Free Microsoft Office Lens speeds productivity

phone Office lens

Taking an photo of the screen

Office lens is a free app available on an iPhone, Android and Window smartphone  that links to One Drive accounts and allows you to take photographs and put them straight into Microsoft Office applications. The really good thing about Office Lens is that when I take a picture of a presentation or whiteboard I can make sure it is exactly the right shape and is straight not set at an angle using the outline on the screen by selecting the document or whiteboard menu item.

image alignment for OCR

Making sure the image is straight for OCR

That is really important if you are taking photos of text that you want to have read aloud later.  If they appear out of focus or at an odd angle you will not be able to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), to have the image converted to text so you can use a text to speech or screen reader application later on.  Once you have taken your photo you choose which application you want to send it to and if this is Microsoft Word it will extract the text.  The other options are your photos on the phone, OneNote, OneDrive, PowerPoint and Outlook or your phone mail if you want to send it as an email attachment.  The app will also save it as a PDF.

ready for export

Ready for exporting

The best thing I like about Office Lens is how it is linked to OneNote because I can collect all the images, notes and presentations, even photos of handwritten notes straight into my Notes folder and then I can search for them at any time,  as  I really have trouble remembering what I have heard in lectures etc and this process acts as a back up .

Getting started with Microsoft Office Lens from cnet

Abi James – Researcher University of Southampton.

Free ssOverlay to tint the screen

I use coloured glasses when working with computers but our network has ssOverlay. which I can use if I forget them!   You can select the colour you want from settings arrow and activate the overlay.  It covers the screen completely and can be turned off and on from the bottom right of the taskbar. where a small yellow arrow can be seen.  Right hand mouse and you can exit the program. It is very simple and easy to use.

ssoverlay screenshot
ssOverlay (921Kb download )
“Very similar to Dark Screen, ssOverlay (the ss stands for Scotopic Sensitivity), places a coloured overlay onto the screen. The colour and transparency levels can be adjusted to suit the user.”

Gloucester College student working on StemReader for Maths

Free Apps to assist with colour blind issues in a pharmacy lab, with graphs and dissection

Here are some useful, free applications I came across for a needs assessment I have just completed.

colour blind assistantColorblind Assistant –  PC – Hover mouse over pixel in any running application – Excel/Powerpoint/PDF/Word etc, and the program displays the colours name.

“Colorblind Assistant is free software that instantly picks the color from the mouse pointer, providing you with a written name of the color, as well as other useful data such as RGB values and bar graphs, brightness and saturation.”

color ID appColor ID Free – iPhone and Android – Point phone or tablet device at any object and software displays name of currently viewed colour.

“Color Identifier uses the camera on your iPhone or iPod touch to speak the names of colors in real-time. It’s an Augmented Reality app for discovering the names of the colors around you!”

My student was a Pharmacology student who was having difficulty with graphs, lab equipment, dissection. Tested the phone app with various items I had around, and it was very good. As it is on a portable device, it is ideal for lab/field work.

 

Tim Symons | Training Co-ordinator/Needs Assessor/AT Trainer | Access SUMMIT

Boogie Board Jot for notes

boogie board jot

boogie board jot

The Boogie Board is the equivalent to an electronic Etch a Sketch but instead of turning two horizontal and vertical knobs you are able to use a stylus. I currently use the device to write out a To Do list every day. Other family members use it in the kitchen to write out shopping lists because it has magnets that allow it to attach to the fridge. Furthermore, the Boogie Board allows you to write or draw while the device is switched off. This current model could do with the means to be able to erase sections of the writing/drawing area and Bluetooth connection to allow ‘screen’ captures to be sent to a computer or other mobile device. It also does not guard against unwanted mark making The Boogie Board Sync eWriter allows all of these suggested features except for currently erasing specific areas. There is also a mobile app that allows you to connect with your writing by providing access to your notes, lists, drawings and brainstorms.

Neil – PhD in mobile accessibility and academic etexts

 

KNFB Reader app – Take a photo then have text read aloud

KNFB iphone app

knfbReader by Sensotec nv – View of the iPhone screen with a scanned document and output

I received a free version of the app through my role on the British Dyslexia Association’s New Technologies Committee and I love it!  For my own personal use (dyslexia rather than VI), I’ve historically relied on apps such as Prizmo or ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon). I started using this app a few months ago and for me this app is a big step up for two reasons:
1. Exceptionally fast user experience
2. Exceptional accuracy

1. Exceptionally fast user experience

The app’s purpose is essentially the same as Prizmo / ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon) / CapturaTalk.  However, the main advantage for me is that the time from snapping the photo and to starting to hear it being read aloud is a couple of seconds on my old iPhone 4S, and instantaneous on my iPhone 6.  They do this by:
a) Having an auto-read function, so as soon as it has text from the photo it reads aloud to you, without you having to press another button.
b) Starting to read before the whole page has been analysed.  As soon as it’s recognised the first sentence it starts to read that aloud.

The user interface is really nice – open the app, hold it above the page and press one button!  Then sit back and relax while the page is read to you.  This is a big plus for day-to-day use.

2. Exceptional accuracy

From my non-scientific playing with the app, the OCR accuracy appears to be at least as good as (and I think better than) ClaroSpeak’s OCR addon, and it is much better than Prizmo.

So money-no-object it wins hands down for me – an ideal example of an app that does only one thing and does it very well. Cost £79.99 for the iPhone
Neil Cottrell
LexAble

Swype Keyboard and Dragon on mobile for messages and emails etc.

swype onscreen keyboard“I have been using the Swype Keyboard that comes with Dragon speech or voice recognition for long time on an HTC mobile running Android OS and despite the lack of a personalised voice profile, my accent, and even when used in very noisy locations like public transport or cafes, I have been very impressed by the accuracy.

Swype + Dragon is made by Nuance and uses their voice recognition server in order to convert speech-to-text.  There is a trial version on GooglePlay, but if you want to continue using, it would costs you 59p.

Dragon remote microphone is an app that allows you to use a mobile device as a remote microphone for the full version of Dragon installed on a PC or Mac, but only if the computer and the mobile device are connected on the same Wi-Fi network.

Alternatively the Goggle Keyboard (free) comes with its own speech-to-text, although in my experience it was less accurate when compared to Swype.

Speech-to-text on a portable device like an iOS iPhone/iPad or Android phone or tablet, is quite different than having Dragon NaturallySpeaking or DragonDictate installed on a PC or Mac. The speech or voice recognition process on a portable device requires an Internet connection, since the conversion/processing is made on a remote server, and not on the device itself. So literally, your recorded voice will be sent to the US, get processed in the Nuance server and then sent back to your screen.  There is no specific customisable voice profile on a portable device, that can be used in order to improve your accuracy, nor can specific words  be added to the Vocabulary. For example every time I say ‘Enrico’, Dragon on my mobile transcribes “eriko” and there is no way for me to make a correction. Also Dragon installed on a proper computer, can learn to recognise very heavy accents, the same is not true for the cloud-based services.

Look out for Dragon Anywhere an app for Android and soon iOS.

Enrico Riva

f.lux and eyestrain – cool colours for the day and warm for the evening.

screen view of tintIf you are struggling with eye strain, because of screen glare, then the application ‘f.lux‘ may help you. The software changes the colour temperature of your screen based on the time of day. Daylight has a considerable amount of blue light; whereas sunset and late evening have much warmer tones. F.lux changes the screen from daylight settings to sunset or late evening settings. The application has a basis for its development within research – the negative impact of blue or day light on a person reading at night.

I downloaded the application and have already found it has had a positive impact on my eye strain. The initial setup did not take long but the changing of your location can be a bit clunky and you will need to check the longitude and latitude of your location. I’d recommend just typing the name of the village, town or city that you live in into Google asking for the longitude and latitude. Once setup the application runs unobtrusively in the background.

I would still recommend running f.lux in conjunction with altering your screens brightness or contrast. The application also has a feature that enables you to override the settings temporarily in case you need to do colour work – graphic designers, reprographics and commercial print companies will need to take note.

Free for Windows.(also available for Mac, Linux , and iPhone/iPad)

Here is some more information about eyestrain and computer screens from Wired

Neil
Course or Programme of Study: PhD in Computer Science

Extra note

“‘During the daylight hours, f.lux keeps your monitor relatively cool with a default color temperature of 6500K. Your brain tends to associate blue light with daylight. At night, f.lux dials down the color temperature to a warmer, more yellow glow (3400K). You can also choose from presets (Candle, Tungsten, Halogen, Fluorescent, and Daylight) or adjust the settings to another specific preference. In general, the yellower the light, the less straining it is on your eyes’”

Need to spell check a word? Say it to your phone!

siri screengrabOne of the easiest ways of checking for the spelling of a single word when on the move and not requiring a whole document to be spell checked is to say the word into a smart phone or tablet. As long as you have one of the fairly recent versions of Android, iOS iPhone or iPad or Windows, they all have built in speech recognition.  I am showing an example of how it works on an iPhone with Siri and this iOS5 hot tip has been on the web since 2012. There is an Android tutorial on using Speech to Text and one for Windows Surface speech recognition

I said to Siri – “spell /filosofical/” (spelt as said) – It not only repeated the word back to me with text to speech, but also gave me the correct spelling and dictionary definition.  If I just said the word it gave me the text to speech version back and a collection of links such as the word in Wikipedia.

This comes thanks to Annie – dyslexic researcher, University of Southampton.

Screen Adjuster for Android that adds a tinted overlay

Default Samsung Galaxy screen

Samsung Galaxy screen tinted blue

I’ve found that Screen Adjuster for Android works well at tinting and adjusting brightness of the screen. Screen Adjuster allows you to change contrast, brightness and colour of the screen really quickly and easily.
However, working with the app can be very frustrating when you want to move the sliders near the edge of the touch screen.  The swipe gesture may not always respond.   Otherwise the app is free and easy to use and can even dim the screen below the system settings.

screen grab of Screen Adjuster

Screen Adjuster showing slider near the edge of the screen

Screen Adjuster runs on Android 2.2+ and is on Google Play – there is a version that costs 0.73p that comes without the advertisements.

Martin

Google Drive for online storage and collaboration

google drive

Google Drive is an online tool which uses your Google account to store files online and can also be used to share files with other people and work on projects together. Being able to join in with a few others to work on a project and be able to take a break and have work still done is really useful.

Google Drive is able to create files, even from your desktop, and pick the permissions of who is allowed to edit it. More than one person can work on the file at the same time and the service has a chat panel for the people working in it, so that they can communicate. Everyone working on the file is given a colour and it shows who is typing when multiple people are working. Google Drive can also use documents from other applications to help create a project such as Google docs and Google sheets.

Google Drive is compatible Windows Vista, XP, 7, 8
Mac, mavericks (10.9), Mountain Lion (10.8), Lion (10.7)
Linux can access Google Drive through the website but the software is not available on the system
android 4.0+ and iOS 7.0+ are able to use Google drive, android 2.3-3.2 and iOS 6.0+ Can only view the files
Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer run Google Drive but require Java script

Tom, Mathematics