A new version of the ChromeVox screen reader on Chrome OS, currently known as “ChromeVox Next,” is available for beta testing. We’ve made big changes from top to bottom, based on important feedback from our ChromeVox users and other lessons learned over the years.
There’s nothing to install. You can switch to ChromeVox Next by pressing a few keys, and back to the old version (if you really want to) just as easily. We encourage you to try it out and send us your feedback. Later this year ChromeVox Next will be the default option, and soon after that, we'll retire the old version (which we’re calling "ChromeVox Classic" or just "Classic" for short).
If you’ve used ChromeVox before, you’ll notice some big changes.
On a Chromebook, you can start ChromeVox by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z. When you start ChromeVox, it will start in the classic version for now.
To enable the ChromeVox Next beta, press Shift+Search+Q, then Q. After you switch, you’ll hear the word "Next", then ChromeVox Next will announce whatever currently has focus. You may also be able to tell you're using ChromeVox Next because the earcons (sound effects) are different.
To switch back, you can press Search + Q, or you can turn off ChromeVox by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z to turn it off and to turn it back on. When you re-enable ChromeVox, it will open in the older version.
The previous version of ChromeVox worked in part by running inside every web page you visit. This made it very easy for ChromeVox to interact with web pages and faithfully convert the full web experience into speech and braille. However, this design also had many challenges: it had trouble moving between frames and accessing certain native controls like pop-up menus and time/date controls. In addition, ChromeVox didn't work the same when you weren't inside a web page, for example, in the location bar, browser toolbar, or status tray.
ChromeVox Next doesn't run inside web pages anymore. It runs separately and interacts with Chrome by exploring the accessibility tree that spans the entire screen, including all windows, menus, dialogs, and web page frames. This allows ChromeVox to deliver a consistent, fast experience no matter what you're doing.
The accessibility tree that ChromeVox Next explores is identical to the one used by screen readers and assistive technology on other platforms. That means that as Chrome improves its support for ARIA or other web standards, users get the same accessibility experience on all platforms whether using ChromeVox Next or any other tool.
ChromeVox Next is in beta and the following are known issues that we haven't addressed yet:
To send feedback from within ChromeVox Next, press Search + A, then I, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .