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.

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

Siri for Calendar and Time Management.

siri screengrab

Siri asked to check appointments on 22nd September

Siri is brilliant for calendar management and time/task management, but underused, you can verbally manage your calendar/ tasks which, I personally find reduces the burden on my working memory and is more intuitive .  The speed of which I can set myself a reminder by taking the phone out of my pocket rather than searching for a pen and paper which I inevitably end up losing anyway is astounding!  I really like iOS accessibility. I definitely find low maintenance strategies with gainful upsides work well.

Useful wikihow page on how to turn on Siri

John Hodgson
Study Needs Assessor

Evernote for Research

EvernoteEvernote is the “most useful app. Good layout and easy to organise my notes and research. Able to synchronise with laptop. I can use a notebook for each of my modules. I find the ability to synchronise whatever I input on iPad with laptop. Excellent for storing notes which were made earlier, easy to find, no more searching through pages in books. Far superior to Notebook+ and Notebook. This app really met my needs.”

EM University of Birmingham iPad project

 

Evernote is available for Windows, Mac, Android and Blackberry.

YouTube video –How to clip web pages to Evernote from your iPad

iPlanner UK for categorising events

iPlanner UK “is useful for planning my time and I like the different symbols which can be used to categorise events.”

iPlanner UK

This iPad and iPhone app costing 69p provides a quick overview of planned events with an annual, monthly, weekly and daily view option.  It allows you to keep records on how many hours have been spent on certain categories so can be used for project management. Calendars can be printed.  It is available for Android but not with all the same features.

MA University of Birmingham

iStudez Pro on the iPad

iStudiez ProIStudez Pro has been specifically developed for those studying in the usual school/college/university setting with schedule planning, assignments,classroom changes, tracking marks etc. It can be used on the iPad, iPhone and Mac computer (£1.99) but there is an iStudiez Lite version for free, although this does not offer all the options mentioned.  MA felt that the Pro version was “good, helped with personal organisation and managing deadlines. Useful to set reminders for assignments up to seven days prior due date. Colour coding feature ability useful allowing user to ‘check at a glance’.

I do not use this app as often now as I no longer find myself needing to check my schedule daily; however it is an extremely useful app to help with organisation.”

MA University of Birmingham

YouTube video App Review: iStudiez Pro for Students!

Evernote for organising courseware

“In order to organise my courseware I use an online tool called Evernote.  This helps me to ‘clip’ useful information from websites and also to save some reminders. The app can be used online as a web app and also installed as a Chrome browser bookmark or Android and iPhone mobile or tablet app.  The offline app can then sync to your profile.” Andreas (MSc Web Science)

Keith Everett has provided a useful YouTube video about how he has worked with Evernote and he shows the Chrome browser bookmark as well as talking about linking with a mobile phone.

Using Google Drive and Group wikis for collaboration.

“Another learning issue I have solved is related to collaborative learning.  This is solved by using Google Drive to share information and to collaborate as well as Group wikis on Moodle.” Andreas

Google Drive has Google Docs and many other file formats and apps that can be viewed from the browser or installed on a PC. Google has provided a YouTube video as an overview of the latest version of Google Drive.

A wiki is a good way to work on a project where there are many different areas to be discussed as these can be separated out, but appear all on one website with one web address.  Tabs can be used for the different areas as well as menu pages.  You can set up your own wiki even if you cannot access Moodle or do not have your own web pages – try PBworks as it is free and very easy to use.  You can decide who can edit the pages and you do not need to know any HTML.  There are more instructions on how to set up a wiki on the wikihow.com pages. Below you will see an image of some pages I have set up on PBworks.

pbworks sample page

Online project management to manage deadlines

“I use online project management systems for managing deadlines for course work, assignments and deadlines for club and society activities.  I like to use ones that can be colour coded depending on the urgency and also where I can add alarms!”

Gantter project management

Gantter is a free Gantt chart project management system that offers some colour coding and easy ways to add tasks and resources.  It offers links to online calendars and iCalendar and Google which can send reminders, as well as exporting to Microsoft Project and to Google Drive for sharing with others.  Google have provided a YouTube video with an overview of Gantter