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.
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 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 .
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
I have been using TextHelp Read and Write Gold with Screenshot Reader for many years and today it was brilliant as I needed to grab some references from a PowerPoint presentation that was online. The references were inaccessible and I really did not want to copy them all out! I highlighted the area around the references, grabbed the content and the Text Reader window appeared. I selected the text that had virtually kept its correct layout – Copy all and paste (Ctrl+A and Ctrl+ V) they were added to the blog I was writing and I was able to acknowledge the original authors of the presentation and have an accessible version of their references! See the result on our Arabic Symbol Dictionary blog!
I should add this can be achieved with any screen grab and text conversion program and programs such as ClaroRead
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.
Evernote 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.”
iPlanner UK “is useful for planning my time and I like the different symbols which can be used to categorise events.”
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.
“Babelbar works with Facebook, Twitter and Google docs. It is useful if you do not have your own text to speech program.”
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
“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.”
Teena has passed on advice about the EasyBib app for students that find it incredibly difficult or time consuming to provide a reference for written assignments. This free and useful iPad,iPod and iPhone 4 app is available through iTunes or as an Android app from Google Play. It will do most of the hard work for you but we have found issues using certain devices – anything post iPad3 seems to work well.
Hover over the ISBN number of a book with a steady hand. The app will automatically scan the barcode, and providing you are connected to Wifi, will generate a bibliography reference for you. Three styles are available including Chicago, APA (Harvard) & MLA.
Once your reference has been generated, email it to yourself (singularly or in a group) with other references.
AudioNote is a fantastic note taking app. The official description from the app store tells you how you can synchronise notes and audio with each key point being linked to the moment when the lecturer talks about that subject. Because it works on a tablet or phone there is no need to wait for the laptop to boot up.
Bookmarks can be created throughout the audio recording to highlight important points for easy referencing. It allows you to take pictures and insert them into your notes and AudioNotes can be exported to Evernote, saved and organised there. A yellow background can be used instead of white for those with visual stress/sensitivity. It costs £2.99 and is available from the iTunes store.