Using the Reader Functionality in ZoomText 11
While ZoomText 11 is primarily a magnification program, it does include some screen reader functionality. Screen readers are software applications that will attempt to identify, interpret, and read the information being presented on the computer’s screen. You might have heard of screen reading programs, such as: JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, and Dolphin.
Using the reading functionality in ZoomText, you can have the text on the screen read to you by a synthesized voice. Some examples of synthesized voices you might be familiar with include Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, or possible good ol’ Microsoft Sam (the default text-to-speech voice from Windows 2000 and XP).
The ZoomText 11 Reader Tab
The ZoomText Reader tab can be found in between the Magnifier and Tools tabs.
Using the Reader tab, users can change settings that control how the ZoomText speech sounds, when it talks, and how quickly it talks. The tab is also used to start the various reader functionalities. The tab has three sections: Voice, Echo, and Reading Tools.
Activating the Voice button will open a drop-down menu which allows users to disable or enable speech and open the Voice Settings menu.
Keyboard – enable/ disable speech: Caps Lock + Alt + Enter
ZoomText Keyboard – enable/ disable speech: F12
Use the up and down arrow buttons to increase or decrease the speech rate.
Keyboard – increase speech rate: Caps Lock + Alt + Up
Keyboard – decrease speech rate: Caps Lock + Alt + Down
ZoomText Keyboard key – increase speech rate: F8
ZoomText Keyboard key – decrease speech rate: F7
The Voice Settings Menu
The Voice Settings Menu allows users to adjust a range of settings relating to the reader output of ZoomText, including: changing the voice profile and synthesizer, how the program should process text, and what extra information about formatting and the document the reader will identify. The Voice Settings menu has three tabs: Voice, Text Processing, and Hints.
Voice Tab – This tab allows users to enable/ disable speech output, select a synthesizer and voice profile, adjust synthesizer settings for speech rate, pitch, and volume, and test out your synthesizer settings with text to speech sampler.
Text Processing – This tab has three sections: Text, Numbers, and Punctuation. In the Text section, users can select whether or not they want the speaker to speak mixed case as separate words and whether or not they want the speaker to filter out repeated word after a customizable amount of repeats. In the Numbers section, users can choose the manner in which the reader deals with numbers. Finally, in the Punctuation section, users can choose how the reader deals with punctuation.
Hints – The Hints tab lets users choose settings about whether or not the reader will give indication of changes in capitalization, the presence of hyperlinks, and the beginning and end of a document.EchoThis section of the interface allows user to change echo settings. “Echo” refers to the reader speaking the input the program is receiving from the user via the keyboard (typing characters and words) and the mouse (what is clicked on or hovered over).
The Keyboard split button has two functions. The top half of the control will enable/ disable the keyboard echo, and the bottom half of the control will allow you to choose what the reader echoes back from the keyboard input. Users can have the reader repeat every character, every word, both keys and words, or turn keyboard echo off.
By clicking the bottom half of the Keyboard split button and selecting Settings from the dropdown menu, users can open the Echo Settings menu in the Typing tab. This menu can also be used to choose the typing mode. If the user selects for the reader to echo keys or keys and words, this menu will allow them to choose whether to enable or disable echo on different types of keys.
Toggle typing echo mode: Caps Lock + Alt + K
The Mouse split button has two functions. The top half of the control will enable/ disable the mouse echo, and the bottom half of the control will open a drop-down menu that lets users select the mouse echo mode. Users can turn mouse echo completely off or have the reader echo whatever the pointer is moved over instantaneously or only after the mouse has hovered over an item for a specific amount of time.
Selecting Settings from the drop-down menu with launch the Echo Settings menu in the Mouse tab. In this menu, users can set how long of a hover will trigger an echo and the extent of reading that will occur.
Toggle Mouse Echo Mode: Caps Lock + Alt + M
The Verbosity button lets users choose settings related to how much the reader speaks. Users can choose between three verbosity mode: Beginner where the reader will speak text and detailed descriptions, Intermediate where the reader will speak text and brief descriptions, and Advanced where the speaker will simply speak the text on the screen.Selecting Settings will open the Echo Settings menu in the Verbosity tab. In this menu, users can select their desired Verbosity mode. As well, under verbosity settings, there is an extensive list of verbosity options which can be toggled on and off.
Toggle verbosity level: Caps Lock + Alt + B
Echo Settings: Program
You might notice that there is fourth tab in the Echo Settings menu: the Program tab. This tab allows user to change settings related whether or not items are echoed when they become active (ex. Text cursor, alerts, menus), and what will be echoed as users move to a new line of text (the first word or the entire new line).
AppReader: App View
The AppReader split button has two functions. The top half of the control will launch the AppReader, which is a functionality that allows users to have large amounts of text read to them. The bottom half of the control will open a dropdown menu which allows us to activate the controls that will be discussed below. By default, the AppReader App View tool will launch.
When the AppReader is activated, the underlying application (where the text to be read is) will become active. The pointer will change from simply being an arrow to and arrow with a little page icon to the lower right. Simply click on text in the application and the AppReader will read the page from that point to the end of the document.
You’ll notice that when App View mode is enabled, your mouse pointer no longer functions normally. Left clicking will start the App View, and right clicking will take you back of AppReader mode. You can still move the pointer around in the screen in this mode.
Use the Ctrl button to pause the AppReader.
When paused, press Enter to restart the reader from the current position or click elsewhere in the document to start the reader from a different position.
Press Esc at any time to leave AppReader mode.While the AppReader is reading, you can follow along as the focus moves from word to word. You’ll also notice that while the AppReader is reading you will be unable to do anything else with the computer. Your pointer disappears and the program follows the text to the bottom of the document.From the AppReader dropdown, you can open the App View Settings tab of the AppReader Settings menu. Users can choose whether or not they want to track and highlight words while the App View is running. They can also choose whether or not they want the App View to turn off automatically at the end of the document. Finally, users can use this menu to customize the appearance of the App View highlight.
Keyboard – AppReader App View: Caps Lock + Alt + A
ZoomText Keyboard AppReader App View: F9
Pause AppReader: Ctrl
Continue AppReader (from pause): Enter
Get out of AppReader Mode: Escape
AppReader: Text View
Text View is a mode that is great for reading documents. The Text View will open up a window that has pulled all the text from the underlying document and presented as plain text. Along the top of this window is a menu bar with options. The first option, Play will start the reader. As the reader moves through the document, the current word will be highlighted.
After the play button, users will find Rate and Power buttons. The Rate button will increase the speech rate of the reader. The power button will increase the font size of the Text View font.The next two options are Ticker and Prompter. These two buttons refer to the different modes the Text View can be in. In Ticker mode, the Text View window takes up approximately 1/3 of the screen is on top of actual document which occupies the remaining screen space below. The Text View text is still visible but only a single line at a time can be displayed in this mode. When you start the reader, you’ll see both the Text view text and the actual text, and highlighting will follow along in both windows. In Prompter mode, the Text View window occupies the entirety of the screen and multiple lines of the Text View text are visible.
The next button you’ll encounter in Text View is the App View button. This control will simply switch you to the App View reading mode outlined above.The Settings button will open up the AppReader menu in the Text View tab. Here users can change the appearance of the Text view text, including font, style, text and background colors highlight shape, highlight thickness, highlight transparency, and highlight color.
Keyboard shortcut to start Text View reading: Caps Lock + Alt + D
ZoomText Keyboard key to start the Text View: F10
AppReader: SpeakIt Tool
When you activate the SpeakIt tool, your pointer will change (similar to when we activated the AppReader: App View). This time, our pointer gets a small speech bubble added to the lower right. Like we saw when using the AppReader: App View, when the SpeakIt tool is activated, we lose some functionality in our mouse pointer.
In SpeakIt mode, you’ll simply left click and drag to highlight a section of the screen. Whatever if beneath your highlight, if it’s readable by ZoomText, it will be read. You’ll notice this doesn’t only work on text, but program controls, icons, images, and more.
Keyboard shortcut to start the SpeakIt Tool: Caps Lock + Alt + I
Zones is a feature where you basically setup a SpeakIt Window on some part of the screen and ZoomText reads it. The difference is that zones will remain in that area of the screen and read whatever is underneath them. So, if I set up a zone in the middle of my screen in Word and trigger that zone to be read, it will read what is there in word. If I then switch to Excel and trigger the same zone, it will read what is there in Excel.
Zones are definitely an advanced feature in ZoomText. One possible application of this feature might be putting a zone over a calculated field in Word or Excel. As you change the data in other parts of the file, your calculated field may change. You can trigger the zoom window anytime you’d like it read.
More Reading Tools: Background Reader
There is another reading tool in ZoomText 11 worth mentioning. However, you won’t find this control on the Reader tab – you’ll find it in the Tools tab. The Background Reader allows you to listen to documents, webpages, email or any text while you simultaneously perform other tasks. You simply copy or select the text you want to listen to and start Background Reader. While the text is being read aloud, you are free to type notes, browse the web or do other work on your computer.
Copy text to your clipboard and then press the Background Reader button or use the hotkey Caps Lock + Ctrl + B.
Pressing the BgRdr button (or using the hotkey) will bring up the ZoomText Background Reader toolbar. Use the toolbar to play and pause the recording, restart the recording from the beginning, capture and start reading new text, and move through the text by sentence and word.