jaws Startup Wizard to Work for You!

The Jaws screen reader has a vast number of settings. Rather than chugging through all settings in Jaws what I would like to do for you in this article is run through the initial Jaws Startup Wizard.

The Jaws startup wizard is what you get when you are installing Jaws for the first time. However, you can also get to the startup wizard at any time to quickly change settings if you don’t remember exactly where they are. I will show you how to bring this up in a minute. First I want to quickly draw your attention to the Migrate settings dialog box in Jaws.

Migrate Settings Screen

This screen will popup when you upgrade Jaws. If the upgraded Jaws detects customized user settings it will ask you if you would like to migrate your settings to the updated Jaws program. This initial screen allows for a yes or no answer. Answering Yes will allow you to choose from a list of Jaws version on your computer. Jaws will only migrate settings from version 17.0 or later.

Once you select the Jaws version you want to migrate your settings from just press enter. Your settings will be instantly transferred to the new version of Jaws. You will be shown an Okay dialog box and you can press enter to dismiss it. Once you dismiss the migration dialog box you will be in the startup Wizard as promised.

Jaws Startup Wizard

Most people that I work with either press escape when the startup wizard first comes up thereby quitting it and not saving any settings, or just go with the default settings just by pressing enter. Most of my customers don’t know what these settings do or how these settings could benefit them.

If you would like to follow along here’s how to bring up the Jaws startup wizard at any time to adjust settings quickly.

  1. Press insert J or press enter on the Jaws shortcut on your desktop or start window.
  2. Go to help then either arrow down to “Startup Wizard” or just press the letter Z.

Help Improve Freedom Scientific Products

This is a checkbox that you should only get one time, unless you leave this check box unchecked. If you choose to send various diagnostic data to Freedom Scientific to help improve Jaws, Zoom Text, and/or Fusion here is what will be sent to FS.

  • Version of Jaws, Zoom Text, Fusion etc.
  • Windows version
  • Language and country
  • Speech synthesizer being used
  • Braille display and Braille table being used.

Freedom Scientific indicates that this data is anonymous therefore should not include personal identifiable information.



Speech Rate

The first setting you’ll land on is speech rate. This is a slider meaning that you can adjust your rate of speech via your arrow keys for smaller increments of speech rate or your page up/page down keys to jump by larger increments. Once done just press tab to move to the next setting in this screen.


This combo box allows you to use your arrow keys to adjust the level of punctuation that you hear as Jaws reads information to you on screen. The default setting is most punctuation, but you can use your arrow keys to set this to none, some, most, or all.

Typing Echo

This setting let’s you decide how much feedback Jaws provides you when typing. Your choices here are off, characters, words, and characters and words. You can use your up or down arrow keys to make your choice. The “off” selection doesn’t give you any feedback when keys are pressed on the keyboard. The two-character options give you feedback instantly when you press a key on the keyboard. The two-word options will announce each word that you type as you press either the Enter or Space Bar keys. Many of my clients like the “characters and words” option because they can hear letters as they type them but also hear words as they press the Enter/Space bar keys.

Now tab to the next option.

Lower the Volume of Other Programs While JAWS is Speaking

This check box is turned off when Jaws is installed. This setting turns down audio so that you can hear Jaws while it is speaking. If you have ever been listing to audio but then couldn’t hear Jaws talk because the audio was too loud to hear it, this setting tries to solve this problem.

Press the Space bar to turn this setting on if you want. At this point as you tab you may get to a next button, and a cancel button. In later screens you will also have a back button. These can be activated via the Space Bar key and allow you to go to the next settings screen, go back a settings screen, or cancel any changes that you have made. On the last settings screen you will find a Finish button that will save all your settings changes and close the startup wizard.

Automatically Start JAWS

There are three settings that control when Jaws starts in windows. The first, “Automatically start JAWS at the Log On screen” starts Jaws at the logon screen in windows only. This is checked by default. You cannot change this setting if you are not running Jaws in an administrator account.

The second option for starting Jaws is called, “Automatically start JAWS after log on for all users” This check box will set Jaws to start for all users whenever windows starts. This check box is not on by default. Again, you cannot change this setting if you are not running Jaws as an administrator.

The last option, “Start JAWS after log on for this user” is a combo box that has three options within it. They are: always, never, and using the all users setting. Jaws is automatically set to always meaning that Jaws will always start for the current logged in account. Obviously setting this to never turns off Jaws starting for the current logged on account, and setting this to all users setting will allow Jaws to start but only if the administrator of the computer did not uncheck the “automatically start Jaws for all users” check box.

Run JAWS from System Tray

This check box is off by default. If you turn it on Jaws will not show itself in a window on your task bar. In other words, you will not hear Jaws whenever you Alt+Tab through your open windows.

If you want to get to the Jaws window with this check box turned on either press Insert+J, or go to your desktop and press enter on the Jaws icon. Because Jaws isn’t running as a window when you do this you will be in a menu with choices such as options, utilities, and so on.

Smart Navigation

The smart navigation setting is turned off by default. This setting tries to simplify navigating tables and forms in virtual documents such as web pages, PDF documents, and email messages.

If you set this to “Controls”, Jaws will treat interactive web controls as if you are in a menu bar. If you arrow to a set of buttons on a web page you can arrow left and right and you will hear the buttons as if you are in a menu in Notepad.

Setting this to “controls and Tables” ads the ability for you to arrow through tables without needing to use the Control and Alt keys while holding down the arrow keys to navigate tables.

Remember that when Smart navigation is on Jaws will automatically turn document presentation mode to screen layout. Also links that appear on the same line will be accompanied by a sound indicated that this is the case.

Note: if you would like to briefly turn off smart navigation for exploratory purposes just press the say line, say word, or say character commands twice quickly.

Forms Mode Settings

This group of settings specifies how Jaws interacts with web forms.

Set this to “auto” to have Jaws enter a form automatically if you tab, or arrow to a form on a web page.

Setting this to manual will stop Jaws from ever putting you into forms mode unless you press Enter or Space bar on a form control.

Semi-auto is a sort of midpoint setting where Jaws will only automatically enter a form if you Tab or Shift+Tab over the form. When this mode is on you will need to manually get out of forms mode.

Use Virtual Ribbon Menu

This check box is off by default. Turning this on makes Jaws turn Ribbon Bars into predictable traditional menu bars. These are similar to what you would find in Notepad. Note that this setting may not work in all cases or when an item is activated via Alt combined with another letter.

Use Keyboard Layout

This setting is used to specify what kind of keyboard layout you want Jaws to run in. You can choose from Desktop, Laptop, or Kinesis. If your keyboard has a number pad you’ll probably want desktop here. If not you’ll probably need to set this to laptop mode.

Initial State of NUM LOCK Key

Here you can specify if you want Jaws to automatically turn off the NumLock key whenever Jaws starts. This is the default setting, but you can turn it off, or set it to “Do not modify”. This tells Jaws to leave the number lock as it was configured by your PC.

Verbosity Settings

This is what I call, “Jaws Jibber jabber” 😉  These settings control how much information Jaws gives you as you navigate Windows. There is a bit to cover here so let’s walk through it together…

First up is “Tutor Messages”. These are navigational tips that Jaws provides as you move around in windows and in applications. You’ve probably heard messages like use up or down arrows to… or use tab and shift tab to… By default Jaws turns all tutor messages on via the “Announce menu and control help” setting.

Setting this to “Turn off menu and control help” will turn off all tutor messages.

“Announce Custom Messages Only” only allows Jaws to give you navigational hints that were created via the “Prompt Manager”.

The next group of verbosity settings is “Access Keys”.

Access keys are special hotkeys built-in to menus or controls. Jaws will by default announce all keys as it encounters them.

You can set this to off for nothing, menus only, or dialogs only. This last setting will only speak controls in dialog boxes.

The next verbosity setting is “verbosity level”.

This setting gives you three options, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Delineating differences between each of these settings is waaay beyond the scope of this article. However, beginner gives you the most information and advanced gives you the least amount of information. It is possible to customize each of these settings, but that is a story for another day.

The last setting in verbosity is called, “Graphic verbosity”.

Here you have none, all, or labeled. By default jaws will announce all graphics. If a graphic is not labeled you will hear something like graphic 319 from time to time depending on what you are doing. I generally recommend setting this to labeled as it will give you all of the graphics that have a label such as “maximize” but you won’t hear the unlabeled graphics.

Well we finally got through the verbosity settings. The rest of this article deals with Braille settings.

Braille Translation Settings

The first setting is simply called “language”. This will display Braille in different languages. By default Jaws is set to English United States.




This option is always set to computer braille The options here are dependent on what your Braille display language is set to.


How do you want to type in Braille? Jaws will automatically set this to computer Braille so you may not see this setting. If your output mode it set to something other than computer braille then you can select options based on your output mode settings.

Show current word in computer Braille

This is turned on by default and shows the word wherever the cursor is located on the braille display. Turning this setting off will show the word in contracted Braille. Note that this setting is available only when the output mode is Grade 1 or Grade 2 and the input mode is Computer Braille.

Braille Mode

Determines how Braille is sent to the Braille display. Line sends a line wherever the cursor is, structured sends information related to contexts based on where you are in windows and where your Braille cursor is. This information could be things like title of a window, name of a form control, and this is the default setting.

The last Braille mode setting is “speech output”. This mode sends the same information to the Braille display that the speech synthesizer gets.

Enable flash messages

This is on by default. Flash messages are quick short messages that appear on your braille display. These could be things like the current time, windows update notifications and so on.

Enable word wrap

By default Jaws will not split up a word if it cannot fit on the Braille display. When you pan to the next element you will be able to read the entire word. Turning this setting off will have Jaws display the entire word, but some of the word may be cut off. Your Braille display will show the rest of the word when you pan to the next item.

Reverse panning buttons

This reverses the left and right panning buttons. This setting is turned off by default.

Placement of status cells

These cells are placed on the left side of the braille display but you can set this to the right side, or turn them off.

Dot firmness

This specifies how hard the dots feel. Jaws automatically sets this to 100% but you can adjust this if you like.

We’re done!

I hope this helps you figure out the settings in the Jaws startup wizard. Hopefully now you can begin to make Jaws work better for you. Until next time… Qapla!

8 thoughts on “Put the Jaws Startup Wizard to Work for You!”

  1. “Reverse panning buttons” is an amazing point discussed above in detail. I am going to share the post on my social media pages to see my friends and followers. I hope people will learn something exclusive through this posting. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  2. Brilliant write-up and “Use Virtual Ribbon Menu” is the best point to know from this reading! I appreciate the reading and got some wise words through this posting. I am going to share the post on my social media pages to see my friends and followers. Please keep posting things like this.

  3. Helpful stuff! I can’t wait to post it on my social media pages to see my friends. I had no idea about the “Initial State of NUM LOCK Key” before today. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us!

  4. Thanks very much for going to the trouble to publish this information. I had gotten to about the second screen and I said to myself, “I literally have no idea what these selections that I’m making even mean!” So I got to Googling and found your extremely helpful article. Also very important, I was able to make a note of how to re-open the startup wizard if I want to make modifications down the line. Super helpful all around!

  5. Man, you got some good info here! Last week at work, I was assigned a new workstation, and when I started JAWS I saw the startup wizard and (like most of your other customers) just hit Enter at each screen. But I really like the whole run from system tray setting! I usually have so many other windows open (Outlook, Visual Studio, a web browser, Git and maybe more) that I really don’t need one for JAWS. Thanks for the info!

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