How to Configure Jaws Individual Voice settings

 

Introduction

In this, the third paper in the Nomensa Insight series, we will be further exploring the Voice Settings of the Jaws (JFW) screen reader. Following on from the second paper in the series (Voice Settings - Global Adjustment), we will be looking at the Individual Voice Adjustment settings. The Individual Voice Adjustment options allow the user to control the rate, pitch, punctuation and character assigned to each of the four main Jaws areas. Jaws is able to use different characters for the PC Cursor, Jaws Cursor, Keyboard and Tutor Messages. This functionality can greatly enhance the user's ability to interpret where the information they are hearing originates from. As with all the documents in the Nomensa Insight range, it is hoped that you will discover a little more about what Jaws can offer you. Jaws is an incredibly powerful application and its myriad of configurations can be daunting. We hope that by reading through this and other papers from the series, that you will grow more relaxed and find you are happier to experiment with different settings for yourself. As always there are step by step instructions for all the topics addressed and a sprinkling of recommendations throughout. Léonie Watson, Nomensa Accessibility Consultant & Expert Jaws User.

The Voices

To recap on part of the previous paper (Global Voice Adjustments), it will be useful to know a little about the Jaws voices, before we begin exploring any further. Jaws is able to assign a different voice character to each of these four areas:

  1. PC Cursor.
  2. Jaws Cursor.
  3. Keyboard.
  4. Tutor and Messages.

Providing you are using the default voice synthesizer:- Eloquence, you will have a choice of several different voices:

  • Reed.
  • Shelly.
  • Bobby.
  • Rocco.
  • Glen.
  • Sandy.
  • Grandma.
  • Grandpa.

By default, Reed is already assigned to the PC Cursor, Keyboard and Tutor Messages, whilst Glen is used for the Jaws Cursor voice.

Individual Voice Adjustment

Within the Individual Voice Adjustment window, it is possible to make changes to the pitch, rate, punctuation and volume, for each of the voices assigned to the four main areas. It is also possible to assign a different voice to each of these areas also. As with the Global Adjustment window, it is possible to make those alterations take effect every time a certain voice is used, no matter what you are doing on your computer, or it is possible to make the changes take effect each time you use a certain voice within a specific application. For example, if you wished Jaws to use the voice of Grandpa for the PC Cursor, everywhere on your computer, you could do that here. Likewise, if you wanted Jaws to use the voice of Rocco for the Keyboard voice within Outlook Express and even perhaps make him speak a little slower, you can do that too. Being able to easily identify the source of the information being spoken is an extremely useful tool. Despite the Jaws default using only two voices initially (Reed and Glen), it is worth exploring the possibilities of using different voices. This may be particularly true if the Jaws user is a young person. The voices of Bobby and Shelly are intended to sound younger than other voices. Similarly, the voices of Grandma and Grandpa, unsurprisingly, are meant to sound like Grandparents. Each of the following sections looks at one of the settings within the Individual Voice Adjustment window, once it has been opened. Recommendation: Any changes made within the Global Adjustment window, discussed in the last paper, will overwrite any changes made within the Individual Adjustment window. You may wish to read the (Global Voice Adjustment) paper before continuing. To investigate the Individual Voice Adjustment window, follow the step by step instructions in this document below.

Modify

This setting provides exactly the same function as it does in the Global Voice Adjustment window. It allows you to decide whether the changes you make will affect the whole computer or just one application. To remind you, there are two alternatives available:

  • Default: Changes will take effect throughout Windows.
  • Application (Program Name): Changes will take effect for the application that is currently open.

NB: If you choose 'Application', the name of the application (which you should already have open on the screen), will also be announced. To investigate this and other settings, follow the step by step instructions for the >Modify setting below.

Adjust

The Adjust option gives you the opportunity to select the area you wish to change the voice settings for. There are four possible areas:

  1. PC Cursor Voice = Used for general navigation around your computer.
  2. Jaws Cursor Voice = Used when in Jaws cursor mode.
  3. Keyboard = Used for keyboard echo.
  4. Tutor and Messages = Used for announcing tutor messages and access keys.

You can investigate this and other settings by following the Adjust setting instructions, below.

Rate

The Rate setting operates in exactly the same way as it does within the Global Adjustment window that we looked at in the last Nomensa Insight paper. It allows the user to change the speed at which the selected Jaws voice will speak. So if you wanted to make the PC Cursor speak a little faster, you would have chosen:- PC Cursor Voice from the previous setting and would now be able to increase the voice rate to your preferred rate. Using different speeds for different voices can be very useful. for instance, having the Keyboard Voice speak quickly means that the Jaws typing echo is clearly and promptly heard as soon as you hit the key, where as a slower voice would not be able to relay the correct information swiftly enough. Recommendation: Keep the voice rate slow enough to ensure that all feedback from your computer can be clearly understood, then try speeding things up, the more confident you become with both Jaws and your computer. You'll be surprised at the time you can save. Step by step instructions for investigating the Rate setting and other settings, are available below.

Punctuation

The next setting within the Individual Voice Adjustment window, is the Punctuation Level. As with the Global Adjustment window, this setting performs exactly the same function, it allows you to choose the amount of punctuation you would like Jaws to announce. As before, there are four options to choose from:

  1. None = Jaws will announce no punctuation.
  2. Some = Jaws will announce little but the most important punctuation.
  3. Most = Jaws will announce all but the most common punctuation.
  4. All = Jaws will announce all punctuation.

By default, Jaws is set to announce Most punctuation, which provides a more than adequate level of punctuation to start off with. It may well become necessary for the user to alter this, as having the majority of punctuation announced can often distract from the flow of the document being read. To briefly recap on a concept addressed in the previous paper: Voice Settings - Global Adjustment, Jaws still acknowledges all punctuation marks, regardless of whether they are being announced or not. Just as a person reading aloud will pause at a comma or full stop, Jaws will do the same. Recommendation: Selecting the punctuation level:- Some, is ideal. It means that almost no punctuation is spoken aloud, but all the important punctuation marks within email and web addresses are still announced. There are step by step instructions for the Punctuation Level setting and other settings available, below.

Person

The Person setting allows you to select the voice character you would like to use for a particular area. As outlined above, there are eight different characters to choose from. To hear an example of each voice, just click on each name:

  • Reed.
  • Shelly.
  • Bobby.
  • Rocco.
  • Glen.
  • Sandy.
  • Grandma.
  • Grandpa.

Recommendation: Spend a little time experimenting with this setting. As each voice is highlighted within this option, Jaws will automatically switch to that character. It's worth noting that not all of the available voices will be suitable for all tasks. The more familiar you become with the range of voices, the better able you will be to select the best one for each of the four areas (PC Cursor, Jaws Cursor, Keyboard Voice and Tutor Messages). Step by step instructions for the Person setting and other settings, can be found below.

Pitch

The Pitch setting allows you to raise or lower the pitch of the chosen voice person. It can be made to sound lower or higher, just as the user prefers. To elaborate, if you had decided to make changes to the PC Cursor, then chosen Rocco to be the voice, you may wish to raise the pitch slightly. You would then use the:- Pitch option to make this final alteration. There are step by step instructions for the Pitch setting and other settings, available below.

Volume

The last setting in this window is the:- Volume setting. If you are using a software voice synthesizer, such as Eloquence, the default synthesizer supplied with Jaws, then you will encounter the following phrase when you reach the Volume setting: Set This Using System Volume Control. This simply means that you should use the volume control on your computer to control the volume that Jaws uses. You can usually find the volume settings within the Sound options of your Windows Control Panel. If you are using a hardware synthesizer, it may be possible to adjust the Jaws volume at this point by using the right and left arrow keys to lower and raise the volume level. There are step by step instructions available for the Volume setting and other settings, below. The Individual Voice Adjustment settings are a prime example of the configurability of Jaws. It demonstrates the wealth of options available and provides the means by which the user can easily tailor Jaws to suit them best.

Exploring The Settings

Having looked at the possibilities available within the Individual Voice Adjustment window, the following sections will guide you through each different area.

The Individual Voice Adjustment Window

Before you can explore any of the settings discussed in this paper, you'll need to open the Individual Voice Adjustment window. Here's how:

  1. Press Insert a, to activate the Jaws window.
  2. Press Alt-o (i.e. whilst holding down the alt key, press o), to drop down the Options menu (unless you're running Jaws from the System Tray in which case you need to press the right arrow key once).
  3. Press the down arrow key once, to reach Voices.
  4. Press the right arrow once, followed by the down arrow once, and select Individual Voice Adjustment.

At any time whilst you are in this window, it is possible to use the following Access Keys: Alt-o, will save any changes you have made and exit the window. Alt-c, will exit the window without saving any changes. The Access Key for saving your changes (Alt-o) is the same as the Access Key to drop down the Options menu, when you are in the Jaws window. Don't worry, this isn't a mistake. Since they are both used in very different places, the Access Key can be duplicated without any problem.

The Modify Setting

Once the Individual Voice Adjustment window has opened, you will automatically be placed at the:- Modify setting. To explore this setting, follow these steps:

  1. Use the up or down arrow keys to move between the two options.
  2. As each option is selected, Jaws will announce "Radio Button Checked", to confirm whether you have chosen Application or Default.

The Adjust Setting

Next up is the:- Adjust setting. You can reach it from the:- Modify setting, by pressing the Tab key once. To explore this setting, try the following simple step: Use the up and down arrow keys to move between the four available options:

  1. PC Cursor Voice.
  2. Jaws Cursor Voice.
  3. Keyboard Voice.
  4. Tutor and Messages Voice.

The Rate Setting

The next setting in the Individual Voice Adjustment window, is the:- Rate setting. You can reach it by pressing the Tab key once from the:- Adjust setting. To explore this setting, follow these steps:

  1. Make a note of the default setting, in case you would like to return to it later.
  2. Use the left and right arrow keys, to decrease or increase the speed at which the voice for the area you selected in the Adjust setting, will speak.

The Punctuation Setting

The next setting in the Individual Voice Adjustment window, is the:- Punctuation Level setting. You can reach it by pressing the Tab key once from the:- Rate setting. To explore this setting, follow these steps:

  1. Make a note of the default setting, in case you would like to return to it later.
  2. Use the up and down arrow keys, to move between the four options:
    • All.
    • Most.
    • Some.
    • None.

The Person Setting

Next up is the:- Person setting. It can be reached by pressing the Tab key once from the:- Punctuation setting. To explore this setting, follow these steps:

  1. Make a note of the default voice, in case you would like to return to it later (This will vary depending on the selection you made in the Adjust setting).
  2. Use the up and down error keys to move between the range of voices available:
    • Reed.
    • Shelly.
    • Bobby.
    • Rocco.
    • Glen.
    • Sandy.
    • Grandma.
    • Grandpa.

The Pitch Setting

The next setting in the Individual Voice Adjustment window, is the:- Pitch setting. You can reach it from the:- Person setting by pressing the Tab key once. To explore this setting, follow these steps:

  1. Make a note of the default setting, in case you would like to return to it later.
  2. Use the left and right arrow keys to lower or raise the pitch of the person you have selected.

The Volume Setting

The last setting in the Individual Voice Adjustment window, is the:- Volume setting. You can reach it from the:- Pitch setting by pressing the Tab key once. If you use the default (software) synthesizer, Eloquence, then there are no options to adjust the Jaws volume, as it is controlled by your computer's volume settings. If you are using an alternative (hardware) voice synthesizer, follow these steps to make adjustments:

  1. Make a note of the default setting, in case you would like to return to it later.
  2. Use the left and right arrow keys, to lower or raise the volume for the voice you have selected.

The Jaws Help Section is a tremendous resource for all Jaws users, but it can sometimes be overlooked in the search for information or solutions. Recommendation: Take time to browse through the Help Section, particularly if you've recently installed a new version of Jaws. This completes our look at the Jaws Voice Settings and you should now have a better understanding of what Jaws can do for you in this area. The ability to be so flexible with the style, sound and characteristics of each of the available voices is a useful advantage to all computer users, no matter what standard of computing they have achieved. More than that, it is a means by which the sometimes monotonous sound of synthesized voice can be varied and altered.

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