JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a screen reader for the Windows operating system. JAWS assists individuals with visual impairments in interacting with computers by helping them navigate applications, read documents, and browse the web.

According to WebAIM, JAWS is the most popular screen reader on the market as of 2023.

In this article, I'll provide step-by-step instructions on how to start using JAWS on Windows.

How to Install JAWS on Windows

JAWS has several subscription plans for their users. It can be installed on their website: Freedom Scientific website. You can purchase a valid license that fits you.

After purchasing a license, you can find your download file or a file you saved the program in. Double click on it to start the installation process. The installer will guide you through the installation process, which will help you choose your desired language and installation options.

After successfully installing JAWS, restart your computer to finalize the set-up. You should now be able to use it.

Note for Developers: Assistive Labs is a tool that remotely connects developers to screen readers like JAWS on any device. Assistive Labs offers an end-to-end accessibility testing service that automates UI step validation to meet WCAG standards. Their benefits include reliable test suites, direct integration with issue tracking systems, early detection of issues through root cause analysis, and reduced reliance on external audits. This service is crucial for organizations dedicated to ensuring that digital products are accessible to all users.

Getting Started with JAWS (Basic Commands)

You can manually launch JAWS by double clicking on the JAWS icon on your desktop or selecting it from your Start menu. After running JAWS, you can use your keyboard shortcuts to interact with your computer. Below are some basic commands you can familiarize yourself with to get started using JAWS:

  • INSERT + H: This commands opens the JAWS Help system. The JAWS Help system provides comprehensive documentation on how to use JAWS effectively.
  • Arrow Keys (Basic Navigation): JAWS relies on keyboard commands for navigation. Arrow keys allow you to move between elements on the screen, such as links, heading or form fields.
  • TAB Key: Pressing the TAB key allows you to move forward between interactive elements in the application.
  • SHIFT + TAB Key: (Reverse Tab) Moves the focus backwards using your keyboard.
  • H: Pressing the H key moves you between headings.
  • INSERT + DOWN ARROW: This keyboard shortcut will allow you to read the current line in the website.
  • INSERT + UP ARROW: This keyboard shortcut will allow you to read from the current position to the top of the document or application.
  • ALT + TAB: This keyboard shortcut will allow you to switch between open applications or windows.
  • WINDOWS KEY + M: This will minimize all windows, allowing you to access the desktop quickly.
  • Control + F: This key allows you to open the search feature within your browser.
  • INSERT + SPACE, J: This keyboard short opens Command Search, where you can browse JAWS commands.

Listed here are some basic keyboard shortcuts you can use with JAWS right away. For a full list of shortcut commands, you can visit JAWS website. In the next section, we'll explore some advanced features that JAWS provides to their users.

Advanced JAWS Features

JAWS is a powerful screen reader that has many advanced features you can explore. On top of providing a really effective screen reader experience, below are some advanced features you can use to customize JAWS.

INSERT + J: This command opens JAWS settings. After opening JAWS settings, you can navigate through the various options to customize JAWS. Some options include:

  • Adjusting verbosity level to determine the amount of detail JAWS provides when reading text.
  • Customize punctuation settings to control how JAWS pauses and pronounces words.
  • Voice adjustment section. Here, you can modify voice speed, pitch, volume, and other voice-related settings to suit your preferences.

INSERT + SPACE followed by the letter O: This keyboard command will open OCR, which is Optical Character Recognition. Move your cursor over the desired text and JAWS will read it aloud to you. OCR can be extremely helpful for accessing content in image-based PDFs.

INSERT + SPACE followed by V: Some applications may not be fully accessible to screen readers like JAWS. In those cases, we can use the feature called “Virtualizing”. This will allow JAWS to interact with the application’s interface more effectively, allowing you to navigate and access content within the application.

JAWS for Developers

It’s important for developers to test their website to make sure it's accessible. Understanding how people using JAWS can interact with your website is extremely important. Below are some basic key controls to consider.

Utilizing Semantic HTML

It’s important to use correct semantic HTML for accessibility. Semantic HTML gives JAWS and other screen readers information.

For example, using correct h tags will give users access to headings with H Command. Using nav tags will inform your users that they are on a navigation field when going through the page.

The Enter/Space keyboard key allows JAWS to activate buttons, links and other interactive elements. Developers should make sure these elements are keyboard focusable.

The Tab Key allows users to navigate through interactive elements. Developers should tab through their website to make sure all correct elements are focusable to screen readers.

JAWS allows users to navigate tables with the CTRL + ALT + ARROW command key. Developers should make sure that the tables have all appropriate headers to convey meaningful messages to users.

Open Source Alternatives

JAWS is a paid product. The list below are some free screen reader alternatives:

  • Apple VoiceOver: One of the benefits of VoiceOver is that it’s already built into Apple devices, saving users from having to download or purchase additional software. VoiceOver also features defined keyboard commands to further simplify web navigation.
  • NVDA: NVDA is a full-functioning advanced screen reader with text-to-speech and braille display capabilities. It’s free and one of the best options for Windows.
  • ChromeVox: ChromeVox is a built-in screen reader for Chromebook users. The device works well with Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides and has customizable settings that allow users to magnify selected text and get voice feedback. Additional features include keyboard shortcuts, changing the voice or language, and increasing or decreasing volume.


By following this guide, you can download and use JAWS to navigate applications, read documents, and browse the web.

You can use JAWS basic commands to navigate through the web and applications. In time, you can explore advanced features and customize JAWS with your own shortcuts.

JAWS is a helpful tool that opens the web and a world of tech to people with visual impairments.