Welcome to the January 2018 edition of AppleVis Unlimited, our monthly series which aims to highlight what's new and noteworthy on the AppleVis website. Below, you'll find a selection of the best content posted to AppleVis - from new app entries, to app updates, to the latest news and podcasts. For easier navigation, the major sections of this post are at heading level 3, and each individual item is at heading level 4.
New and Noteworthy App Entries
Geekbench 4 (iOS, US$0.99)
Geekbench provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.
Current Version: 4.2.1 (January 3, 2018)
Huboodle (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
With SIX fun games, chat functionality, and 100% voiceover accessibility, Huboodle sets the standard for social gaming. Advance your level by playing any one of the five games and then share (or taunt) your results with friends using the in game chat!
- Trivia Trail
- Pirate Poker
- Barracks Blackjack
- Word War
- Battle Cats
- Word Builder
New games added all the time!
Huboodle is 100% voiceover accessible and fun for all to play. Available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese to allow you to test your skill against opponents all over the world!
Current Version: 2.0 (January 31, 2018)
JustBlog - Simple blogging for Wordpress (macOS, Free)
With JustBlog you can easily and quickly publish posts to one or several Wordpress blogs.
JustBlog is very simple and only supports plain text and HTML tags. Pictures and other special characters are not supported. Existing posts can not be edited with JustBlog. JustBlog is only for publish quick new posts to your blog.
JustBlog uses the XML-RPC interface that is enabled by default since WordPress 3.5.
Current Version: 1.0.8 (June 17, 2017)
QuickBooks Self Employed (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Are you self-employed, a freelancer or an independent contractor? Organize your finances with QuickBooks Self-Employed and let us help you find your tax deductions! Put more money in your pocket with this convenient mile tracker, expense tracker, invoice generator and tax deductions estimator.
QuickBooks Self-Employed users have found billions in potential tax deductions by using this automatic mileage tracker, attaching receipts to business expenses, creating invoices and categorizing business expenses while separating from your personal finances and get all the tax refunds a self-employed business owner is entitled to!
Current Version: 4.27.0 (January 26, 2018)
All recent app entries posted to AppleVis can be found at:
Notable App Updates
Autour (iOS, Free)
Autour is an eyes-free mobile system designed to give blind users a better sense of their surroundings. Although other systems emphasize navigation from one specific location to another, typically accomplished by explicit turn-by-turn instructions, Autour uses spatialized audio to reveal the kind of information that visual cues such as neon signs provide to sighted users. Once users notice a point of interest, additional details are available on demand.
Current Version: 1.7.0 (January 25, 2018)
Changes in Version 1.7.0
Autour can now be remote-controlled using ICADE game pads ! This works on both the main screen and for menu navigation, if the game pad has at least the four arrows plus the main four buttons. Go see 2 new settings about this in the settings menu, and consult instructions manual in the About menu. There is also a new menu called "Menu for this place", which lists actions that are relative to the last spoken place. You get it by swiping down from the main screen and it offers to go to Google Maps and Apple Plans, just as in the Other menu, except in this case it asks for directions to the specified place (even though the place is very close, it still helps some users). The setting for choosing upside-down use (neck pouch) now has an option so that tilting the phone is no longer used for switching modes (instead you can switch modes from the main menu or using a game pad button). A new setting allows to start sweeping or beaming as soon as you switch modes. History now sets cursor correctly when going forward past the end. Multiple-choice settings now say directly what is the current setting (instead of having to go back inside the chooser).
Meanwhile, on the server, a hundred more public transportation agencies were added. Those have been available since last summer, in all previous versions of the app.
Blindfold Wildcard (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Blindfold Wildcard is a fully accessible card game that is a variant of the game "UNO" for both sighted and visually impaired people, designed for rapid audio play.
Blindfold Wildcard includes several modes of play, such as discard or draw, and discard or draw until you can discard. Since there are many rules choices for the game, you can customize it for many of those rules. You play against the computer.
The cards are not visible; instead, you play by listening. You can flick up or down to hear the cards, and tap to play a card or draw from the deck. A complete guide to the gestures is included in the help.
Blindfold Wildcard tells you if a card can be played. You can customize the game to your liking: how much extra information is spoken and how quickly it is spoken.
Current Version: 3.0.9 (January 22, 2018)
Changes in Version 3.0.8
Minor bug fixes. Added braille display support.
Envision AI (iOS, Free to download but requires subscription)
Envision is an app that lets visually impaired people go about their everyday life in an independent and meaningful way. Envision provides information based on what you see, for example, when you look at a watch, it tells you the time, etc.
Use envision by tapping at the center of the screen and it would describe the scene for you.…
You can also train faces and objects for the envision for recognize.
Current Version: 1.0.1 (January 29, 2018)
Changes in Version 1.0
We are finally moving on to our version 1.0! First of all, huge thanks to all of you who have supported us over the past months with active feedback. The app is now a lot more functional and accessible because of that Here's what this new update entails:
- The app is now moving into a subscription model. The users start off with a free trial, but then choose one of the three affordable packages. We have done our best to ensure that we can continue to maintain, innovate and improve on this service, without it being too heavy in your pockets. We look forward to your support.
- We have also added another way for you to reach out to us if you need further assistance or help with anything on the app. You can now "Request a Call" from within the Help Menu and we will reach out to you at the earliest and resolve whatever may be the issue you are facing.
- The app is now completely accessible in Polish. Special thanks to our power user Rafal Lukacz who generously helped us out with it. Please do reach out to us if you would like to help us translate our app into your language as well.
There is plenty more that we have in store for you and cannot wait for you to try out the things we have brewing in the lab here. Looking forward to engaging with more of you on our Facebook and Twitter page.
Speech Central: Text to Speech (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Fully featured text to speech app. The first app ever to feature the interactive web on the go. Users can interact with web sites and RSS feeds and pick articles to be read aloud by using headphone or Bluetooth hands-free buttons.
Functions of those audio buttons can be customized which results in high productivity and accessibility. The app is tested to be accessible with VoiceOver by legally blind users. It can be used as an assistive technology and helper for people with visual impairments and disabilities like dyslexia (dyslexia friendly font is included in the app). Bookshare, an accessible online library is integrated into the app.
Add a web article to be read aloud from any app that can share a web site link (including any web browser) – just press the Share button in it and starting the speech or saving the text to be read aloud later is only a tap away.
The app is not just a voice reader of the internet content, you can import various text file formats to be read aloud - supported document types are: PDF, Microsoft Word (.docx), Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx), OpenOffice/LibreOffice (.odt, .odp), .html, .txt, .rtf, supported ebook formats are .epub, DAISY and .fb2 and emails in .eml format. All those formats will work only if a document has no DRM.
Current Version: 3.5 (January 17, 2018)
Changes in Version 3.5
- Navigation panel is enhanced with a new screen that contains commands that previously could be accessed only with the headphones.
- New command to spell the current sentence
Twitterrific 5 for Twitter (iOS, Free With In-App Purchase)
Twitterrific is the award-winning, elegant Twitter client that’s easy to understand and a delight to use. Tweeting has never been simpler or so much fun!
Browse Twitter free from the clutter of promoted tweets. Use Muffles to hide tweets containing words, phrases, people and hashtags from the timeline that you don't want to see. Customize fonts, avatar sizes, image thumbnails and more via the theme panel. Quickly respond to tweets, change accounts or view conversation threads with a minimum of effort using gestures. Rich media support including multiple images & Twitter animated GIFs.
Robust VoiceOver support means Twitterrific is fully accessible for users with vision impairments. Extensive keyboard shortcuts make Twitterrific a breeze to use with an external keyboard.
Current Version: 5.18.3 (January 17, 2018)
Changes in Version 5.18.3
Added haptics, chronological threads, a new unread indicator, improved some performance and fixed a bunch of bugs.
- Threads now always display in chronological order for consistency
- Toggling retweet/like now updates the UI immediately
- Added haptic feedback when liking/retweeting
- Added haptic feedback when pulling to refresh
- Adjusted sizing/behavior of the reference tweet when replying/quoting
- Tap the reference tweet to expand / collapse it when composing
- More space when composing on devices with small screens
- Re-positioned the unread indicator dot after the timestamp (less distracting)
- Configuring push notifications and viewing the Today view works from behind more firewalls and proxies
- Added a Report Abuse option to the tweet actions menu
- Copy-protected Twitter videos open a browser instead of a static image
- Improved performance in various places
- Fixed instances when the Image viewer failed to display hi-resolution media
- Fixed an old decoding bug that could cause truncated tweets when translating
- Fixed an accessibility bug that prevented selection of the thread/replies switch when viewing discussions with VoiceOver
- Fixed an accessibility bug that sometimes prevented VoiceOver from being able to access the save search button
- Fixed an issue where the app thought it was still streaming when in fact it had disconnected
- Fixed retweet/like/location badges from appearing behind the notch on an iPhone X in landscape
- Removed support for Storify since they are shutting down
- Keyboard shortcut for switching tabs changed from "Control-Tab" to "Option-Tab"
Recent News and Views
Reading Bilingual Books on iOS is An Albatross, and Something should be Done about It
By Amir | January 28, 2018
Apple's iOS operating system doesn't suffer from a paucity of ebook readers. In fact, the situation is so exemplary that one might ask for advice when it comes to selecting between the $14.99 Voice Dream Reader and the free but feature-rich Dolphin EasyReader. And I haven't yet mentioned Apple's very own ebook reader and purchasing hub, iBooks, which is to be called Books in an upcoming iOS update. Oh, and let's not forget Google Play Books, NOOK and Amazon Kindle. These are all accessible and you can even purchase extra high-quality voices for some of them to enhance your reading experience. Guys, we're practically spoiled! But I'll be Panglossian if I claim reading all sorts of books on iOS is a pleasant experience because, well, it isn't.
What's wrong with book reader apps on iOS?
The issue of complicated, nonstandard tables and graphs aside, nothing will go wry as long as your chosen book is monolingual. That is, as long as the text of your book is in a single language, you won't encounter hurdles. But as soon as you reach a line, sentence or paragraph written in a different language, you'll notice the problem.
To make the record straight, however, a clarification is in order.
VoiceOver itself is perfectly capable of altering the TTS engine voice and switching to the proper language as soon as it detects text written in a different language. Needless to say, this hinges on the proper use of language tags. So if a French block of text isn't specified as being French, VoiceOver can't make the switch and the culprit is to be found elsewhere. However, in spite of the fact that VoiceOver is a consummate multilingual screen reader, most -- if not all -- book readers on iOS aren't, and this shortcoming manages to torpedo the pleasure of reading bilingual or multilingual books and passages -- stuff mostly found in educational offerings.
Apple Releases iOS 11.2.5; With a Focus on Security and Under the Hood Improvements
By AppleVis | January 23, 2018
Apple has today released iOS 11.2.5 to the public.
According to Apple's release notes, via MacRumors, this update includes the following changes.
HomePod support: Setup and automatically transfer your Apple ID, Apple Music, Siri and Wi-Fi settings to HomePod.
Siri News: Siri can now read the news, just ask, "Hey Siri, play the news". You can also ask for specific news categories including Sports, Business or Music.
Other improvements and fixes
- Addresses an issue that could cause the Phone app to display incomplete information in the call list
- Fixes an issue that caused Mail notifications from some Exchange accounts to disappear from the Lock screen when unlocking iPhone X with Face ID
- Addresses an issue that could cause Messages conversations to temporarily be listed out of order
- Fixes an issue in CarPlay where Now Playing controls become unresponsive after multiple track changes
- Adds ability for VoiceOver to announce playback destinations and AirPod battery level
In addition, It has been reported that this update addresses a bug that allowed a malicious link to freeze the Messages app.
We have not discovered any noticeable outward-facing changes during our testing, so it's possible that this update focuses mainly on this security vulnerability; along with other bug fixes and under the hood improvements. We will update this post if we learn of any notable changes.
Based on our testing, we believe blind and low vision users will find no accessibility changes in iOS 11.2.5.
In regard to possible new bugs for VoiceOver users, there is a problem with Lock Screen notifications which we are not completely sure is new in iOS 11.2.5, but-if not-is certainly far more prevalent. Specifically, accessing and using the VoiceOver Actions menu on Lock Screen notifications can be frustratingly unreliable. When flicking up or down on a notification, you may find that VoiceOver simply repeats the notification instead of providing access to rotor options )such as Clear or More). From our experience, it may take several attempts before it works correctly.
Apple Releases macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, watchOS 4.2.2 and tvOS 11.2.5
By AppleVis | January 23, 2018
Along with the release of iOS 11.2.5, today has also seen the releases of macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, watchOS 4.2.2 and tvOS 11.2.5.
According to MacRumors, today's macOS release focuses on security and under the hood improvements:
No major outward-facing changes were discovered in macOS High Sierra 10.13.3 during the beta testing period, but according to Apple's release notes, it brings security and feature improvements.
The update offers additional fixes for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that were discovered and publicized in early January and initially fixed in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2.
We also know that the update fixes a bug that allowed the App Store menu in System Preferences to be unlocked with any password. Aside from those changes, Apple's release notes say that the update "addresses an issue that could cause Messages conversations to be temporarily listed out of order."
Our own testing of macOS 10.13.3 suggests that there are no accessibility-related changes, regressions or improvements.
For iOS Developers: Taking Your Accessibility from Good to Great
By Lysette Chaproniere | January 8, 2018
What does it mean to make a truly accessible app? How can you go beyond meeting minimum accessibility standards and make something that VoiceOver users will find intuitive and enjoy using? In this post, I want to try to answer those questions from a user's perspective. I will not be covering the code you should use; instead, I am trying to describe what makes an app easy to use for me, as a VoiceOver user, and I encourage members of the community to add their own views in the comments. Please note that I am assuming you already understand the basics: why accessibility is important, what VoiceOver is, and some of the most common gestures for navigating around the screen. If you do not already know this, please refer to Apple's iOS accessibility page. My focus here is on iOS, but some of the general principles will apply to other platforms. This post is almost exclusively about accessibility for blind users, but if you are a user with another disability, or with some remaining vision, I encourage you to leave a comment explaining what developers can do to make their apps easier to use for you.
Full Braille Display Support Comes To Blindfold Wildcard
By Scott Davert | January 5, 2018
This post is a follow up to my post from December, Braille Display Users Deserve Better From Blindfold Games. In this post, I acknowledged the efforts of Marty for speech users, but pointed out the lack of accessibility for braille display users. While the use of a display is a luxury for some, for the deaf-blind this is not the case, as a display must be relied upon for access to information on a mobile device. As someone who used speech in the past, and no longer has that ability due to hearing loss, I went from being able to play these games to being unable to do so when I began struggling to understand TTS solutions. An enjoyable pastime became stressful and frustrating, and playing these games with speech is now an impossibility for me.
After posting the above linked article, many comments followed. Several of these were from the developer who decided to engage with the community on this issue. As the comments started rolling in, Marty informed us that he was working on a version of Blindfold Wildcard which would address the needs of braille display users.
Today, Marty released a new version of Blindfold Wildcard which works well for users of braille displays. For the first time in over three years, I was able to enjoy a Blindfold game as many of my hearing counterparts do, and feel included instead of excluded. I would like to close this post by expressing my appreciation to Marty for his efforts to make this game playable by deaf-blind users. It is my hope that games released in the past, as well as those to come in future which do not rely on audio for play will contain an alternative screen layout such as the one developed for the latest version of Blindfold Wildcard. The Blindfold series of games are a fun stress-relieving activity which I am beginning to rediscover due to the recently implemented accessibility changes. Thanks to those who beta tested the braille display layout, and offered feedback! You have my gratitude.
Yo, Human! Scripting Events in the System: Accessing Life with Adaptive Technology
By Nicholas | January 4, 2018
In my previous post, "Mac Scripting, Hello World", we looked at 'tell blocks' where indented commands could be sent to specific applications. The commands were indented one tab spot, while the blocks were finished off with an 'end tell' command. There are several types of blocks, tell blocks, if blocks and repeat blocks to name a few.
I'm Blocking it Out
In this post I wanted to expand on the idea of blocks of code. In particular, a block in a block. An outer block with a double indented block inside. In this case, a repeat block embedded inside a tell block. All of this blockiness has me turning into a block head. I wish I could just copy and paste this stuff into the Editor. Oh wait...
Lost Down the Block
The title pretty much says it all. Some of my code blocks get pretty long. Plus I end up with sub-blocks that are double-indented, some with triple indents. I finally get to the line I was looking for and then I can't remember what I was going to do here. I often get lost down the block now, without ever leaving my computer chair. :-)
Ignoring the Commentary
You can add comments to your scripts in two different ways. Comments are completely ignored by AppleScript. When your script is run, it will jump past any comments it finds and continue running your script. You can use comments in any way you wish, as long as you enter them into the script with the proper symbols. For now, lets call them Line Comments and Block Comments.
AirPods vs Aftershokz: Comparing Two Popular Audio Options
By Alex Hall | January 1, 2018
For years, I've used bone conduction headphones from [Aftershokz](http://www.aftershokz.com]. A few weeks ago, I got myself an early Christmas present: a set of Apple's AirPods, the wireless earbuds Apple released in late 2016. I'd heard a lot about AirPods, and had held a set some days prior to my purchase, which physical handling finally pushed me over the edge and sent me to the nearest store that had my new toy in stock.
Having used Aftershokz for years, and having eschewed earbuds as a rule all that time, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. Many people love AirPods, and many blind people also love Aftershokz, so a resource talking specifically about the two seemed like a good idea. This article is meant to explore where one device is better than the other, what each could learn from the other, and which you may want to consider. Before you read what follows, though, you will want to be sure you understand what Aftershokz headsets are. I therefore direct you to my review of the Aftershokz Bluez 2. This review is of an older model, but the principles, and even physical controls, are the same in the newest Aftershokz as in the one in that article. The newest model, the Trekz Titanium, is lighter, sturdier, has better sound, leaks sound far less, and, to me, is more comfortable than the Bluez 2.
This Month in Podcasts
AppleVis Unleashed #1: Lots of Apple News to Kick Off our New Podcast
In the first of what is planned to be a monthly series, Thomas Domville, Randy Rusnakk and Mike Malarsie get together to talk about recent Apple news and topics of interest.
Topics featured in this podcast include:
The release of iOS 11.2.5
The release of Apple's HomePod smart speaker
What Is Apple ‘Text Bomb’ Bug? This Simple Message Crashes iPhones and Macs
Let Siri play you the latest news
Everything to Know About Apple Slowing iPhones Because of Old Batteries
Apple’s No Good Very Bad Security Quarter
Apple says Meltdown and Spectre flaws affect all Mac and iOS devices
Significant Apple investors put pressure on Apple to add better parental control features to iPhones and iPads
Apple made a section of the App Store to highlight apps that offer free trials
Swapping words for emoji using the VoiceOver rotor
Full Braille Display Support Comes To Blindfold Wildcard
new Huboodle app released by developers of Dice World
You can contact the Unleashed Team with feedback or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Test your musical knowledge with Blindfold Song Name
In this podcast, Abby introduces us to Blindfold Song Name, a free iOS app that is a fully accessible music game inspired by the TV Game Show "Name That Tune".
In each turn, you first hear all of the song title choices. Then you will hear the song. As soon as you know which song it is, tap the screen, and then swipe up or down to your answer, then double tap. If your answer is correct, the faster you picked your answer, the more points you scored. You keep playing until you get 3 answers wrong.
Blindfold Song Name comes with 3 games: Name the song, Name the song with the same artist, and Name the artist.
Blindfold Song Name on the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-song-name/id1290989842?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8&at=11l4LS
Reach out and Touch the new Braille Features in iOS 11
IN this podcast, Scott Davert demonstrates and discusses the changes for braille display users in iOS 11 and later. How to set up type to Siri, braille captioning, how to customize braille keyboard commands, and the new settings in the braille menu are covered.
A complete list of all podcasts posted to the AppleVis website can be found at www.applevis.com/podcasts