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.

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

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’”

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

Using Wikipedia with the OpenDyslexic font option

OpenDyslexic font

I found the option to change the fonts on Wikipedia to the OpenDyslexic font that can help with readability.  You will find there is a cog wheel by the Language menu in Wikipedia and this is where you can choose to change the look of the fonts.

The letters are more defined at the base which means they can not be easily switched to represent another letter or cause a confusion between letters as can occur with some types of dyslexia.

Computer Science Student  – University of Southampton.

Babelbar for reading aloud and changing the look of Facebook, Twitter and Google docs

“Babelbar works with Facebook, Twitter and Google docs.  It is useful if you do not have your own text to speech program.”

babelbar

 

google docs

Babelbar is an extension or add-on for internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari and appears over the web page.  You need to highlight the text first then it will speak.  It can change the colour background, font size and translate text.

 

 

 

Attendee at Accessing the Higher Ground Conference

Using howjsay . com to help with the pronunciation of complex words

howjsay screen grab

“Many of our students like to use the ‘howjsay’ website as part of their pre-reading of lecture notes. It gives an accurate pronunciation of unfamiliar technical terms, which can be used to prepare students for quick recognition when a word is said in a lecture. It also provides a multi-sensory input which will increase spelling accuracy. In addition, it can help students confidence in preparation for a presentation. Pronunciation can be practised to hopefully minimise slips and increase fluency.

Students have commented that it has a consistently higher accuracy level than some of the usual text to speech programs, which can struggle with technical words that are not phonetically regular.  It is particularly popular with our medics.  It has a clear and uncluttered layout and has the added benefit of not being license restricted so it can be used on many different pieces of hardware. Finally, as it is free so is available to students who are not DSA funded.”

This strategy was sent in via the Add a New Strategy form and we would like to thank The Disability Advisory Service at Imperial College 

Adobe Reader remembers where you last viewed part of a document

“I found it useful when revisiting lectures notes for exams to use Adobe Reader.  It can remember the last view of a document and when I re-opened it I am able to start revising from where I left off without having to look for items or remember the particular slide or page again.”

adobe reader preferences

adobe reader document settings

To check you have set up the settings for this to happen

  1. Go to Edit > Preferences.
  2. Choose Documents.
  3. Check the box marked, Restore last view settings when reopening documents.
The same is possible if you are using Foxit Reader Just select Edit > Preferences > General, and then enable Restore last view settings when reopening.

Free Dictionary on the iPad and Dictionary.com app

Dictionary on iPhone“I like the way on the iPad the dictionaries are available from different apps but I also use the free Dictionary.com and Thesaurus app as it works offline and gives me the pronunciation of words.”  Andreas

There are advertisements supporting the free version of the app.  These disappear if you pay £2.99 for the ad free version of the Dictionary.  The iPad version also appears to work on an iPhone OS 6 as can be seen in the image and you can say the word using speech recognition.

Butterscotch.com have provided a YouTube video about the Dictionary.com app and mentions that you need to be online to use the audio pronunciation.

Microsoft Office and OneNote hidden text to speech command!

A freely available way of using text to speech in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote and even
Excel is possible thanks to the Microsoft Office ribbon command menu.  You can select text and have it read back.  This idea does not offer all that specialist programs can provide such as text highlighting, pausing etc. but it is a quick way to hear how a word, phrase or sentence sounds when you want a quick check.
Adding speech in Word

If you go to Quick Access Toolbar in the ribbon you customise it by choosing More Commands – select ‘Quick Access toolbar’ from the menu on the left > Then go to the top of the right hand window and make sure you drop down the command list to ‘All commands’ otherwise you will not see ‘Speak’  in the list – Add it and return to your document.

Choose speech iconWhen you have typed something or have a file to read – highlight the text and select the new speech bubble that appears in your Quick Access toolbar.  The text will be read aloud in any voice you have chosen from the Control Panel > Speech recognition > text to speech. 

control panel screen grab

This comes thanks to Jean