An October 2017 screen reader user survey by WebAIM, a web accessibility company, found JAWS to be the most popular screen reader worldwide; 46.6% of survey participants used it as a primary screen reader, while 66.0% of participants used it often.
JAWS supports all versions of Windows released since Windows Vista. There are two versions of the program: the Home edition for non-commercial use and the Professional edition for commercial environments. Before JAWS 16, the Home'' edition was called Standard, and only worked on home Windows operating systems. A DOS version, sometimes also known as JDOS, is free.
The JAWS Scripting Language allows the user to use programs without standard Windows controls, and programs that were not designed for accessibility.
JAWS was originally released in 1989 by Ted Henter, a former motorcycle racer who lost his sight in a 1978 automobile accident. In 1985, Henter, along with a US$180,000 investment from Bill Joyce, founded the Henter-Joyce Corporation in St. Petersburg, Florida. Joyce sold his interest in the company back to Henter in 1990. In April 2000, Henter-Joyce, Blazie Engineering, and Arkenstone, Inc. merged to form Freedom Scientific.
JAWS was originally created for the MS-DOS operating system. It was one of several screen readers giving blind users access to text-mode MS-DOS applications. A feature unique to JAWS at the time was its use of cascading menus, in the style of the popular Lotus 1-2-3 application. What set JAWS apart from other screen readers of the era was its use of macros that allowed users to customize the user interface and work better with various applications.