Firefox 57 from an NVDA user’s perspective

Firefox 57, also known as Firefox Quantum, will be released on November 14. It will bring some significant changes to the Firefox rendering engine to improve performance and open the door for more new features in the future. Here is what you need to know if you are a user of the NVDA screen reader.

For users of the NVDA screen reader, some of these changes may initially seem like a step backward. To make the accessibility features work with the new architecture, we had to make some significant changes which will initially feel less performant than before. Especially complex pages and web applications such as Facebook or Gmail will feel slower to NVDA users in this Firefox release.

Improvements in the pipeline

Fortunately, NVDA users will only have to put up with these slowdowns for one Firefox release. Firefox 58, which will move to beta the moment Firefox 57 is being released, will already improve performance so significantly that most smaller pages will feel as snappy as before, larger pages will take a lot less time to be loaded into NVDA’s browse mode buffer, and web applications such as Gmail or Facebook will feel more fluid.

And we’re not stopping there. In Firefox Nightly, then on version 59, performance improvements will continue, and more big pages and web applications should return to a normal working speed with NVDA.

I need full speed

If you do require Firefox to perform as fast as before and cannot or do not want to wait until the above mentioned performance improvements arrive on your machine, you have the option to switch to the Extended Support Release (ESR), which is on version 52 and will receive security fixes until long into 2018.

However, we encourage you to stick with us on the current release if you possibly can. Your findings, if you choose to report them to us, will greatly help us improve Firefox further even faster, because even we might not think of all the scenarios that might be day to day sites for you.

I want to stick with you. How can I help?

That’s great! If you encounter any big problems, like pages that take unusually long to load, we want to know about them. We already know that long Wikipedia articles such as the one about World War I will take about 12 seconds to load on an average Windows 10 machine and a current NVDA release. In Firefox 58 beta, we will have brought this down to less than 8 seconds already, and the goal is to bring that time down even further. So if you really want to help, you can choose to upgrade to our beta channel and re-test the problem you encountered there. If it is already improved, you can be certain we’re on top of the underlying problem. If not, we definitely want to know where you found the problem and what steps led to it.

And if you really want to be on the bleeding edge, getting the latest fixes literally hours or days after they landed in our source code, you can choose to update to our Firefox Nightly channel, and get new builds of Firefox twice a day. There, if you encounter problems like long lags, or even crashes, they will be very closely tied to what we were recently working on, and we will be able to resolve the problems quickly, before they even hit the next beta cycle.

In conclusion

We know we’re asking a lot of you since you’ve always had a very fast and efficient browsing experience when you used Firefox in combination with NVDA. And we are truly sorry that we’ll have to temporarily slip here. But rest assured that we’re working hard with the full team to kick Firefox back into gear so that each followup release will bring us back closer to where we were before 57, plus the added benefits Quantum brings for all users.

More information