In today's mobile world, many of us have been app-driven, or perhaps a better term might be app-crazed. Regardless of which mobile platform you choose, there are a multitude of these little programs that just make our life easier. From weather apps to stock apps to apps that tell you when the next train or plane will arrive, there's pretty much an app for anything you can imagine.
The PC screen reader market is certainly aware of the proliferation of apps as well. With the release of Window-Eyes 7.5, it became the first screen reader to offer apps. While other screen readers offer scripts, apps are much more comprehensive and simpler to use. GW Micro, creator of Window-Eyes, launched App Central, a centralized place on GW Micro's website specifically designed to host apps, whether written by GW Micro or another third party. Just as with apps for Apple's iPhone, these apps are specifically written to work with Window-Eyes.
Window-Eyes now comes with many built-in apps, such as the JAWS Quick Key app. If you are new to Window-Eyes and are familiar with JAWS keystrokes, simply press Insert-J to enable JAWS Quick Key mode. This handy app allows you to press any JAWS keystroke and then the JAWS Quick Key app will announce the Window-Eyes equivalent. For example, with JAWS Quick Key mode enabled, press Insert-T. Window-Eyes will tell you to press Control-Shift-T to speak the title of the current application. Then, press Escape to exit JAWS Quick Key mode. The JAWS Quick Key app can help make you a Window-Eyes power user in no time! Another powerful app that is included with Window-Eyes is WordNav. The WordNav app is designed to make you more productive by allowing for efficient navigation of complex documents in Microsoft Word. Press Insert-Z and you can start navigating Word just like a webpage. For example, if you have a long manual, you can press H to skip to headings, which are used to markup the chapters and sections of the document.
In addition to the JAWS Quick Key and WordNav apps, there are hundreds of other free Window-Eyes apps that you can use to enhance the accessibility of your computer. Because there are already a large number of helpful Window-Eyes apps available on App Central, you will want to be able to browse or search for apps that are of interest to you. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of a Window-Eyes app called App Get. This handy app allows a Window-Eyes user to press a key and quickly get a list of all apps that are currently available. Press Windows Key-G and App Get will automatically connect to the GW Micro web server and build an easy-to-navigate list of all available apps. To make finding an app as simple as possible, the apps are organized into eight different categories: Multimedia, General, Program Enhancements, Utilities, Communications, App Development, Productivity, and Programming. The categories are in a tree view, which means you will need to press the Right Arrow to open each category you want to peruse. Suppose you are looking for an app that will search for various products. Press the Right Arrow to open the General category. Then, you can Up and Down Arrow through the list to find the app you want or use first letter navigation. Press P until you hear, "product search." App Get has several fields that you can Tab to for each app in the list. Press Tab once and you will hear details about the app, such as who wrote it, when it was released, when it was last updated, the current rating of the app, a list of any changes from subsequent releases, and a description of what the app does. Tab once more and you will be able to read comments that other users have made about the app. This information can help you determine if the app may or may not be useful to you. Continuing to Tab will take you to the Refresh button, which will refresh the list of Apps in the tree view where you found the Product Search app. The next button you Tab to will be the Website button, which will take you directly to the webpage on App Central where this Window-Eyes app resides. Perhaps the most important button in the App Get dialog is the Install button. Pressing Enter on this button will automatically download the app and then bring up a Package Preview dialog. This dialog will tell you about the app as well as the files included in the app. Simply Tab to the Install button and press Enter. You are then prompted for a license agreement that you need to read and accept. After accepting the agreement by Tabbing to Continue and pressing Enter, the app automatically installs to the appropriate location and you are placed back in App Get to look for another Window-Eyes app that you might want to install.
Perhaps you know the name of the app you are looking for, but not which category it is in? App Get provides you the power to find any app. First, press Control-F to bring up the Find command within App Get. You can search by name, author, or description. For weather buffs, you may want to search for an App that has "weather" in the description, so Tab to the Description edit box, type "weather," and press Enter. App Get will search through the hundreds of Apps to find anything related to weather. In this case, the Weather or Not App displays. You are placed back in the tree view that formerly contained several hundred Apps. Now, the only App that appears is the Weather or Not app. As in the previous example, you could Tab through all of the available fields to learn about the app, or you can simply press Enter to install it since Install is the default button. Continue to follow the prompts, accept the license agreement, and you will have yet another app at your fingertips. App Get also lets you sort apps by All Apps, Installed Apps, Not Installed Apps, and even Outdated Apps. You can change the view by pressing Alt-V to access the View menu, then Up or Down Arrow to the view you want and press Enter. Or, you can sort your apps by Alphabetical Order, Date Added, Last Updated, or even the Top Rated Apps. Simply press Alt-S to access the Sort menu, then Up or Down Arrow to the option you want, and press Enter. The tree view will instantly update depending on the option you have selected.
Those who use the iPhone will notice a few similarities, such as being able to list the Top Rated apps. As Window-Eyes is the only screen reader recommended by Apple for iTunes on the PC, it makes sense that there might be some measure of crossover between the two - especially considering that syncing Apps between a PC and iPhone would require Window-Eyes. As the software industry continues to move forward with apps, Window-Eyes is keeping the pace in the highly competitive screen reader marketplace.
For more information on using and developing apps, check out App Central at www.gwmicro.com/ac. You might also want to listen to our free training webinars, which you can access at http://www.gwmicro.com/Training/Webinar_Training/. These webinars occur the second Wednesday of each month at 2 P.M. Eastern time and are archived at the aforementioned link. There are several other free and paid training resources, including online classes and other Window-Eyes classes that you can learn about at www.gwmicro.com/training. For any other Window-Eyes questions, you may contact GW Micro at (260) 489-3671 or send an email to [email protected].