Archive for the ‘Snow Leopard’ Category

Changing How Voice Over Says things

March 26, 2010

Ever wanted to change how voice over says something? Well you can. Here’s how

Hit VO-F8 to open the voice over utility.
arrow down through the categories list until you get to speech.
VO-right and on pronunciation hit VO-Space to select it.
Now to the right of the pronunciation button is a table. Mac automatically edits the way some symbols are spoken but to add your own vo to add.
You should be in the first column where you type your word. So for example, the phrase lol should read laughing out loud. So type lol in the first column and then VO-right.
You need to hit VO-Space here to enter your new word, otherwise it just types your word in the first column. So where it says substitution, hit VO-Space to ensure you’re about to edit the word in the write column, it should make a pop sound to allow you to know its in the right place, type laughing out loud.
To add another word repeat the process.

You can change a word for certain applications, so if you want Lol to only work in your IM client then you can select that from the applications menu within the table.

To delete an entry
Simply highlight it in the table by putting your voice over cursor on it, stop interacting with the table and VO-right to delete and vo-space to carry out the action.

To edit an entry.
Interact with the table.
Find the entry with your VO keys you want to edit.
Ensure you VO-space on the entry you want to edit whether that be the word or the substitution before you attempt to edit it.

Hope this helps you guys.
Any questions please let me know

Mail App: a Quick start Guide

March 26, 2010

Quick start Guide to Mail

Mail is one of the most useful tools in modern technology. The mail app is complex yet so simple it is ironic. Like a lot of the native Mac apps it is accessible with voice over.

Setting up your mail is relatively easy if you use Gmail or AOL and is also doable on older Hotmail accounts. And there are plenty of guides around the net to help you but in this situation I will show you how to set up gmail in IMap.

From the doc hit M and mail should be the first app we come too. If not, type the letters and unless you’ve moved it off the doc it should be there as a default.
Open it by hitting enter or VO-space.
Assuming you have not yet set up an account, here’s how to do it. If you have, skip to the next heading.

Hit CMD-comma to open preferences. Interact with the toolbar and VO-space to select the accounts tab. Stop interacting with the toolbar and hit VO-shift-right arrow to skip to the end of the window, [note on a macbook this key combination would be VO-shift-function-right arrow.].
VO-left to where it says new and hit that button with VO-space.
This opens a new dialogue which will welcome you to set up your email account. It asks for your name, email and password. Mail is rather clever in that if it recognises the server I.E. gmail in this case, it uses the default settings to set up. This is great for setting up IMap and if you want to change it to pop3 later you can always edit your account.
Following the prompts are very straight forward, entering your incoming server which would be imap.gmail.com if you have a gmail account and outgoing server which would be smtp.gmail.com.
Once you’ve finished creating it should take your account online. And don’t worry if it doesn’t work, deleting or editing is very easy.

Assuming your account is set up now you can check your emails.
In the main email window there are two tables, one is your inbox table storing your inbox, sent messages folder, trash, junk, etc and if you have custom made inboxes too, this is where they would be. As the side bar acts as the top folder and whatever is highlighted there its contents are shown in the file table, the inbox table does the same thing. So if your inbox folder is highlighted in the mailbox list then your messages within your inbox/inboxes will be shown in the table. [note you can have more than one email account open in mail. All your inboxes are collected together so you can check all of your mail at once].
Each message shows you who it was sent from and subject line and date and which inbox it is located in. hitting enter will open the message in a new window. Although there is [by default] a preview mode which means whatever message is highlighted in the message table will show in a scroll area at the edge of the window [right of the message table. Some people prefer to turn this off and it can be done by doing the following.
Find the preview pane, it should say ‘message scroll area”.
VO-Up arrow and it will say horizontal bar.
Route your mouse to this by VO-CMD-F5 and then physically click the mouse twice in quick succession. On your macbook this will be the long rectangular button at the front centre of your macbook, on IMac or mac mini just double click your mouse.
This should work but some people haven’t always found it to work for them. [Thanks for my twitter friend for reminding me about this and suggesting I put it in the guide, Thanks Darcy].]
].
While on a message in the message table, you can hit enter and it will open up in a new window.

To compose a new message hit CMD-N and it will open a new window.
There is a to, CC, subject, from, Server, signature and message areas in this table. [note, mail will remember addresses you type regularly for ease as default but if you need to look up an address manually, while in the compose window, interact with the tool bar and find addresses,. This button will open another window with To, CC buttons and a search box along with a list of your contacts from address book. Highlight the address you want and click which box you want it to be put in, either To or CC. Once you close this window, your addresses should be in the selected fields].
Subject line is easy enough. From will only become an issue if you have more than one email account and this is just a pop up to help you decide which email account to send your message from, work or home, etc. The next box only needs to be changed if the server isn’t correct but providing you set up a valid server when setting up your account and its working, there’s no need to change this setting.
The signature box is very useful and again, a pop up box to choose from previously created signatures, [we’ll deal with this later on].
And finally your message area.
Once your message is ready to send, hit CMD-shift-D and away your message goes.

Replying to messages
We all need to reply or forward messages and mail makes this very easy. Either having a message open in a new window or merely highlighting the message in the messages table, CMD-R will reply or CMD-shift-F will forward.

setting up Signatures
We sometimes need to set a signature, either to let people know who we are or because we want to advertise something or merely be creative. Signatures is easy enough to do in mail, although a little buggy with voice over. But I’ve found a way around these issues.
Mail has crashed on several occasions when I’ve tried to set a signature so please follow the next steps carefully and precisely to avoid such behaviour.

hit CMD-comma to open preferences.
In the toolbar, select signatures.
First table will be a list of your accounts. If you need a specific signature for a specific account, highlight that account and stop interacting with the table.
VO-shift-right arrow to get to the bottom of the page and VO-left until you hear new. VO-Space and type the name of your signature, [not the actual signature, so for example- work]
Now you will be in the table, highlighting your new signature hopefully. If not, highlight which account you selected and VO-right to the signature table and highlight your new signature.
This next step is vital. VO-shift-right arrow to get to the end again and VO-left until you here edit text area. [its to the left of the new button].
Write your signature.
[note] if you want to enter more than one signature, I find closing the window and starting the process from fresh each signature works better. for some reason it won’t enter new text on new signatures unless you close the window first and reopen.

For those advanced users, I have found a plug in to stop mail auto-marking messages as read with the preview pane open. Here’s how.
Go to

My Apple Mac

December 19, 2009

With all the choices on the computer market nowadays, the general consumer has more choice than ever before. However, as a visually impaired user, the only option I want to have is mac and Apple products. Here’s why.

On Thursday, I turned my trusty macbook 13 inch, 2008 model white onto to check my email and such to discover it wouldn’t boot beyond the apple logo and timer thing. I was so upset. I love my macbook so much, it recently travelled to the US with me and if I don’t take the time to at least boot it once a day, I’m sick.

Anyway, I called Apple care and booked an appointment to see an Apple genius the next day. The problem I next had was that I had to pull out my old sony Vaio laptop that runs Windows XP and has a version of Jaws for windows running on it. It wasn’t a prospect I was looking forward too, let me tell you. Nevertheless, I loaded it up and encountered twitter issues with the program I have running on that laptop, then had issues setting up my gmail account in outlook express, followed by issues with not only importing music to itunes but getting the damn program to work correctly for me. I was still fighting with Itunes at lunchtime when I left to go to my apple appointment.

I never realized how counter-intuitive windows was, and I missed my specialized features that voice over on the mac offers, such as spelling as I type. I missed hearing, “misspelled” which happens frequently when I’m typing a lot. Itunes was a complete nightmare, how anyone uses that program on windows with a screen reader is beyond me. And the screen reader itself frustrated me beyond belief, freezing on several occasions, jumping on others, it was just a nightmare I do not want to repeat.

Hasten to add, my macbook was fixed and is happily being used again. I know some people prefer windows but for me, it is mac all the way. snow Leopard can keep purring happily inside my pretty white macbook with voice over being its Captain. ☺

The New Cat’s On the Prowl!

August 30, 2009

So, like many other eager mac users, I purchased my £25 copy of Snow Leopard on Friday. Unfortunately, I was unable to install the new kitty until yesterday but I will now take you through the process and give a few feedbacks on the new cat prowling apple land.

Backing up and Installation

I am very pessimistic when it comes to installing important things onto computers. I can guarantee something will go wrong or I will forget to do something. First of all, I had to back up all of my data and precious mac settings, even though I was doing an update rather than a clean install. My macbook has been behaving fine and works no slower than it did when I purchased it so I saw no reason to do a clean install just yet. But, I had convinced myself I would somehow mess this up and with it being as a daunting task as it was, installing a new OS, [something I never thought I’d be able to do independently,] I was taking no chances. So I proceeded to back up all of my precious data by copying my library, home and app folders to an external drive. I already have my itunes library running from there so I didn’t have to worry about my music, books and movies. Once everything was safely backed up onto my externals, I cleaned a few things out of the trash and shut down the computer, ate dinner and returned to install my new cat.

What I like about apple is the simplicity of things. You get a DVD, stick it into your computer and the install does the rest for you. I currently have a macbook polycarbon 13 with a 2 gig memory, dual core processor and 160 gig drive. I had 120 gig, or there about, disc space free.

I started up my macbook, closing all applications and inserted the DVD. I attempted to read the instructions in preview, but for some odd reason they seemed non consequential. I had picked up enough on mac lists to have an idea of what I was doing. So I ran the installation, that asked me to confirm I wanted to install, agree to the license, which I did, and then it restarted with my user name and password being the key.

Upon restart, I waited for a good long time while the disc spun an spun and once it had silenced in the drive, I hit fn–cmd–f5. If you were on a desk top computer the keystroke would be CMD–F5 however. Once these keys had been hit, I heard another voice over voice telling me the process of the installation. It took around thirty minutes altogether and the computer restarted again. I personally wasn’t expecting this to happen and at this point really thought I’d hurt the kitty and the macbook. However, patience can truly be a virtue, for after waiting a few more minutes, I tried, gingerly the FN–CMD–F5 keystrokes and a man said, Welcome! This was where my smile got bigger as music started to play. I did have to hit the voice over command again to get vo running after the music, which I hit spacebar, just to learn the new features. being familiar with voice over already made this an interesting step, to learn the new features that I will discuss in the following sections. But the greatest thing of all was when I finished the voice over tutorial and my mac book launched my syrinx and mail apps which I have to start up as default. i felt the biggest sense of achievement, and I was totally proud.

The set up is easy, and as long as you listen and wait, everything should go just fine. It did for me and I can have the biggest disasters where computers are concerned. i’m forever tinkering and something was doomed to happen but it didn’t. In short, apple make it that easy! 🙂

New features!

All features will take some getting used too. The one feature I love is the quick nav mode, achieved by hitting the left an right arrow keys together. Voice over alerts you quick nav is on and you can simply use the arrow keys to navigate, including up, down, left, right and interacting. This has made for a great feature, although I sometimes forget to turn it off.

Another great feature is the rotor. If anyone uses the iphone this feature will remind them greatly of the iphone’s rotor system. By replacing the links chooser menu, you can now press vo–U and the rotor menu pops up. It basically tells you what different elements are on the page and by using left and right you can move between those elements, and up and down will take you to the elements. So if you have three headings on a page, you would move left and right to find headings and then up and down to see what each heading is. by selecting a specific element as you would in item chooser, vo–space bar or if quick nav is on, up and down arrows, you will be taken to that element on the page. Just another great way apple has made navigating a breeze on the mac environment.

If you thought their iphone ideas just stopped here, you were wrong. The sounds now remind you greatly of the iPhone 3GS sound scheme which are a lot more pleasant on the ears. It took some getting used to but now I’m quite at home with the sound scheme.

As well as the traditional numpad commander, voice over users now have track pad commander and keyboard commander to customize to their heart’s content. As I stated earlier, I have the polycarbon macbook so i do not, as yet, possess a multitrack pad. I have thus so far customized my numpad to my liking, as I work on an external for comfort sake while at my desk. However, these are great features and once I have the time, I’m sure the keyboard commander will be a great tool. Not only can you customize what voice over commands you need, but now apple script, automator and applications are implemented so the mac world is now our oyster. Set up keystrokes for all kinds of events. By default, option–T reads the date and time and so not to conflict with voice over, the right option key is used, but you can personalize this in system preferences.

There are features I too do not like that have been implemented, and most would argue I’m a mac snob, and fine, if that’s the case, so be it. I am disheartened that Apple felt the need to implement the insertion point change for voice over users. it was different when coming to the mac to suddenly not have the insertion point act as I was so used to, that it would always be to the right of the character. In using the mac, I learnt to use the cursor as sighted people do and now, it just makes sense. I realize Apple have been under great pressure from windows switchers, struggling to adjust, and the NFB to implement such features, but it seems sad that people cannot take the mac and voice over for what it is, a great built in access for visually impaired folks. Switchers argue it is a “real struggle” but others managed before it was implemented and now find it a hard time to go back to the babysitting ways of windows screen readers.

I recently wrote on an emailing list, stating the three implementations I do not like about the new voice over. I give Apple credit, they’ve really gone out on this update for voice over, I again, will emphasize, I feel sad that they seemed pressured by some that are unwilling to learn the OS to implement such features. The insertion point is my biggest gripe but here are the other two.

Web content can now be read automatically from top to bottom. The feature I don’t want you to confuse this with is the vo–a, which when pressed will read entire texts/pages, or VO–B which will read from the cursor onwards. These features are great, VO–A only worked in text areas previously, now works on the web also and I am glad they’ve been improved and introduced respectively. The feature I am talking about is the AUTOMATIC reading of the webpage. I hated this feature in Jaws, and am so glad Apple are giving me the choice to abandon that particular feature. If I wanted to sit and hear my entire web content to be read, wouldn’t I just hit VO–A? It just seems like voice over has been asked to be more like the windows-based screen readers, “babysitters”. Call me harsh, but I call a spade a spade and if you need your Screen reader to hold your hand, great! But it was a reason I left windows behind me, not the only one true, if I was to list all of them, we would be here all night, but it was a deal breaker for me to move.

The third one is voice over hints. OK, maybe I could let this one slide but until I changed it, voice over kept telling me I was in an HTML area, and I should interact. Erm, Voice over, didn’t I start using you because you did as I asked not what you thought I wanted you to do? If you learn the OS, learn how it is set out, it is very easy to know all of these things. As I said previously, thank God for Apple’s ability to give me choice.

There is so much more. For one thing, the ability to label, which I haven’t tested out as yet. If a button is unlabeled we are now able to label it. So much more has been given over the user in a way that makes it easy enough to customize and to be done well. The ability to export these customizations is also a great feature in my opinion and I look forward to using it.

Conclusion

So would I recommend upgrading? For the price and the stability and the new features yes. I know i bitched about the holding hand screen reader experience, but the beauty of apple is they are still giving their users the choice and not forcing the choice upon us. Plenty of opportunity to customize between users, to make things more accessible, have multiple ways of navigating, whether it be on the cool multitrack pad or by using quick nav, making endless shortcuts to make us all lazy, and for the constant care of Apple, keeping our screen reader experience up to date and always advancing with technology.

Iphone and Voice Over

June 8, 2009

So WwDC happened today and thousands of people have now learned what apple promises to deliver. Snow Leopard is due September and at a discount price for Leopard users. Very nice. New macbooks have been revealed with much higher processors etc. Very cool. And The iphone now has voice over.

wait! What?

Yes no need to go back and read again, I did say the Iphone 3GS has now got voice over built in. All you need is a mac or a p.c. with screen reader technology like voice over or Window Eyes, itunes 8.2 your shiny new Iphone and you are ready to go.

I will write a more detailed account of how to use the iphone once I get my hands on one. And I am afraid you will have to wait a few weeks as the pretty new phone is not available until June 19TH.

It has to be said, this is a very exciting moment in any disabled person’s life. Finally, a company has continually gone beyond its legal obligation in providing accessibility to all. First it was voice over on the macs. Then the wonderful voice of alex. Then the ipod nanos, followed by the shuffle with voice over built in, and now the iphone. Apple just keeps making me smile. Accessibility to all is what they aim for and they are succeeding incredibly. a few months ago, not many people thought this version of the iphone would have full accessibility and here it is. All ready to be shipped and to be used by us the consumer.

What I like, no correction, love about Apple is the fact that they continue to improve their products for everyone and when they say everyone, they mean it. At last, a company is not excluding the minority groups and is including the ability in its products to make them usable for all straight out of the box. No expensive third party applications, nothing to crash their system, just plain and simple tested products that come already enabled, at no extra cost.

So here is my personal big thank you to Apple. Keep up the good work and I hope that the iphone is as amazing as it sounds. If it lives up to the legacies of your other accessible products, i see no reason why it wouldn’t be.

Thank you Apple Inc. The true company for all!