Apps · News

Office 2016: Audio cues promise greater productivity for the blind

Microsoft has introduced sound effects in its Office 2016 apps.

The effects which are designed to help improve the productivity of users who are visually impaired provide audio cues for common tasks.

The feature will roll out over time to users of Excel 2016, Word 2016, Outlook 2016 and PowerPoint 2016 and, by extension, also Office 365.

The effects can be turned on or off by following these steps:

  1. In the File menu, select Options.
  2. On the Ease of Access tab, under Feedback Options, select or clear the Provide feedback with sound checkbox.
  3. If you wish, you can use the original Office sound effects by selecting the Classic theme from the Sound Theme drop-down.

Microsoft also provides the steps below for users who prefer to turn on the effects using the keyboard:

  1. Navigate to the File menu, then select Options. You can use the access keys Alt, then F, T.
  2. Once in the Options window, use the arrow keys to highlight Ease of Access.
  3. Press Tab to move to the Provide feedback with sound checkbox, then press Enter to select or clear the checkbox, which turns the sounds on or off, respectively.

With the sound effects turned on, a user who is blind or visually impaired now have an additional means to know when a wide range of tasks are completed.

The cues offer feedback for tasks such as changes in screen options and successful completion of actions, including sending and deleting a mail or pasting a content.

As with all other feature releases, Microsoft rolls out new improvements to users over time but the process can be sped up.

Apps · How TO · iPhone · News · Smartphones · Tech Briefing

Tech Briefing 21: Accessibility help in Google Maps and Search, Find Wifi, Google Allo for the web and more

The tech scene saw interesting developments between Monday July 3 and Sunday July 9, 2017.

But let’s kick off Tech Briefing 21 with some useful resources and tips in the world of accessible technology for the blind.

Useful Accessibility News, Tips and Resources

Next Victor Reader to come GPS-ready

A new digital reader is coming soon from Humanware as part of the already well-known line of Victor Reader Stream.

Victor Reader Trek will have as its unique feature built-in GPS capability.

Ahead of that release, Blind Bargains has put together a podcast containing an interview and demonstration of the numerous features of the soon-to-be-released device.

Visual assistance has come a long way

An article in the July 2017 edition of the Braille monitor explores the progress made so far in rendering visual assistance to the blind via digital means.

The article titled “Need Vision on Demand? There’s An App For That” makes for an interesting read.

Information on Chrome accessibility now available on Youtube

The Chrome team at Google is constantly updating the Chrome and Chrome OS Accessibility Youtube channel with relevant videos.

The videos provide information on accessibility improvements in Chrome and Chrome OS along with other useful materials.

In other news

Today widget now available for Google Calendar on iOS

Google Calendar app for iPhone and iPad got a new feature last week: It’s the ’Today Widget’.

The new feature which came in the app’s latest update for iOS brings a quick view of calendar events from the app into the iOS search screen when swiping to the right from the home screen.

9to5Mac reports that the Today Widget for Google Calendar will show the next two events you have in your calendar by default. A “Show More” button in the upper right will reveal another two.

upcoming events.

The new feature is available when you update to Google Calendar version 2.4.0 for iOS.

Google Allo web client to arrive soon

Our long wait for Google Allo’s web/desk client may end in a few weeks, according to the Head of Product for Google Allo and Duo Amit Fulay who responded to a Twitter query last week.

Allo which was released to the public in September 2016 is Google’s latest consumer messaging app.

When its web/desk client makes it to the public, it is expected to work like WhatsApp, requiring users’ to activate the client by scanning a code on the app on their phones.

‘4:44’ now on Apple Music

If you love music, it is very likely you know artiste-and-businessman Jay-Z.

The rapper’s highly-anticipated ‘4:44’ album finally made it to Apple Music last week following its exclusive release on Jay-Z’s Tidal music service.

The album is already a success, going platinum in five days.

The availability of the album on Apple Music further highlights the intensive battle for subscriber numbers and revenue by the major platforms.

Google makes accessibility priority in Maps and Search

Adding and finding accessibility information about a location in Google Maps and Search are now easier, thanks to the crowdsourcing power of the maps app.

Already, users have added accessibility information including wheelchair accessible elevators, entrance, parking lot,, restroom and seating to more than 7 million locations around the world, according to Google.

Next iPhone reported to come in four colour choices

We already know quite a bit about the next iPhone, Apple’s flagship device even though most can simply be classified as guesses or rumours.

For instance, we have heard previously that the iPhone this year will have an OLED screen, an all-glass design, wireless charging, and much more.

But last week, Twitter leaker Benjamin Geskin claimed that the device will come in four colors – one of which is a new mirror-like option.

Well, only time – and of course Apple – can confirm which of the numerous claims flying around are true. And certainly, we will have to wait till then!

Facebook’s “Find Wifi” goes global

Facebook’s ‘Find Wifi’ feature has begun rolling out to the social network’s 2 billion users around the world following the company’s earlier announcement of its global availability.

“Find Wi-Fi helps you locate available Wi-Fi hot spots nearby that businesses have shared with Facebook from their Page,” the company posted on its web site. “So wherever you are, you can easily map the closest connections when your data connection is weak”.

The service proves particularly helpful in areas with poor internet network or when you are traveling.

To find Wi-Fi hotspots:

  1. Open your Facebook app.
  2. Click on the “More” tab and then “Find Wi-Fi.”
  3. Turn on the “Find Wi-Fi” service if it previously was not on.
  4. You can then browse the closest available hotspots on a map, and learn more about the businesses hosting them.

Sound off

So, have you used the ‘Find Wifi’ service? How about the Today Widget in Google Calendar for iOS? How are you using the accessibility feature in Google Maps and Search?

Please share your thoughts, experience and opinions in the comments section about the highlighted news.

Thank you.

Android · Apps · News · Tech Briefing

Tech Briefing 19 for June 26, 2017

Tech Briefing 19

News on forthcoming Galaxy Note 8, App Store clean up, Facebook and New Android Browser

So much happened in the technology scene throughOUT the week of Monday June 19 to Sunday June 25, 2017. Here’s a quick review of the major ones in Tech Briefing 19:

Expected new device

Note 7 successor coming soon

Samsung apparently has recovered from the crisis that followed the exploding Note 7 last year. Now, it is reportedly planning the launch of the Note 8 for an event later this August.

Rumour also has it that the Note 8 will be priced at around 900 dollars, will run on a 6-gigabytes RAM and is disappointingly very likely to be powered by a 3,300MAH battery.

Apps

Google Photos drops back-up-while-charging

You now do not need your Android or iOS device to be plugged to electricity for Google Photos to back up your photos and videos.

Some users last week noticed that the feature had been removed from the app.

Previously, Photos had an optional feature to allow media back up only when a device is being charged thereby ensuring that battery power which could serve other purposes was not consumed.

Meanwhile, new features that include Lens, suggested sharing and shared library are expected to be added to the app in the course of this year.

Clean up of App store continuing

Ahead of an all-new App Store re-design later this year, Apple last week continued ITS clean up of the store to rid it of cloned and spam apps as well as apps which are neither 64-bit compliant nor been downloaded in a long time.

The exercise which according to the iPhone maker has already seen the removal of hundreds of thousands of apps is to improve the quality of the store.

Apple Music gets annual subscription option

Users of Apple Music now have a reason to be excited. The service now provides them a yearly subscription option at 99 dollars.

This option which Apple introduced quietly will now also help users save 20 dollars yearly over paying about 10 dollars monthly.

Data security

Facebook to prevent profile photo misuse

A new feature that will prevent profile photos from being downloaded is reportedly being tested by Facebook.

If the feature becomes public, users will be able to protect their profile photo so that other people cannot download or share it or even take a screenshot of it on Android.

The move is reportedly to make women feel more comfortable to upload their photos on the service in an era when scammers are known to have harvested women’s photos to use on dating and other sites.

Firefox Focus now available on Android

Mozilla has released its Firefox Focus for Android users.

The new browser which was previously launched for iOS offers users an anonymous way to browse the web.

Mozilla prides Firefox Focus as a useful app for all who value their privacy.

Additionally, 9to5Google reports that Focus brings the following as important features to the Android version:

  • Ad tracker counter – For the curious, there’s a counter to list the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker – For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to quickly take care of it and get back to where you’ve left off.
  • Notification reminder – When Focus is running in the background, we’ll remind you through a notification and you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Focus appears to have been made with accessibility in mind. Users who are curious to know more should head to the Play Store to get it free right away.

Thank you

That’s it in this week’s edition of Tech Briefing for Monday June 19 to Sunday June 25, 2017.

Any comments about the apps, services and devices highlighted in Tech Briefing 19? Please let us in on them them in the comments section.

Also, remember to share our post across your various platforms.

Thank you for your time.

Android · Apps · iPhone · News

Tech Briefing 18: NVDA 2017.2 released, SMS pulled from Hangout, and more

Here is Tech Briefing 18 with me Ayoola Efunkoya. It’s my rap up of developments in technology for the week of May 22-28, 2017.

Google withdrew the SMS feature from its Hangouts app. Hangouts is gradually being tailored towards enterprise users.

The search giant also began rolling out a “Family Group”  feature to easily share calendars, photos, notes, and content subscriptions. This feature is however not yet available in Nigeria.

Come June 30, some older Apple products will attain the obsolete status, meaning they will lose repair support at Apple Retail Stores and Authorized Service Providers. An internal document cited last week by 9To5Mac lists the affected products as follows:

•MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2011)

•MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2011)

•MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011)

•MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2011)

•MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2011)

•AirPort Express 802.11n (1st Gen)

•MacBook Pro (17-inch, mid 2009)

•iPhone 3GS (16GB / 32GB

•iPhone 3GS (16GB / 32GB – China)

The list above is a guide for all current users and all who plan to buy used devices. Apple normally begins the transition to obsolete status some 5-7 years after manufacturing has been discontinued.

9To5Mac points out that it’s around this time that parts are increasingly hard to find and repairs are unpractical. Once a device has been flagged as obsolete, users cannot go through official Apple channels to have repairs done.

NVDA 2017.2, the latest version of the free screen-reader used by tens of thousands of Windows users, became available as this episode was being compiled

The announcement, highlights and download options for this release is available at http://bit.ly/2qwDYHe

Thank you for your time and attention.

Android · Apps · Smartphones

Feature-reach Notetaker for the Blind Comes to Android

Cursor tracking that remembers and returns to the place where you left off in a note as well as efficient navigation by page, paragraph, line, word or character are just two of the numerous benefits that Android users who are visually impaired will get when they switch to AccessNote.

The notetaking app developed by the American Foundation for the Blind is targeted at users who rely on to fully use their smartphones and tablets.

Many blind and visually impaired students and professionals will certainly recall their difficulty with jotting their thoughts, ideas and observations whether those come up in school, at work, at play, in a religious gathering, at a conference or in just about any other place.

For sighted persons, realising this can be just as easy as pulling out a pen to scribble on the flip side of a just-consumed bubble gum wrapper.

And in the age of smart devices, taking notes has never been so easy for sighted persons; with numerous apps available in virtual stores free of charge or for just a few dollars, the choices and possibilities for this category of persons are limitless.

Except for a few, majority of the popular notetaking apps offer very little functionality that made them useable by persons who are blind or visually impaired.

The American Foundation for the Blind promises to turn the narrative around with the availability of its .

A Screen Grab of the AccessNote App in the Google Playstore
Snapshot of the AccessNote App

The notetaker is currently free to install from the Play Store and is compatible with devices running Android 4.2 and up.

With AccessNote, users will be able to combine “efficient note taking” with the other features and functions of the Android devices, says the app developer.

Accordingly, blind and visually impaired people can now take full advantage of the same popular mobile devices that their sighted peers are using in classroom or business settings.

Some of the valuable features in AccessNote include:

• Keyboard commands customized for input with physical QWERTY keyboards
• Two powerful search features for finding text globally across all notes and within a note.
• Cursor tracking that always keeps your place when you return to a note.
• Keystroke efficiency – Less keystrokes to get the job done.
• Fast and efficient navigation throughout a note by page, paragraph, line, word, character, and other elements.

As with all apps, there are bound to be bugs just as users may want to request for additional features. Whichever of these you want to do, just get in touch with the app developer by sending an e-mail to accessnote@afb.net.

Before July 2014 when version 1.0 of AccessNote became available in the Playstore, the The Android release was made possible through a grant from the Motorola Foundation.