Shut up JAWS

Posted on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 by Steve Faulkner

JAWS logo shark with its sound icon blacked out and replaced with the word 'doh!' One of the tasks I perform regularly is to test web content using screen readers. It can be somewhat annoying to be capturing data in a desktop application while testing in a browser, as the screen reader is chattering away on every application, while I am only interested in how it works with web content in the browser. I realize that this is something that I should have learned to do many years ago, but didn’t, it took some guidance from my new boss Matt Ater:

Putting JAWS to Sleep in ALL Apps Except Browsers

  1. Open default.jcf in your favourite text editor (default.jcf can be found at: C:\Users\’LoginID‘\AppData\Roaming\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\18.0\Settings\enu)
  2. Add SleepMode=1 under [options], then save and close.
    JCF file opened in a text editor with 'sleepmode=1' highlighted
  3. Select, then press enter or Double click on the Default.jcf file, this will open the settings center dialog
  4. From the application dropdown select a browser e.g. Firefox
  5. In the treeview, open the miscellaneous branch and select disable from the sleepmode combobox
  6. Press apply button
  7. Do the same for the other browsers and any other applications you want JAWS to be awake for.
  8. That’s it, you are done. Now JAWS will be silent unless you have one of the applications you have enabled, open.

Now to find out how to do the same in VoiceOver, NVDA and ChromeVox etc…

About Steve Faulkner

Steve is the Technical Director at TPG. He joined The Paciello Group in 2006 and was previously a Senior Web Accessibility Consultant at vision australia. He is the creator and lead developer of the Web Accessibility Toolbar accessibility testing tool. Steve is a member of several groups, including the W3C Web Platforms Working Group and the W3C ARIA Working Group. He is an editor of several specifications at the W3C including HTML 5.1, ARIA in HTML, Notes on Using ARIA in HTML and HTML5: Techniques for providing useful text alternatives. He also develops and maintains HTML5accessibility.


  1. Hello Steve, With NVDA you could do this reverse: by default, you could have NVDA set to “no speech”. If you want to have it talk for one or the other browser:

    1. Open Firefox or the browser you want, go to nvda menu with nvda=n Choose “configuration profiles”, then choose the “new” button, select the radio button “use this profile for “current application” (for instance Firefox), then choose OK.
    2. Then go to “preferences”, choose “synthesisers”, and select the synthesiser you wish to use. And that’s it!

    When you switch to another application, NVDA will become silent again. When you go back to Firefox, it will speak. Another solution is to toggle speechmode off by pressing nvda+s. So NVDA won’t speak. When you need it to talk, press nvda+S twice again. In VoiceOver, there is also a toogle speech mode functionality for on and off and there is a way to have VoiceOver silent in one or another application.

    I hope this helps. Regards Sylvie

  2. The only downside is that NVDA will still excecute commands, even if it isn’t speaking. NVDA has a sleep mode, where it is completely disabled, but this can only be enabled by writing Python code in an appmodule (NVDA module that gets loaded when a specific application is active). Technically, an NVDA add-on could be created that puts it into sleep except for certain applications, or sleep mode can be made a setting in nvda.ini. If you’re interested in such features, feel free to open an issue at NVDA’s Github repository. Furthermore, NVDA has a speech viewer, this can be used to read what the synthesizer is saying, nice if you want to test in silence or copy the speech output of NVDA in text.

  3. I know that NVDA can put your focused application to sleep with NVDA key + Shift + S (or NVDA key + Shift + Z on laptop layout), but I’m unsure how to make it permanent. When you restart NVDA it forgets what programs were put to sleep.

  4. Steve,
    Many thanks for this tip, it works a treat! I used Ins+spacebar S to mute JAWS temporarily of course, but in v17 JAWS often seemed to lose its way after doing that. Version 18 seems more stable in that respect, but this permanent solution is just what we all need!

Comments for this post are closed.