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Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Do I Use the Eyes-Free Shell?

The eyes-Free Shell is an alternative home screen or launcher for drivers and other people who don’t or can’t look at the screen. It gives blind and visually impaired users a way of interacting with the touch screen to check status information, launch other applications, and direct dial or message a contact.

This post is about the Shell's main screen. For information about the Shell's various shortcuts screens, which can be set up to launch other apps, visit bookmarked URLs, open the Details screen for individual contacts, access Eyes-Free Shell widgets, direct dial or message contacts, and quickly move to items within the phone's settings menu, refer to the next post.

Finding the Eyes-Free Shell Main Screen

The Eyes-Free Shell has several parts. The main screen has 7 widgets or mini-apps that offer users quick access to information like time and battery status. It is the screen that opens when the Shell is launched. For information on setting the eyes-Free Shell as the default home screen, refer to the previous post.

In addition to the main screen, the Shell has at least 2 other pages (called menus), where users can place shortcuts to things they use frequently. In fact, if the Shell appears to be blank as users attempt to interact with it, the likely reason is that they are on one of the shortcuts pages, not the main screen.

To return to the main screen of the Eyes-Free Shell, do the following:

1. Touch the left or right edge of the screen.
a. If the phone is in portrait orientation, touch the literal left and right edges of the screen, the glass surface near the plastic or metal casing that holds it in place.
b. If the phone is in landscape orientation, touch the screen along imaginary lines that are about 1 inch or 2.5 cm from the literal left and right edges of the glass surface. When auto rotate is turned off, the phone is in landscape orientation only when the hardware keyboard is pulled out. The literal left edge of the screen is the space ordinarily occupied by the status bar (which does not behave like a status bar in this situation), and the literal right edge of the screen is occupied by the Back, Home, Menu, and Search soft keys.
2. Touch the same edge of the screen repeatedly to cycle through the shortcuts pages, stopping when you hear, "Home."

By default, the pages are Home, Shortcuts Left, and Shortcuts Right. Names can be changed to reflect their content, and more pages can be added.

Interacting with the Eyes-Free Shell

On the Eyes-Free shell, the 7 mini-apps or widgets are arranged in 3 rows of 3, as in a tick-tack-toe game, a 3 by 3 grid, or the top 9 keys of a standard telephone dialing keypad. When the phone is closed (i.e., the keyboard is tucked under the touch screen), the grid is used with the phone in portrait orientation. When the phone is open (i.e., the physical keyboard is available to the user), the grid is oriented to landscape.

This grid isn’t at a fixed location; rather, its center is wherever the screen is touched first. Using the telephone keypad analogy, that center point is the 5 key, and users must stroke vertically up or down, horizontally left or right, or diagonally in any direction to reach another one of the keys on the phone.

When another "key" is reached, the phone vibrates and speaks the name of the widget being touched. To access the widget, users simply break contact with the screen.

For best results with the Eyes-Free shell:

1. Touch the screen in the general center, not close to the edges. Some users touch the phone with the index finger; others use the middle finger, as when they touch a telephone keypad.
2. Move your finger at a moderate rate, neither slow nor fast.
3. Use the vibrations to confirm that you have moved to a new key position. The phone vibrates when you touch the screen, thus identifying the 5 position. It vibrates again as you move to a new key. If you continue to hold your finger in that position, the name of the function is spoken (e.g., time in the 2 position or Battery in the 3 position).
4. Avoid touching the right and left edges of the screen as doing so moves you to a shortcut page. If you touch the edge of the screen by accident, touch the edge again repeatedly until you cycle back to the main screen.
5. Set the Talkback keyboard to Hidden with a long-press of the volume buttons if the Shell is behaving strangely.

Noting Keyboard Behavior While in the Eyes-Free Shell

While the eyes-Free shell, the Eyes-Free shortcuts, and the Talking Dialer screens are open, the physical controls on the keyboard do not behave in the usual way. Most physical controls are unresponsive while in the Shell and Shortcuts, and in Dialer, arrow keys are unresponsive and different characters are assigned to the typing keys.

The following set of keys can be used with the following results:

1. Back works as expected. A short press moves focus to the previous screen. A long press moves focus to the stock Home screen.
2. Home works as expected. A short press moves focus to the Eyes-Free shell. A long press moves focus to the Recent Applications screen.
3. Menu enables editing of the Eyes-Free Shell main screen and of its shortcut screens.
4. Search moves focus to the Talking Dialer. If the Talking Dialer is not installed, The phone announces, "Application is not installed."
5. The quick launch Search+letter works as expected, opening the app assigned to the Android shortcut.
6. The Talkback keyboard should be set to Hidden when working with the Eyes-Free Shell and its shortcut screens.

Using the Widgets on the Eyes-Free Shell

These are instructions for using the widgets available through the Eyes-Free shell:

1. For signal strength and network information, use Steps a and b below. This information is also available by going to Settings/About Phone/ Status, Phone Number, Signal, etc.
a. Up-stroke diagonally to the left to reach the 1 position. The phone announces, "Signal."
b. Lift your finger.
2. For the time, use Steps a and b below. This information is also available by going to Settings/Date and time.
a. Up-stroke vertically to reach the 2 position. The phone announces, "Time."
b. Lift your finger.
3. For battery status information, use Steps a and b below. This information is also available by going to Settings/About Phone/ Status, Phone Number, Signal, etc.
a. Up-stroke diagonally to the right to reach the 3 position. The phone announces, "Battery."
b. Lift your finger.
4. No widget is assigned to the 4 position. This is a useful spot for a frequently used app that requires minimal keyboarding, like Talking compass (by Bill Ray), Intersection Explorer (by Eyes-Free Project), or Checkmark Calendar (by Greenbean Soft).
5. No widget is assigned to the 5 position since it is what determines the relative placement of the other keys. To avoid activating any widget , stroke back to this key and lift your finger. The phone announces, "Home.
6. For information about your current location, use the steps listed below. Repeating the steps produces varying results, alternating between a GPS and a network location. This type of information is also available from Google Maps and other GPS apps, like WalkyTalky by Eyes-Free Project and Location Blind by Bill Ray, available through the Android Market.
a. Side-stroke to the right to reach the 6 position. The phone announces, "Location."
b. Lift your finger.
c. Wait a few seconds for the phone to announce location details.
7. For voicemail, use the steps listed below. This is also available by dialing your carrier's voicemail code (e.g., *86 for Verizon customers), using any of the calling methods described in other posts.
a. Down -stroke diagonally to the left to reach the 7 position. The phone announces, "Voicemail."
b. Lift your finger.
c. Use the physical keyboard to enter your password, and continue with voicemail, using the physical keyboard to enter menu choices. If the number row doesn't behave as expected, try pressing the alt or shift key before typing each number.
8. For a vertical list of All Apps, use the steps listed below. The stock Home screen also includes an All Applications or Sliding Drawer icon, which provides access to all the apps on the phone, presented alphabetically in a grid, so users must remember to arrow left and right as well as up and down.
a. Down-stroke vertically to reach the 8 position. The phone announces, "Applications."
b. Lift your finger.
c. An alphabetical list of all of the apps appears on the screen. Find and enter the application by doing one of the following:
i. Type the first letter of the app you want to use. If the names of several apps begin with that letter, arrow down to find the second, third, and so on. If you meant to type a different letter, arrow up or down once, then type another letter. When the app is located, press Enter, the selector, or the Search button to open it.
ii. Use Stroke dialing.
9. For simple voice searches, use One Vox. Voice searches can also be made from the stock Home screen by long pressing the Search button; however, this feature appears to be mostly inaccessible at this time.
a. down-stroke diagonally to the right to reach the 9 position. The phone announces, "Search."
b. Lift your finger. A soft click is played.
c. Say a search term. Speak at a moderate conversational rate, without pausing between serch terms. Examples of search terms are detailed in another section of this post.
d. Wait for the phone to announce the results. Results are returned quickly. If no results are returned in 10 seconds, press Back briefly and try again, or use the physical navigational controller to scroll to the Speak Again or Cancel button, press the selector, and speak or move on to another activity.

Adjusting screen reader volume with the Eyes-Free Shell

One of the perks of the eyes-Free Shell is that users can adjust screen reader volume while the phone is silent. To do this:

1. Place your finger on the Eyes-Free Shell. A thumb works well for this, with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers under the handset.
2. Press the volume-up/down key repeatedly while your finger is on the screen. The phone beeps more loudly or more softly with each press of the volume control.

Accessing an App's Details Screen from the Eyes-Free Shell

Another perk of the Eyes-Free Shell is that users can quickly launch the details screen for an app. This screen is where users uninstall apps and perform other maintenance tasks, like force closing a troublesome app or clearing defaults so a different app can be launched automatically in certain situations. Normally, getting to that screen involves going into Settings/Applications/Manage Applications, but with the Shell, the process is much shorter.

1. Down-stroke to the 8 position to launch the Applications widget.
2. Scroll to the app, or use first-letter navigation to find it in the list.
3. Press the Menu button.
4. Do one of the following:
a. Scroll to and press the selector on Details to open the details screen. The options on this screen are not arranged in a list; to find your option scroll left and right as well as up and down. Options are Clear Cache, Clear Data, Clear Defaults, Force Stop, Move to SD card, Uninstall.
b. Scroll to and press the selector on Uninstall to uninstall the app.
5. Press Back if necessary when you're done.

Finding Quick Answers with Eyes-Free Voice Search

Users can take advantage of some of Google’s search features to find quick answers in OneVox, the simple voice search app of the Eyes-Free shell. Examples of search terms are listed below. The order of the items in the search string doesn’t seem to matter: users can say, "weather. Mountain View" or "Mountain View weather," to get the same result.

• Calculations – To hear the results of an addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or percentage problem, say the calculation you'd like done. Examples: 3 plus 4, 20 minus 6, 5 times 8, 39 divided by 13, 20 percent of 3,495.
• Currency Conversion – To hear money equivalents between countries, say, the source currency, the word "in," and the target currency. Example: 100 U.S. dollars in Mexican pesos.
• Dictionary Definitions – To hear a definition for a word or phrase, say, "define" or "definition," and word(s): Example: define, dog.
• Sunrise & Sunset – To hear the precise times of sunrises and sunsets for many U.S. and world cities, say, "sunrise" or "sunset," and the city name. Example: Sunset, San Jose, Costa Rica.
• Time – To hear the time in many cities around the world, say, "time," and the name of the city. Example: time, Madrid.
• Unit Conversion – To hear the equivalents between many different units of measure for distance, height, volume, weight, and more, say the source unit, the word "in," and the target unit. Examples: 40 miles in kilometers, 3 ounces in grams, 1 gallon in liters.
• Weather – to hear the weather for many U.S. and world cities, say, "weather," and the city and state, the U.S. zip code, or the city and country. Example: weather, London, England.

4 comments:

  1. In addition to the main screen, the Shell has at least 2 other pages (called menus), where users can place shortcuts to things they use frequently. In fact, if the Shell appears to be blank as users attempt to interact with it, the likely reason is that they are on one of the shortcuts pages, not the main screen.

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