Tag Archives: AppleWatch

Dolphin Easy Reader App for iOS Review

Dolphin have recently released their Easy Reader app for iOS. I must admit that I was a little sceptical about whether the app would be any good when considering Dolphin’s speciality is magnification and speech software for Windows computers. It also came as a bit of a surprise as they had managed to keep it quiet pretty much up until it went live.

 

Obviously I work with Dolphin products a lot in my capacity as a Certified Software Specialist and Accredited Trainer for Guide and SuperNova, so I’m fully aware that their software is very good. I’m also a VoiceOver specialist so I was very interested to see how their first foray into the world of iOS apps had turned out.

 

I have no vision at all so am using VoiceOver rather than magnification on my iOS devices, so please bear that in mind when reading my little review.

 

First impressions and layout.

 

The app is free from the iOS App Store, which of course is great news. There are also some in-app purchase options which I’ll talk about later. The first thing you find when you open the Easy Reader app is that the welcome screen is clear and uncluttered. It tells you that you can sign in using your Dolphin account if you already have one and invites you to register for one if you don’t. To register for a Dolphin account is free and as simple as completing a form which consists of using your email as your user name and choosing a password for your Dolphin account. Once you submit the form a verification email is sent to your email address. All you need to do is click on the verification link within the email and you’re done.

 

Once you’ve signed into the app with your Dolphin account details it’s very apparent very quickly that a great deal of effort has gone into making the app simple, uncluttered and easy to use. Along the top of the app screen just beneath the device status bar is a set of options consisting of five items. From left to right the items are:

 

Side Menu button: Single finger double tapping this button opens the app menu where you can find options to manage your ebook libraries, view any text added to your clipboard and find help for the app as well as sign out of the app. 

 

My Books heading: This heading changes depending on which screen of the app you’re in.

 

List/Collection View button: Single finger double tapping this button toggles the view of your downloaded ebooks between list and collection views. From a VoiceOver user point of view I much prefer it in list view as the list is displayed with the title and author of the book and then has a “Book Information” button beneath it. This is a nice little feature which allows you to find out how far you’ve read through the book as well as an option to return to the book.

 

Sort button: Single finger double tapping this button displays a list of sorting options for displaying your downloaded ebooks. The options are; most recent, title and author.

 

Beneath these main options on the app home screen is a search edit box which runs the entire width of the screen.

 

Beneath the search edit box and basically taking up the rest of the screen is, or will be once you’ve downloaded some, a list of all of the books downloaded to your device.

 

Downloading an ebook.

 

Downloading an ebook really is very easy. All you need to do is open the side menu, choose a library from the manage libraries list and open it, search for a book using the search edit box or browse through categories such as Action and Adventure, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Young Reader, Romance, Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction etc. Once you find a book you want single finger double tap on the book title and a screen will open up giving you a download option as well as giving info about the book such as its format, file size and the library you’re downloading it from. You can then navigate back to your list of downloaded books by using the “Back” button found at the top left of the screen and single finger double tapping on the “My Books” button. It’s very straight forward and fully accessible.

 

Reading a downloaded ebook.

 

Reading a downloaded ebook is as simple as single finger double tapping the book title on your “My Books” list then single finger double tapping the Play/Pause button when the book has loaded. There are some really good features on the book screen that you should know about. There are two sets of controls on the book screen, one along the top and one along the bottom. Here’s what the controls are and what they do.

 

Top of screen, from left to right.

 

Side Menu button: Single finger double tapping this button opens the app menu where you can find options to manage your ebook libraries, view any text added to your clipboard and find help for the app as well as sign out of the app.

 

Search button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to search for a particular word or phrase in the book.

 

Book title heading: This heading displays the title of the book you’re currently reading.

 

Reading progress percentage: Shows you how much of the current book you’ve read.

 

Text Settings button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to adjust text size, change the book’s font, change the font list for the book, adjust margins, adjust line spacing, adjust letter spacing, change colour themes, change text colour, change background colour, change sentence highlight colour, change word highlight colour and reset everything you’ve changed back to their default settings.

 

Audio Settings button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to change the reading voice, adjust voice speed, change voice pitch, adjust voice volume, add pronunciations, toggle the app to play a sound when you reach a bookmark and an option to reset everything you’ve changed back to their default settings. There’s also an option to add new voices should you wish to and this is where the in-app purchases come in. There’s a large list of voices for you to choose from, so if there’s a particular voice that you prefer it’s likely to be available here.

 

Bottom of screen, from left to right.

 

Book Navigation button: Single finger double tapping on this button opens a screen which allows you to navigate by chapter.

 

Navigation Modes button: Single finger double tapping this button opens a screen which allows you to choose the way you navigate books. The options are by word, by heading 1, by bookmarks and by document. There’s also a default option which is predictably, the default setting.

 

Previous button: Single finger double tapping this button navigates you to the previous chapter, heading etc depending on what you’ve chosen to navigate by in your Navigation Modes settings.

 

Play/Pause button: Single finger double tapping this button plays or pauses the book.

 

Next button: Single finger double tapping this button navigates you to the next chapter, heading etc depending on what you’ve chosen to navigate by in your Navigation Modes settings.

 

Sleep Timer button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to set a sleep timer for 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.

 

Bookmarks button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to set an audio bookmark at the current book position. Note that you’ll need to give the app permission to use the device microphone to be able to do this.

 

Deleting a book.

 

Once you’ve finished reading an ebook that you’ve downloaded you can of course delete it from your device. As with everything else in this app it’s dead easy. Simply select the book title on your “My Books” list and single finger flick up or down to highlight the Delete option then single finger double tap. A dialogue window opens asking you if you’d like to delete the book from the device and gives you “Yes” and “Cancel” button options. Simply single finger double tap the “Yes” button and the book will be deleted from your device.

 

Summary.

 

I really like this app. It’s fully accessible with VoiceOver; VoiceOver reads all of the buttons and labels, it’s well laid out and uncluttered, it’s easy to use and it’s free. I think Dolphin have done an excellent job with this app and I really hope they produce some more fully accessible iOS apps in the future.

 

If you’d like to try out the Dolphin Easy Reader app you can get it on the iOS App Store at: https://appsto.re/gb/Zazpfb.i

My AppleWatch Experience, Watch 3.0 and how it affects VoiceOver users

Watch 3.0 has been out for a couple of days now, I initially thought it’d just be another update that I’d install only to find it didn’t really change much for me as a VoiceOver user. But I have to admit I was wrong.

 

I’ve been a fan of the AppleWatch since its release last year and despite a lot of the media gripes about it under performing, not having it’s own cellular connectivity, being too expensive etc, I still think it’s a great device that will evolve into something that many people will end up using. Although I doubt that will be the case for several years, I do feel that the AppleWatch is absolutely fantastic for those of us who are visually impaired or blind and use VoiceOver. It was an absolute revelation for me to finally have a watch that talked in a voice that was clear and understandable, that gave me the ability to adjust its speech volume on the fly and that actually had the potential to be of genuine use on a daily basis. One of the biggest reasons I took the plunge was the ability to check emails and messages etc whilst I’m on the road or with clients. The fact I can do so extremely quickly makes life much easier. I often check these things throughout the day and much of the time my assistant isn’t even aware I’ve done so. This for me is great because it means I don’t need to dig out my iPhone and do so in front of clients at a louder volume.

 

So getting down to the point of this blog, what’s the release of Watch 3.0 done for VoiceOver users in particular? Well, put simply it’s massively improved the usability of a device that was already pretty damned usable. Let’s be honest about it, Watch 1.0 introduced VoiceOver users to the AppleWatch and made it mostly accessible, Watch 2.0 refined that accessibility  a little more and made using the watch a more pleasurable experience. What Watch 3.0 has done is not only refined accessibility considerably more, but has boosted the overall performance of the watch in a big way and this of course has had a significant, positive impact for AppleWatch owners, including those using VoiceOver.

 

I’ve installed Watch 3.0 on my first generation AppleWatch so obviously I can only really comment on what has changed on it. Those who purchase a second generation AppleWatch will of course find additional differences in standards of performance etc.

 

The first thing you notice once you’ve installed Watch 3.0 is just how much faster everything is. This may sound a bit of a vague statement, but with Watch 2.0 apps would take around three seconds on average and sometimes as long as five or six seconds to open. Doesn’t sound long I know but believe me, if you’re trying to do something on the move it feels like an eternity. With Watch 3.0 opening an app is almost instantaneous,. The other thing connected to this is the speed at which the watch switches from the clock face screen to the apps screen when you press the digital crown, as again it’s pretty much instantaneous. These two improvements are brilliant for VoiceOver users as you no longer get that horrible lag between when you double tap on an app or press the digital crown and when the app actually opens or the screen switches.

 

There are some new additions to Watch 3.0, only two of which I’m going to focus on here. The first is Emergency SOS. This function allows you to choose up to three people from your contacts who will be messaged in the event that you call the emergency services. The way it works is that if you need to call the emergency services you hold down the side button on your AppleWatch and the watch makes the call for you. Whilst you’re on the call the watch sends your current location to the emergency call operator so they can find you. In the meantime any contacts you’ve added are sent a message informing them that you’ve called the emergency services and also sends them your current location. I think this is a brilliant addition to the AppleWatch and can imagine that many people could be helped by it in the future.

 

If you wish to activate the Emergency SOS function on your AppleWatch go to the AppleWatch app on your iPhone, then go to General and finally go into Emergency SOS.

 

The next addition, or perhaps I should say change, is the removal of the Friends list to be replaced with the Doc. Where on Watch 1.0 and 2.0 you could press and release the side button to go to a list of friends you had allocated to a list of your most contacted, pressing and releasing the side button on Watch 3.0 opens the Doc. Just like on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch where you have a Doc in which you can place up to four apps that you use most often and/or want to get to quickly, the AppleWatch now has the same. The Doc on the AppleWatch has two additions however, you can place up to four apps in the Doc just as you can on iOS devices. Below those apps the Doc displays the last app you had open so you can go straight back to it. Then below that there’s a “Now Playing” option. Single finger double tapping on the “Now playing” option opens a player controls screen that displays the name of the song, audio book or pod cast you’re listening to as well as allowing you to Play/Pause, skip backwards, skip forwards and adjust volume. I think the addition of the Doc will be welcomed by most VoiceOver users, not only because it works well, but because by using it in conjunction with Digital Crown Navigation the whole process of using it is a pleasurable experience rather than the more frustrating experience we had on Watch 1.0 and 2.0.

 

To reorder the apps in your Doc go to the AppleWatch app on your iPhone then go into the Doc settings area. Once you’re in there the four apps that are in the Doc by default are displayed at the top of the screen in a list. Below that list there’s a “Do not include” list. You can easily change which apps are in your Doc by single finger double tapping on the Edit button found at the top right corner of the screen. Once you’ve done this a “Reorder” button appears alongside the name of each app up the right side of the screen. Simply single finger double tap and hold on the “Reorder” button of the app you wish to move and drag your finger up or down the list. VoiceOver will announce where you’re moving the app to. For example. “Messages moved below Maps”. You can move apps into or out of the Doc list using this method. Once you’ve finished moving the apps simply single finger double tap on the “Done” button found in the top right corner of the screen.

 

There are also reported to be battery life improvements with Watch 3.0, but as I’ve only had it for a couple of days I can’t really comment much about that, but time will tell.

 

In summary, I think that anybody who owns a first generation AppleWatch and uses VoiceOver would benefit from installing the Watch 3.0 update, it’s faster, smoother and I feel more user friendly than its predecessors.