An Overview of Freedom Scientific's PAC Mate Omni

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

PAC Mate Omni' is the latest version of Freedom Scientific's Accessible Pocket PC. At its heart are Microsoft's Windows Mobile' Operating System, and JAWS for Pocket PC'.

As with previous versions of PAC Mate, you may choose your model based on whether you prefer to work with a Braille or QWERTY keyboard. PAC Mate Omni can be purchased as a voice-only unit, or a Braille display can be fitted snugly and securely to the unit. Braille displays are available in sizes of 20 or 40 cells, and these may also be used as a USB Braille display for your PC. Simply connect the display, and JAWS for Windows' will detect the presence of the display and start sending information to it.

PAC Mate Omni works well with the many applications that comprise the Windows Mobile suite. It is the only notetaker at this time offering access to files in any version of Microsoft Excel', any version of Microsoft PowerPoint', and to Microsoft Word 2007'. While other notetakers offer some limited support for versions of Word earlier than 2007, PAC Mate Omni will not only render more of the formatting, but will also preserve the formatting Windows mobile doesn't display. This means that if you open a document containing formatting such as footnotes and endnotes, make a change to the text, and save your document, PAC Mate Omni retains the footnotes and endnotes, even though at this time Microsoft doesn't permit displaying them on a mobile device.

Full synchronization of your e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, notes and files is supported through the Windows Mobile Device Center in Windows Vista, or Microsoft ActiveSync in earlier versions of Windows. <!--[endif]-->

When surfing the web, you will find many of the handy, familiar JAWS quick navigation keys are available to you.

Windows Live' support, including for Windows Live messenger', means you can search the Web and keep in touch with people all from your Today Screen.

In the workplace, where connectivity and security are paramount, PAC Mate has no equal in the notetaker space. PAC Mate Omni will connect to Microsoft Exchange' servers and virtual private networks. It supports the more secure WPA wireless data encryption standard. It protects your sensitive data through being able to password protect the unit, and through encryption of data on a storage card so it can only be read by the PAC Mate on which it was created.

The unique Reader Mode in PAC Mate Omni means it is the only notetaker to offer support for PDF files and various forms of eBooks including eReader.

If entering information in contracted Braille is your input method of preference, PAC Mate Omni's unique contracted Braille anywhere support provides you with unparalleled power. While all notetaker devices will support contracted Braille input in their own applications, PAC Mate Omni goes much further, offering the ability for you to enter contracted Braille even in applications not designed for contracted Braille input. Even when entering text in Word Mobile, filling out forms on the web, or working with e-mail and Calendar items, contracted Braille may be used. And there is no need to back-translate before giving material to a sighted person. That all happens behind the scenes.

While Freedom Scientific has made Windows Mobile accessible and easy to use, we also appreciate that blind people have unique needs. That's why we include FSEdit, our own word processor, which handles contracted Braille files, offers some handy means of selecting long portions of text, and more. You can use FSEdit, for example, to read books from Web Braille, or the contracted files available from Bookshare. Incidentally, PAC Mate Omni can download and unpack Bookshare books all on the device.

FSCalc is a very powerful calculator, and while offering a menu interface, also offers a look and feel that will be familiar to Braille Lite and Braille'n'Speak users.

Other optional blindness-specific software includes the ScanTalker' barcode scanning solution which recognizes over a million items, FSReader' for DAISY material including RFB&D, and the free FSCommander', allowing you to use your PAC Mate Omni as a universal infra-red remote control.

FSTTY' and Face-to-Face' offer solutions for Deaf Blind customers who wish to use TTY services or communicate with someone in real time.

As you can see, PAC Mate Omni is packed with features and possibilities right out of the box. Most of the common tasks the majority of people want to perform are included in the package. However, PAC Mate Omni also allows you to install Windows Mobile applications written by a wide range of third party developers. Just as some people choose to stay with the software that came with their PC, some will choose simply to use what the PAC Mate includes. But just as others will install third party applications on their PC, so some will choose to use additional applications on PAC Mate Omni. The open platform approach means that you are not limited to the features your notetaker manufacturer puts on the device.

The list of applications people are running on PAC Mate Omni is long, and growing. One source of information about this is a community of users who have set up a web site called PAC Mate Gear. It can be found at http://www.pacmategear.com. This is a great resource for users to exchange information about what software works particularly well.

Just as some PC software is more accessible than others, so too you will find that some Windows Mobile software is more accessible than others. On occasion, JAWS scripts can be used to make certain software work more efficiently. However, Windows Mobile 6 is much more keyboard centric than its predecessors, meaning that newer applications often are easier to navigate and operate.

Here are just a few examples of the power afforded by third party applications.

  • Town Compass Data Viewer allows you to access encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses, and a large selection of other reference material.
  • Resco Audio Recorder records directly into MP3, permits editing of audio right from your PAC Mate, and provides an automatic gain control which is great for getting good recordings of lectures.
  • Audible Player for Windows Mobile lets PAC Mate play the large library of books, newspapers, magazines and radio shows from http://www.audible.com.
  • A range of media players add support for streaming media and other file types, such as OGG Vorbis.
  • E-Wallet software allows you to store credit cards and other personal data securely.
  • Sling Player Mobile allows you to watch and control your TV from anywhere in the world.
  • Skype for Windows Mobile lets you speak with people around the world.
  • Plug-ins for your Today screen add additional functionality, such as local weather.
  • Tools aplenty for the IT professional, such as Web servers and HTML editors.
  • And of course, plenty of games!

This is just a brief overview of PAC Mate Omni's features. Freedom Scientific's web site, http://www.freedomscientific.com, has more detailed information, including PAC Mate's documentation for download. Freedom Scientific's monthly Podcast, FSCast, featured a 90 minute demonstration of some of PAC Mate Omni's features in its July 2007 issue, and the July 2008 issue discussed the exciting features just released in PAC Mate 6.1. FSCast is an audio resource packed with information about Freedom Scientific's products, what you can do with them, and how blind people are using them. You can subscribe to it for free as a podcast, or download individual episodes from our web site.

If you have any questions about PAC Mate Omni, you are also welcome to call us at (800)444-4443.