Enhancing NVDA with Addons



There is no doubt that NVDA is a powerful screen-reader which explains why in ten years it is now the world's dominant screen-reader in Third World countries. However, there are some things which it cannot do out of the box. This does not mean that it cannot do these: it will only do these when you enhance it through add-ons.

The Problem

For many people, NVDA is certainly a good sale:

  • It is free and opensource;
  • It can be used for both home and commercial use by anyone, anywhere throughout the world;
  • For that reason, you do not have to compromise your computer security features by trying to install a pirated copy of a commercial screen-reader.

But it seems that NVDA lacks some functions found in some commercial readers, which makes some people keep on hankering after these screen-readers even at the cost of getting pirated copies and downgrading their PC security levels in the process.

The Solution

You should consider using add-ons, which are some small scripts that you add to NVDA to add the desired functionality. There are many addons on the NVDA Addon Community which are arranged from most recent to old by date.

You can also use another website called Jeff's NVDA Addons where addons are not only listed in categories and functionality, but this page is easy in that all addons are on one page.

You can get addons that can make your screen-reader act like JAWS, for example, the Systray (that will make you access the taskbar with F11 and NVDA keys).

Just explore these sites, and mine whatever precious rubies you can get from addons.

How Do I Install An Addon?

The next question you might have of course is that now that yu know where to get an addon, and what it is. Then how do you install it?

There are two ways by which you can install an addon. You can either install it by pressing the ENTER key as you would any other document or Using the NVDA Addon Manager.

Simply pressing an ENTER key on the NVDA Addon File

This approach is the same as what you do to open any other document on your computer: if you've downloaded the addon into your Downloads folder, you will see it with the file extension of .nvda-addon. You have to navigate to it in your file manager such as File Explorer, Windows Explorer or even the 7-Zip file manager.

If you just hit the ENTER key on it, NVDA will open a dialog box where it will ask you whether you are sure that you want to install an addon. Simply press the "Yes" button to start the installation process.

Using the NVDA Addon Manager

NVDA has got a built-in Addon Manager that you can use to not only install, but even remove and read documentation about installed addons. It is supposed to help anyone work with Addons, but in my experience, newbies often find the above step for installation easier than working with the Addon Manager. However, the Addon Manager, once you get the hang of it, makes it possible to manipulate your screen-reader in ways beyond simple imagination. It even links to the NVDA Community Addons Page where you can download more addons.

This is found on the NVDA Menu: just launch the Menu by pressing NVDA Key+N. Then when the menu comes up, just use your up or down arrow keys to go to the "Tools" submenu. Press the ENTER key or right arrow key here. Then using the Up or down arrow key, find "Manage Addons" item and press Enter.

  • You will see a list of other addons that are already installed here.
  • Then Choose install and navigate to where you downloaded your addon.
  • Using the NVDA Addon Manager will have you install as many addons as you like before restarting the program.

Either way, after finishing with the installation process, NVDA will inform you that it has finished installing. Then it will restart.

After the restart, the new addon would have been loaded, and your screen-reader would have new functionality.

Removing an Addon

While installing an addon may be useful to you the day you want an addon, you may want to remove it. This may be because you find that an addon does not do as you expected, or that you no longer need its functionality at all.

To remove an addon, just go to the NVDA Addon Manager as stated above. That is,

  • Press NVDA+N to bring up the NVDA menu.

  • Then using your Up or Down arrow keys, move to the "Tools" menu item.

  • Press ENTER or Right Arrow key: and find "Manage Addons".

  • Pressing Enter here will open the NVDA Manager and :

    • You will see other addons already installed: just move through the list of installed addons.
    • Find the one you no longer want, and press ALT+R shortcut key for remove.
    • You will be asked whether you are sure that you want to remove an Addon, simply press "Yes" if you are sure.
    • You can remove as many addons as you no longer wish.
    • After this process, just press ALT+C shortcut key for "Close". This will close the NVDA Addon Manager.
  • NVDA will tell you that changes had been made to NVDA. So it would have to restart to remove those addons from its system.

  • Restart, and you will no longer have the unwanted addon(s).

Conclusion

While NVDA provides useful functionality out of the box, its addons make it even more useful than ever. You can install new voices, application enhancements, and a lot more others. Exploit them to your advantage and help others who might need help understanding this ability of NVDA to be extended in such a way.

Thank you for reading today's tip. Until next time, have fun with NVDA addons!