What's new, updating SpeakOn, mailing list and contact information:Previous versions' history:
The development and changes in version 2 are detailed below in reverse order:
What's new in version 2.3.4 - (20 October 2009)
- You can now bring the audio speed back to normal from the numerical keypad by pressing ("+" long).
- Podcast feeds now tolerate authors' errors in specifying audio type. Also, podcast episodes in '.m4a' format are played, provided Real Player or Media Player Classic are installed.
- The Context menu now also works in the Last FM application. The context menu in SpeakOn is exactly like the Main menu but without any menu items with shortcuts and without the settings sub-menu.
- Experimental support for 64 bit Operating Systems is provided
- The terminology and order of the conversion settings for the TNAUK eText publications in the VI Services application have been slightly changed to improve clarity. Your existing settings, if any, should not be affected.
- Windows-Eyes users who installed the we4java script could not use SpeakOn. This was because of libraries used by we4java taking over the entire Java environment. This problem is fixed in this version but Windows-Eyes users who want to use the we4java script should consider waiting for the new version of we4java which should be available in a few weeks time according to the script author and would fix this problem in a general way.
- Minor bug fixes
What's new in version 2.3.0 - (20 September 2009)
-- Variable audio speed
This version enables you to play audio files at variable speeds from half to twice the normal speed while maintaining the pitch. This feature works in local files and also in streamed podcasts if the connection is sufficiently fast (it should work for most users). To do this, the audio key bindings have been modified for consistancy with speech control as follows for the main keyboard:
[F7] and [F8] - audio volume up and down as before.
[Ctrl + F7] and [Ctrl + F8] - reduce and increase audio speed.
[Ctrl + Shift + F8] - audio speed back to normal.
[Shift + F7] and [Shift + F8] - audio balance left and right.
For the numerical keypad the keys are as follows:
(+) and (-) - audio volume up and down as before
(0 + '+') and (0 + '-') - audio faster and slower
-- Copying recent spoken message to the clipboard
SpeakOn now always keeps internally the details of messages generated by either the Info key in all its variants or controls such as the library list boxes etc. To copy the latest message to the clipboard press:
Ctrl + Shift + c
For example, if you are interested in looking in detail at an Info message, say a Radio Station, first press F2 and once you hear the message, press Ctrl + Shift + c. Then drop the copied message with Ctrl + v in another Windows program.
-- Media Centre application
- Download of 'on demand' audio podcasts. This version enables you to download podcasts on demand: SpeakOn now has a download manager built in. To download a podcast episode, do the following
- Load the player with the podcast feed in the usual way by pressing Enter to play or Ctrl + Enter (without playing) in the library.
- In the player, move Up and Down to select the podcast episode you want.
- Either select to download the file from the menu:
Download > Episode in focus
or press Ctrl + Shift + Enter. You will hear that the file was added to the download queue in the Download Manager.
- You can add as many episodes as you like and they are queued (no more than four are downloaded simultaneously).
- You can shutdown SpeakOn and start it again and SpeakOn will pick up the download automatically (if the server you are downloading from supports this feature) from where you left off and the download will continue.
In the player you can go to the Download Manager task from the menu:
Download > Download Manager
In the Download Manager you will find a list of all downloads with their status. You can delete a download and restart it from the Download Manager menu (useful in case of error).
The downloads are placed by default in:
However, you can configure this to be another folder, in the same way as with the 'Music' directory. (Note that you can download to the same folder using Juice or any other catcher.)
In the library of SpeakOn you will find the downloaded files in the usual way under the Podcast > Received files directory.
- Improved DAISY playing
SpeakOn has for a long time been able to play Daisy 2.02 CDs without DRM protection as used mainly in Europe. To reduce CD background noise, SpeakOn uses a method of copying segments of the book to the hard drive before they play. This is still the default method and works well for most books with sometimes a delay of a few seconds before a book segment starts to play.
Now you can eliminate any delay and CD drive background noise by preparing the book on the hard disk before starting to play and this optimization, which can take a few minutes, stays in place until you listen to another CD book.
To optimize a book before reading, when the focus is on the player in the menu, select:
Play > Optimize CD media to eliminate delay and drive background noise.
This method also works with MP3 books such as those provided by Calibre in the UK.
-- Radio Time application
The RadioTime database contains thousands of podcasts and this version allows you to download these in a similar way as in the Media Centre application described above.
Podcasts can be found in the library under the 'Podcast' directory under the index and also under shows that you have preset such as the BBC or any other broadcaster which provides podcasts.
When you navigate the library to a show under the Recent Episodes directory, you will find the various media available as before. From this version, it will tell you what kind of media it is; it can be either 'Stream or download' or 'Stream on demand'. The first type, as the name implies, is a podcast file which can be streamed or downloaded. The second type is 'Stream on demand' such as BBC 'Listen Again' which can be streamed but not downloaded.
With the first type, press as usual Ctrl + Enter to load the player (assuming you want to download but not listen to it by streaming) and then as usual either select from the menu under 'Download' or press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to add the download to the queue.
-- Last FM application
A bug introduced in the last update where Personal Neighbours and Personal Recommended Stations did not play correctly, has now been fixed.
-- VI Services applications
- Downloading Seeing Ear library books
Browse the library in the usual way until you find a book you want to download. If you select the book, it downloads and starts to play as before. You can now also add a number of books to the download queue exactly as with audio files but with the focus on the library either from the menu:
Download > Download the book in focus
or with a single keystroke:
Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
- TNAUK audio publications
You can now download audio publications in the same way as podcasts described above; browse the new sub-directory 'All feeds for download' under TNAUK audio in the library. Then, like any other podcast, download any episode which in this case is a publication part and it is added to the download queue. (Note that these downloaded publications are also by default stored under:
C:\SpeakOn_User_Content\Podcast\Received_files' and are grouped together under a TNAUK folder.)
- Download and conversion of TNAUK eText publications:
You can download TNAUK publications in exactly the same way as you download the Seeing Ear books as explained above. This version enables you to convert TNAUK eText publications to have a '.txt' file extension instead of '.doc' and convert these to HTML for use with external players.
After you run the new version for the first time using the VI Services application, you will find two new folders (which you will not see in the SpeakOn library) under:
These folders are:
What you can do now is put your zipped files (which you perhaps got from TNAUK by email) in the 'Publications to convert' directory and then start SpeakOn.
Before you actually convert anything for the first time, you need to configure a few settings. Go to the VI Services settings menu and then navigate to the eText download and conversion sub-menu. This sub-menu in turn gives you the following options:
- Convert the file to have a '.txt' file extension (SpeakOn itself now works with both '.doc' and '.txt' file extensions).
- Unzip to the 'Current_Reading' folder which is enabled by default so you can view the publications in SpeakOn's library.
- Unzip to the 'Publications_converted' folder - this is for people who want to transfer the publications to an external device.
- 'Convert to HTML' and place in the 'Publications_converted' folder. You can try this file format with your internet browser; the heading H1 for title, H2 for section, H3 for sub-section and H4 for articles.
You can convert your own zipped TNAUK publications by placing them in the 'Publications_to_convert' folder and then going to the menu when the focus is in or under the TNAUK eText directory. Then under the download menu you will find the 'Convert' menu item to do this.
You will find that when you download publications either from the menu or by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Enter, the publications will be routed as per your settings and after conversion (if any) SpeakOn will tell you that the download has finished.
Note that if you want to download and immediately listen to a publication, just press Enter on a publication in the library exactly as before.
- New Favourites directory in TNAUK Audio
This directory is created automatically. When you load the player with a TNAUK podcast (as you did for the download from the 'All feeds for download' directory), you can save this feed to your Favourites directory exactly as you would with podcast feeds. To do this simply go to the menu:
File > Add to Favourites
For example, if you added the Economist, it is now saved in the Favourites directory and when you want to download, simply navigate in this directory to the publication (it has now the file extension '.rls'), press Ctrl + Enter to load the player without playing and then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter in the player for any episodes (publication parts in this case) you want to download. If you shutdown SpeakOn and go to VI Services again, SpeakOn will remember the last feed you accessed,
Of course you can stream feeds as well but it is more useful using the streaming directory where publications are split into individual articles which you can navigate in the usual way.
What's new in version 2.2.4 - (23 July 2009)
- From early July 2009, with reference to Last.FM, third party players such as SpeakOn can only stream for users who are subscribers. This version enables this.
- Minor bug fixes.
What's new in version 2.2.0 - (6 Jun 2009)
-- Radio Time application
The following applies if a station is played and the focus is on the Player. You will find in the Radio Time application Main menu two new sub-menus; 'Radio' and 'Website'.
Under the Radio sub-menu you will find:
a. Schedule for the playing station
This is a sub-menu from which you can view schedules (usually up to seven days ahead) for main stations which supply this information to RadioTime. These include, for example, all major BBC radio stations.
Simply select the schedule you want and it is displayed in the Library. The name of the station you selected is clearly marked and you can navigate right and then down to the show (programme) you want. If you wish, you can navigate further right and if any archive shows are available, you can listen to these. When you listen to either podcasts or BBC 'Listen again', you can now skip within a show (media) in the usual SpeakOn way using the navigation units (for more details see further below). You can also view quickly today's schedule for a station by pressing the # Info [Shift + F2] (fullstop long) key.
In the schedule, you can now preset a show, creating effectively 'radio on demand'. (You can also preset shows from any of the other categories under 'Index' in the Library or by searching for these).
b. Index for all stations
This will take you to the Index view in the Library. Note that the Index view is still present as an additional library node in all other views so you can navigate to it by simply pressing rapidly left a few times and when reaching level 0, navigating down. You can also navigate to this view by pressing the 'Nav' [F4] (1) key (as described below) and then navigating up as you wish.
c. Search for radio stations or shows
This brings the 'Search for Radio stations or shows' task as before. You can also use * Find [Ctrl + F3] to bring up this task.
d. Station recommendations for the playing station
This takes you to a recommendation view in the Library which gives you useful station recommendations you may like to explore, based on the station you are listening to.
e. Set or Remove presets
This works exactly as before enabling you to preset stations or shows.
Under the Website sub-menu you will find:
a. RadioTime Main page
Visit the RadioTime website.
b. Station's website
Visit the website of the station you are listening to.
c. Report problems with the playing station on the RadioTime webpage
This takes you directly to report a problem with the station you are listening to.
Note that with the above three items, Internet Explorer is started and you are taken automatically to your destination page.
Relevant items are displayed also when the focus is on the Library. Note that the choice is restricted when you listen to an episode from a show. For example, a specific episode can not be preset.
-- Skipping content in a stream
You can navigate (skip) content within a stream using the usual player method; move right or left to select the navigation unit required and then move up or down to skip. Skipping ability depends on whether the media is a podcast or a BBC 'Listen again' show.
A streamed podcast is essentially a file downloaded to a temporary location. Consequently, you can navigate the portion of the podcast file that has been already downloaded at a particular point in time. You will find that if your internet connection is fast and the podcast server is delivering the podcast file quickly, skipping is fine moving forward in small chunks; if an insufficient portion of the file exists, skipping will be restricted. Navigation backwards has no restrictions.
When you stream a BBC 'Listen again' show, you can navigate anywhere in a stream without any restrictions.
In both types of streams, ten seconds before the stream's end, you will be notified. You can either navigate quickly backwards if you wish or start to stream from the beginning using the usual Player key for this purpose; # Select [Shift + Enter] (5 long).
A podcast is in MP3 format and BBC 'Listen again' is in Real format. You can always find information on the format by pressing *# Info [Ctrl + Shift + F2]. You can find where you are in the media and its total length by pressing * Info [Ctrl + F2] (0 + fullstop) (more on these features further down this page).
-- Efficiency Features
a. Changes to function keys
F2 is now the 'Info' key (previously F9) - The 'Info' key can be used frequently and F2 is easier to locate.
F3 Is designated as the 'Find' key (this is only implemented so far in the RadioTime application).
F4 Is designated as the 'Nav' (Navigation) key (further details below).
b. In addition to the usual way of starting a SpeakOn application from the Manager by pressing Select [Enter] where the last media played is loaded automatically, you can now start the application and go directly to the Library without loading the last media played by pressing * Select [Ctrl + Enter] (0 + 5).
c. You can now end an application by pressing * Nav [Ctrl + F4] (0 + 1) (you can end SpeakOn itself like any other Windows application by pressing Alt + F4).
d. Pressing the 'Nav' [F4] (1) key takes you to your own media if relevant; for example, 'My Presets' in the Radio Time application and 'My Personal Radio' in the Last FM application. In the Media Centre and VI Services applications, operation is similar depending on the media you are using; for example, in Podcast, it takes you to 'Favourites'. In all cases, this key takes you to a well recognized point in the Library which you may find convenient to use as a base. You can then navigate right to your own media or go to an adjacent point; for example, 'Received Files' in Podcast which may contain your own downloaded media as well.
-- Media Information
The information presented by the 'Info' key is now more complete and consistent across all applications.
Info [F2] (fullstop) - Information relevant to media you are listening to.
# Info [Shift + F2] (fullstop long) - Additional information relevant to media you are listening to.
* Info [Ctrl + F2] (0 + fullstop) - Information about the timing and or length of the media you are listening to for example position in a Daisy book, Podcast file etc.
*# Info [Ctrl + Shift + F2] - Media format information.
When you listen to audio media and press any of the above keystrokes, depending on the format, the audio volume level is reduced to an ambient level to enable you to hear the information clearly.
-- Media Centre application
a. Podcasts can be skipped as described above.
b. When you play your own music, you can now 'scrobble' which means automatically informing the Last FM server about your musical taste. You can enable this option from the Last FM application's Settings sub-menu.
-- VI Services application
a. Website sub-menus have been added to the TNAUK and the Seeing Ear media types so you can go directly to their respective websites.
b. TNAUK's publications information has been updated.
c. When you read a Seeing Ear or any other text-based book, you can use the * Info [Ctrl + F2] (0 + fullstop) to know where you are percentage-wise in the book.
-- Last FM application
The option control for information and server commands 'skip', 'love' and 'ban' has been replaced by a list which is easier to use. Use the 'Info' [F2] (fullstop) key and [Shift + F2] (fullstop long) to get information about the media and the station playing respectively.
-- Other improvements
a. SpeakOn now checks for updates every two weeks. If an update is available, you will be notified about it but you will have to perform the update yourself. This is most conveniently done from the menu in the Manager:
Help > Check for updates
b. You can now search in menus and controls such as the Player, Library and lists, using as many characters as you like. The search starts at the beginning of the item you want, similar to Windows.
c. SpeakOn attempts to save the last volume level you used - note that this is format dependent.
d.Handling of Messages and Tip Levels is better now; if you set these to minimum, verbosity is reduced compared to previous versions.
What's new in version 2.1.1 - (8 February 2009)
The Last FM application has been enhanced to accommodate changes to the Last.FM server; Station information, Love and Ban commands are working normally again in this version.
What's new in version 2.1.0 - (30 January 2009)
Simplified and improved user interface
* Every SpeakOn application has now one Main task which contains the Player and Library controls. Simply move the focus between controls using the 'Focus' [Tab] (3) key.
* The Main menu (which is context-sensitive) now contains all operations; new users can learn how to operate SpeakOn from the menu; any keystrokes are specified. The Help menu contains all the commands available for both Main and control-specific commands.
* All related operations in the menus have been grouped for easy navigation.
* Settings tasks are accessed directly from the menus.
The media directories in the library such as Music, Podcast and Various media categories can now be expanded by adding the locations of relevant folders on your computer. So, for example, if you already have folders with music audio files on your computer, these can become 'visible' to SpeakOn - you can still use the folders in the usual way with other players.
This is explained in this manual in:
Tutorial > Media Centre application
Under the Music, Podcast and Various sub sections.
Extensive facilities for playing your music, creating playlists and editing them
You can now also play complete directories. Playing options are now available; you can shuffle tracks, order a list alphabetically, repeat the list continuously and mute track name announcement during play.
This is explained in this manual:
Tutorial > Media Centre application > Music
Improved help features
The 'Where am I?' feature is now # 'Help' [Shift + F1] (7 long).
'Help' [F1] (7) - Context Help menu as before.
*'Help' [Ctrl + F1] (0 + 7) - (new) Speaks the current control only.
*#'Help' [Ctrl + Shift + F1] (3 long) - (new) Speaks only the current item in the current control (the 'current item' can be, for example, a track name in the Player or the current item in a list).
Media Information feature
The Main menu in all applications has a new Information sub-menu which always appears when the focus is on the Player. This information is available for the media you are listening to. For audio, it includes where applicable, the ID3 tags, the total, lapsed and remaining time for a track, and information about the audio format. For other media such as newspapers and books, the title and article names are available respectively.
The F9 key is now dedicated solely for information; F9, Ctrl + F9 and Shift + F9 are all used as shortcuts to the information above; the role of each one of these keystrokes is indicated clearly in the Information sub-menu so you don't have to remember these - quick experimentation with these shortcuts is probably the easiest way to learn.
Adding/getting a podcast's URL
You can now easily add a podcast's URL to SpeakOn and get the URL for a podcast from SpeakOn so that you can use it in applications such as Juice.
Improved speech handling
The SAPI interface as been improved to increase response and reliability.
What's new in version 2.0.2 - (17 August 2008)
This is an update version:
* Last.FM made significant changes to their website recently. Fortunately, this did not have any significant impact on SpeakOn. A positive change is the ability of an unpaying subscriber to listen to a personal radio now called a 'Library'; this version of SpeakOn enables you to listen to your 'Library' which is broadcast based on your musical taste.
* A bug causing SpeakOn to freeze when the Last.FM server responds with empty track lists, has been fixed - SpeakOn will notify you about this and invite you to choose another station.
* A bug causing SpeakOn sometimes to freeze when gaining focus has been fixed. This problem occured when SpeakOn was the only program running on the desktop; a situation that can happen when a screen reader is used from the System tray.
What's new in version 2.0.0 - (3 August 2008)
* The new Radio Time application has been introduced. This application is connected to the Radio Time directory of more than 100000 stations and shows. The user can browse and search the directory. Stations can be preset and the Player supports all common formats including mp3, wma and real.
Thanks to Radio Time of Dallas Texas for their support in making this happen and providing their services free of charge for the blind community.
More information on using this application is provided in this manual:
Tutorial > Radio Time application.
* The Media Centre application has been divided into two parts:
a. The Media Centre application now supports CD (MP3, Audio and DAISY, music on your computer and podcasts;
b. The VI services (services for the Visually impaired community) supports specialized radio and podcasts, TNAUK eText and Audio and the Seeing Ear library books.
* Minor enhancements:
- Efficiency of the underlying players has been improved.
- The Main and Control help menus have been incorporated as sub-menus into the Help menu.
- Messages while loading the Player have been shortened and made clearer.
- Error handling and messages have been improved.
* Minor bug fixes