27 September 2006

FireVox Improved

We all loved FoxyVoice. It was instantly installable, cute, and very, very easy to use by almost anyone. (What could be simpler than to just highlight text and click on the Yellow Smiley Face?) But no one ever updated FoxyVoice for use in the newest v.1.5.x Firefox Browsers, leaving the troubling choice of running outdated software for web access or not having the voicing options.

FireVox, the far more fully-featured, cross platform "replacement" was wildly complicated, and so difficult to install that most of us just did not.

But now there is some hope. I still want one of you computer geniuses out there (c'mon, you guys are all over the place) to update FoxyVoice because nothing was better for kids, but FireVox now has a simple install, and instructions are much better.

To get the fast install go to the related OATS page. (don't know OATS? you should) and click on the "first" download "Firefox Plug-In File" - this will download the install. Your computer may ask you "what program to use to open this file" in which case just pick Firefox. Then let the install run, close Firefox, re-open it, and you are in business.

At that point you will find "FireVox" options now listed under "Tools" and you may want to turn off things like "Speak Events" and "Echo Keys" (or not, depending on who the user is).

Now, the commands in FireVox are complicated, not at all the "click on the Smiley Face" but they do work and (within limits) you can customize them under the FireVox Options menu. The default commands are:

Basic Reading Commands

To have Fire Vox read through the entire page automatically, use Auto Read. The default is Ctrl + Shift + A.

To have manual control over Fire Vox and have it read forward by one web page element, use Read Forward. The default is Ctrl + Shift + F.

To have Fire Vox read the previous web page element, use Read Previous. The default is Ctrl + Shift + D.

To have Fire Vox repeat the current web page element, use Repeat. The default is Ctrl + Shift + E.

To have Fire Vox read the text that you have selected, use Say Selected Text. The default is Ctrl + Shift + O.

To have Fire Vox stop speaking, use Stop Speaking. The default is Ctrl + Shift + C. Note that this command will also stop the Auto Read if Fire Vox is auto reading a web page. When you begin reading again, Fire Vox will resume at the element after the last element it read as long as you have not moved the cursor.

Navigation Commands

To bring up a list of all the headings categorized by level, use List of Headings. The default is Ctrl + Shift + H.

To bring up a list of all the elements on a page categorized by element, use List of Elements. The default is Ctrl + Shift + L. The headings category here will include all the headings regardless of level. For the form elements, the default is to identify the type of element and its status. If you do not wish to have this extra information, you can turn it off by going into Fire Vox Options and unchecking "Verbose Form Elements List."

(a more complete tutorial is here)

FireVox is still too complicated for young children, or others with limited capabilities, but it now is truly workable for those with computer skills, and, of course, it adds the full-self-voicing browser option to Mac Firefox users.

- Ira Socol

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