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’”

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

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

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

Note taking with a digital recorder

Edirol R-09HR digital recorder

Edirol R-09HR digital recorder

“I generally do not take notes in lectures, as I have this problem where I want my notes to make sense, so that if I was looking at them afresh, I would be able to understand them.  Also, I want to concentrate on what the lecturer is saying.  What I do is I use an Edirol R09HR digital audio recorder [now discontinued] to record the lectures, so that I can listen back to them if I did not get something the first time, and I also monitor the recording by using headphones, so it is almost like I am listening to the lecturer through a personal listening device.”

Sam – Live and Studio Sound

Several Olympus recorders offer audio feedback and audible navigational support when saving or erasing files – The RNIB offer a selection of suitable digital recorders.

Recent discussions (Feb 2013) about the use of a Dictaphone in lectures has been occurring on the Dis-forum mailing list (login required) and a useful link was provided to research on student attendance when recording lectures and other aspects of lecture capture provided by University College, London.

Using CalenGoo for sending reminders via text and email

I have an Orange / T-mobile account on my iPhone and with CalenGoo syncing with my Google calendar I can set up SMS reminders as well as email or pop up ones.  The app costs £4.99 but allows for so many more options compared to the built in calendar on the iPhone including the chance to sync with multiple calendars. This means calendars can be set up for special projects.  Colour coding and large fonts with zoom make it a calendar that is easy to read even on a small screen. Lots of online support is provided by the developers

CalenGoo is also available for Android phones and costs £4.63

YouTube Video showing the app on an Android.

Changing background colours and desktop settings.

“I have an HP laptop and I choose to use my own desktop background which is different from that supplied by the manufacturer.  I prefer a background that is not too dark and not too light but gives good contrast.” Yusuf  (Computer Science)

The desktop settings on a Windows computer can be changed via the Control Panel > Personalization and there you can choose themes or high contrast modes etc.  The Ease of Access Center also offers more ways of changing the way things look on the screen.

personalisation view of Windows 8

Listening to a webcast and taking notes on DraftPad on the IPhone or iPad

DarftPad for mobile“I can listen to a webcast and take notes.  Previously, this required getting transportation to the presentation and lugging a Braille notetaker.  Now I use my netbook for the webcast and my phone with external keyboard and the DraftPad app to take notes.”

DraftPad is free and offers a very accessible interface that can be used with VoiceOver or once the text has been copied, then select ‘Speak’.  It  allows you to send or share your notes via email, SMS and social networking sites as well as open them in other apps that may be on your device such as DocsToGo for more formatting, Evernote for linking with other notes, DropBox for sharing or backing up file.  The app also links with text speaking apps such as SpeakText Free.

This strategy came thanks to Pat Pound on My Life Simplified via Accessible Web and Apps!