Grain of Salt

because it is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes

New in Orca 3.18: Firefox Support Rewrite and MathML

For years I had been threatening to nuke Orca’s support for Firefox (it’s the only way to be sure) and start over. This release cycle I finally made good on my threat. 🙂

The funny thing is that what prompted me to do so was not Firefox; it was the need to implement an Orca-controlled caret for WebKitGtk content. Why an Orca-controlled caret for WebKitGtk content is needed — and why the resulting support is not yet being used for WebKitGtk content — is a rant topic for another day. But with that work largely done, and Orca’s support for Firefox in desperate need of a rewrite, the time was right.

The improvements include:

  1. Addition of speech support for MathML. (Nemeth is a high-priority for me, but just getting something working had to happen first.)
  2. Significant performance improvements: The lags Orca’s Firefox support had become (in)famous for should be gone — at least the ones caused by Orca, which was quite a few. I have also added some defensive handling for the accessible-event floods Orca is sometimes on the receiving end of (e.g. due to unusually large numbers of DOM changes).
  3. Support for Google Docs applications: Just enable Google Docs’ accessibility support and Orca’s sticky focus mode, and you should be good to go.
  4. Improved support for other rich text editors like Etherpad.
  5. Fixes for Orca getting stuck in or skipping over content in browse mode.
  6. Fixes for Orca getting tripped up by auto-reloading/refreshing content.
  7. Fixes for several bugs in presentation of elements in object mode. (By the way, yes, Orca can present one object per line “like JAWS does.”)
  8. Improved accuracy in Orca’s label inference support (because there are still authors who fail to use label elements and/or ARIA to make their form fields accessible).
  9. Fixes for several bugs related to using structural navigation, fast forward, and rewind in SayAll. (Note: These “experimental” SayAll features still need to be enabled via your Orca customizations because GNOME’s GUI and string freezes snuck up on me. But once you’ve enabled them, they should work more reliably than before.)
  10. Improved presentation of dynamically-added content, such as items added to the bottom of a search results page in real time.
  11. Did I mention MathML and lag elimination? 🙂
  12. Updated documentation (yes, finally!) to reflect the addition of browse mode, focus mode, sticky focus mode, layout mode, and the like.

While I still have more improvements to make and bugs to fix, I’m quite pleased with how Orca 3.18.0 works with Firefox. I hope you will be too.

To give Orca 3.18.0 a try, clone it from or check with your distro. Questions? Please ask on the Orca mailing list.