Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc. - VoiceOver Accessibility

Hi,

I am ‘officially blind’ and have, for some time, been interested in finding a crossword puzzle app for iOS that was accessible using VoiceOver. By chance, after acquiring a crossword app for my wife, to replace one that was no longer supported and did not run on iOS 9, I came across Crosswords by Stand alone Inc. (SAI).

When we first downloaded it I realized it had some VoiceOver capabilities. I wrote to SAI with some comments and suggestions. SAI asked me to beta test a new version that they were working on. I had beta tested other apps for VoiceOver compatibility,, including Voice Dream Reader and Writer, by Winston Chen and Launcher by Cromulent Labs byGreg Gardner, so I agreed to test Crosswords.

After two or three months of testing and suggestions from me SAI has made Crosswords a reasonably accessible app using VoiceOver. For the first time for some time I can now complete a crossword puzzle, the most difficult part being the solution to the clues!

I believe SAI still have a number of improvements that they want to make to Crosswords and that they consider it ‘a work in progress’. However, I believe that many low vision people would be interested in giving Crosswords a try in its present form. I also think that it would be good if an organisation like AppleVis could put Crosswords through its paces and see if they can suggest any improvements to make it more accessible. As I mentioned earlier I have a significant degree of low vision but it would be good if other people with low vision give it a try. It may not yet be suitable for someone who is completely blind but it may b possible for them to use the app with some help from a sighted person.

The Crosswords app can be downloaded free from the Apple iTunes App Store and this free version includes some free crosswords puzzles.

The Crosswords app can be downloaded from the App Store at:
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/crosswords/id688876601?mt=8

There is no Help section in the app but there is a link to Stand Alone’s web site which includes a useful FAQ section. The address for this is:
http://standalone.com/iphone/crosswords/faq#faq-auto-jump

Robert Stacey

Forum: 

#1 What about Four Down?

I may be mistaken, but I thought Four Down was a fully accessible crossword puzzle app. Also, if you like accessible word games and haven't done so already, you might want to try seven little words. I'm addicted to that game. Thanks for the info about the app you tested, though. It sounds pretty neat.

#2 Initial Thoughts about Crosswords

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I've been an enthusiast of crosswords forever and I am very excited about what I've seen so far. I have played with Four Down and Crossly and like them both very much. They both have built-in puzzles though and I want an app that imports mainstream puzzles that I can share and do with others i.e. from newspapers. This app does that.

In my initial trial, I believe it is workable and functional. The first problem I encountered is the ability to navigate the edit window for entering your answers; I think the app calls them clues. Anyway, when you enter an answer, it's hard to know what column you are on - whether it is starting on the first, second third et. letter. It would be nice to be able to move in that edit box like any edit window and go ahead by letter or word. I've found that if you turn off many of the settings like timer, show all clues, jump to next clue, it helps.

Are you able to share some of your own experiences? Thanks again,

Richard

#3 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Missy,

Four Down looks like an interesting crossword puzzle app and appears to have good accessibility using VoiceOver. However, it does not have access to daily downloads from newspapers and other sources of daily crosswords. Also, my wife likes the Globe and Mail and Independent newspaper cryptic crosswords which are not available in Four Down.

Thanks for the recommendations.

#4 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Richard,

Glad you found Crosswords promising, Stand Alone are still working on the Accessibility features and I am sure it will get better with input from low vision users. Could you give me an idea of how much sight you have? I, fortunately, still ahve sufficient vision to see the layout of the puzzle playing screen. So I will first describe the layout of this screen in portrait mode as it appears on an iPad:

The top menu bar has buttons that are self explanatory.
The main screen is divided into three main parts, the crossword grid, where the solutions are typed. This grid fils most of the screen extending from the top left forming a square area extending about two thirds the width and depth of the iPad screen.
The right hand third of the screen has the clue list consisting of the Across clues at the top and the Down clues at the bottom.
The bottom third of the screen is occupied by the keyboard extending the full width of the screen.
Above the keyboard is a menu bar containig buttons to move to previous and next clues (Note: when using these buttons the already completed clues are skipped).
A central window in this menu bar gives the currently selected clue and the intersecting clue in the other direction. You can double tap on this window to flip the selection between the two intersecting clues (if an intersecting clue is available).
Other buttons allow one to choose other crosswords from a pop-up list and a 'Square Options' button which has a pop-up menu allowing one to reveal or check the solutions and clear all errors.

In the Stand Alone's FAQ (see link in original post or visit it from the 'About' panel in Settings in the app) they give the folowing information about navigating the crossword grid (for sighted players):

"How do I navigate the puzzle grid?
You can simply tap on the squares in the puzzle grid. If you're playing in portrait mode, the left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen move you to the next/previous clue. You can also 'swipe' the clue bar with your finger to advance to the next available adjacent square. If you're playing in landscape mode, you can simply tap on the clues to navigate the grid"

This is not completely available to VO users but you can do the following:
1. Tap on a grid square to move the VO cursor to that square and the grid coordinates are read first, then the clue number and than the clue is read out.
2. Double tap and the square highlights the entire word space and a second double tap changes the selection from Across to Down or vice versa. A double tap and hold brings up the 'Square Options' menu.
3. With the VO cursor on a grid square one can swipe let or right ro move the cursor up or down the grid colums. But, you have to double tap to highlight the grid square or, in other words, place the text insertion point in that grid square.
Probably the 'safest' way of navigating the grid is by the Previous and Next clue buttons in the menu bar above the keyboard or by the clue list itself When using the clue list one can move the VO cursor to the clue list and than swipe left or right to move the cursor up or down the list. To select a clue so that one can enter the solution you double tap it. However, if you double tap again it moves the grid selection to the corresponding clue in the other direction BUT, and I think this is a fault in Crosswords, it continues to read out the original clue.

I hope that helps to some extent. It can be a bit of a learning curve and not everything works just the way you expect.

One more tip, if you can still see to some extent, you can turn off VO and do the pinch out gesture on the crossword grid to enlarge it then turn VO on again. As you select clues from the clue list or by using the buttons on the menu bar the grid moves around, automatically, to keep the currently selected grid position in view.

#5 Accessible crossword puzzle app

Thank you, Rob, for posting about Stand Alone Crosswords. I tested their app on my iPhone a couple years ago and didn't find it accessible enough to play comfortably. I, fortunately, have no useable vision, so any app I find accessible can be used, whether a person has low vision or none.
I've been a crossword enthusiast for years, and I did find an accessible crossword puzzle app. It's called Penny Dell crosswords. THey are a mainstream crossword puzzle company with daily puzzles, monthly puzzle magazines, and collections available for purchase. THe app is somewhat quirky, and a VO user has to be careful where letters are entered, but it is fully accessible. THis is still true, despite the grid itself being "invisible" to VO. I've been meaning to submit an app directory entry about this app for a while. THanks for the push to get this done.

#6 Accessible Crosswords App

Rob,
I do not have any vision at all. I appreciate the explanation of the screen and how it appears. Functionally though, I've found that the main hint area allows you to read through the across or down hints. When reading the down hints though, it doesn't go from hint to hint as I believe it follows the across letters. The simplest way to use it for now is to pick a hint, across or down, and use the previous/next clues to go from one to the other. Double tapping on the hint at the bottom will switch from across to down. Entering the answer still baffles me'; I don't know why it doesn't start at the first letter at times. For a totally blind person, it seems to me that just a read-out of the hint,, number of letters in the answer, ability to switch from across to down at each hint, indication of the letters filled in and blanks left, easy edit window to fill in the answer, and ability to check the correctness, is all we need. I don't think a whole-board view is so crucial.

Richard

#7 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Richard,

OK. First we should get our terminology correct. What you describe as ‘hints’ are normally called ‘clues’ and what you type into the grid I call ‘solutions.

The following description applies to the iPad in Portrait orientation:

If you four finger tap at the top of the screen you first get the puzzles button (which takes you back to the puzzle library)) Swiping right first takes you to the name of the puzzle (which is a button that reveals the details of the puzzle, which you have to double tap again to close). Then you get Settings.

The next swipe right takes you to the top of the Clues list, which is located down the right side of the screen. The clue list starts with the heading ‘Across’. If you continue to swipe right the VO cursor travels down the list of clues in numeric order. Each clue is read out including the clue number, Across or Down and the number of letters in the solution. If any of the squares in the solution are filled in it reads out the blank and letters. If the clue has been solved it reads out the solution (it reads out the letters and solution whether they are right or wrong!), I have suggested to the developer that it should give a VO prompt if the letters are incorrect if one has chosen to Reveal Errors in the Settings. Currently the errors are shown visually if one has chosen that option. Note to low vision users: select the ‘Inverted’ option as this is more visible than the red text.

When one has moved the VO cursor to a clue that one can solve, double tap. The Clue is highlighted and the corresponding location on the grid is highlighted. The highlighting consists of a yellow square, where the next letter will be typed and the rest of the solution area is highlighted in blue. If the solution area is completely blank the text insertion point, the yellow square, is at the first letter of the solution. If one or more of the first letters of the solution have been input correctly (it ignores incorrect letters) the yellow insertion point jumps to the first empty square. This happens even if you have turned off ‘Skip filled squares’.

If you have ‘Skip filled squares’ turned on any other squares that have the correct letter will be skipped as you type and VO will announce it is skipping that letter.

If you use the next and previous buttons on the menu bar above the keyboard you get the same thing but completed solutions are skipped, even if they are wrong, I think. However, if you use the clue window above the keyboard for anything other than having it read out the current clue, by double tapping it, for example. Or if you use the ’Switch orientation’ button you will be taken to the corresponding clue in the other direction, if one exists. However, this clue in the other direction may be part way along the solution and the yellow text input point may not be at the beginning of the solution. To get out of this situation it is probably best to go to the previous or next clue, using the buttons on the menu bar, and than back to the clue one started with. This always puts the cursor on the first empty square of the solution.

I hope this helps.

If you have time it would be a good idea to send feedback to Stand Alone. you can do this from the About button in Settings. The more constuctive feedback they receive from low vision or blind people the better the app could become.

#8 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for recommending Penny Dell Crosswords. I downloaded it and gave it a brief try. Here are my initial comments:

The first problem was getting into the app and the puzzle library. It was very confusing and I still don’t know how I eventually got there!

Second problem was that the app only has access to Penny Dell’s own crosswords. One cannot download puzzles from daily news papers or other crossword providers.

With regard to actually solving a puzzle I found the interface very strange. For example I could find no way of getting a list of all the clues. The clues only came up one at a time.

With regard to VoiceOver accessibility I found it very poor. Non of the buttons in the top menu bar were labeled and the clues were not read out until one clicked on the clue window below the puzzle grid. The grid itself was completely ‘invisible’ to VO.

The only positive thing I can report was that the text entry field below the clue window was a good idea. But, once again the VO performance was poor even in this respect.

I noticed that you were the author of the article on this app on the AppleVis website so you may be involved with Penny Dell in some way. But, if not, you might be interested in giving Stand Alone’s Crosswords another try now that they have improved the VO compatibility.

#9 exporting and sharing puzzles in Crosswords

Rob,

Thanks, that helps a lot to navigate around. I will be sure to comment to Stand Alone. I haven't purchased the full version yet and have one question. Are you able to share/export puzzles that you are working on? My partner and I often send puzzles back and forth and work on them together. Would I be able to send her a partially completed puzzle and receive it back again?

Richard

#10 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Richard,

I have not tried the puzzle syncing feature but, according to Stand Alone's FAQ, it can be done. And they recommend using the Stand Alone account option.

Here is what they say, copied from FAQ:
http://standalone.com/iphone/crosswords/faq#faq-grid-navigation

How do I set up puzzle syncing?
To set up puzzle syncing, enable your Game Center account when prompted (if you're using an iOS device), or create a Crosswords Account. You can enable these by tapping on the Settings gear, then scroll down and tap on the Account option.
Once your account has been enabled, tap Puzzle Sync to turn syncing to 'ON'. Make sure you've enabled the same account on any devices that you want to sync to.
Can I use my Game Center account to sync puzzle progress?
If you're using Crosswords for iOS 9, then yes (unfortunately there's a bug in Crossword Light that currently prevents Game Center syncing)! Just make sure you enabled your account via Settings and that 'Puzzle Sync' is toggled to 'ON'. Syncing via Game Center from Crosswords for iOS 9 to Crosswords for Mac will be available in a future Crosswords for Mac update.
My puzzles aren't syncing!
Please note that only puzzle progress is synced; puzzle lists are not. Puzzle progress is only synced when you open up a puzzle, close a puzzle, or turn off your device. Simply download a previously played puzzle from another device in Crosswords, then open it. You should be prompted that a saved solution is available. Click 'Update' and your prior puzzle progress will be inserted into the puzzle.
If you're not seeing a 'Saved Solution Available' dialog, try exiting out of the puzzle on the original device and open a new puzzle. Then re-open the same puzzle in your secondary device.
Multiplayer, Leader Boards and Accounts

#11 Completed my First Beginner Puzzle

Well, I am very happy to say that I've completed my first puzzle in its entirety. It is one of the 40 puzzles included in the program. As a totally blind user of the program, I am getting more comfortable with the app. I wrote to StandAlone thanking them and making a few suggestions: 1. a solution box that provides more mobility i.e. moving from one letter to the next or back again, 2. a lock for completed/corrected solutions just in case the fingers slip, 3. a way to change direction on a single word and be given all the crossed hints for the missing letters attached thereto, 4. A way of identifying incorrect letters immediately or in the alternative, a button to confirm correctness without going into actions. These are some of my suggestions but I am ecstatic with what the app can do at present. I will look to upgrade real soon; just a few more test runs.

Richard

#12 Crosswords by Stand Alone Inc.

Hi Richard,

Sounds good. I have been going to write to you all day to let you know that Last night I solved a crossword in Crosswords with the screen blanked out by using Screen Curtain.. Like you have, I found a few problems with VO accessibility, most of which I have already reported to Stand Alone. I will give some of my findings below.

To solve the puzzle I generally used the method I had described in an earlier post to you. I used a combination of the clue list and the Next and Previous buttons (with a liberal sprinkling of 'Switch Orientation', etc.). Relying more and more on the Next/Previous buttons as the solution progressed. The biggest problem is the lack of VO feedback for incorrect entries. Also I found what is a bug when deleting letters. When backspacing to delete Crosswords normally announces the letter being deleted. However if one has typed an mistake just before a correct letter which is already in the solution the cursor skips this letter (assuming you have this option selected in Settings).You then have to backspace to remove the incorrect letter but Crosswords no longer announces the letters being deleted.

A 'work around' I used was to select 'Square Options' and choose "Clear all Errors'. I then know I have a grid with only correct entries, if any entries at all :-)

Something else I have found is that the Next and Previous buttons sometimes cannot be relied on to skip clues that have been solved. It doesn't happen in all puzzles but when it does it is annoying. In one case I found it was missing the only two clues I had not yet solved. I will report this to Stand Alone.

One 'feature' that I have not seen documented might be of interest. However, at the moment it gives no VO feedback. I will write to Stand Alone to ask them to fix this. Anyway, if you are interested here it is:

Select the Next or Previous button and double tap and hold. This pops-up a window with options to rearrange the menu bar. It allows one to place the Next and Previous buttons separately at each end of the menu bar or both together at the left or right end of the menu bar. This is not currently relevant to VO users as it does not change the, somewhat illogical, order of the buttons in this menu bar as they appear to VO users. But, here is the interesting part: At the bottom of this window are two buttons labeled 'Arrows move byClue' or 'Arrows move by Square'

The 'Arrows move by Clue' is the default setting but the other option allows one to move the text entry cursor, on the grid, one square at a time. If this was VO compatible it would be useful, albeit a bit inconvenient to select. I will add this to my list of requests to Stand Alone.

With regard to the comment I made about the illogical arrangement of the buttons in the lower menu bar. You may not fully realize this but the order in which the VO cursor moves in this menu is completely different to the actual arrangement. I have told Stand Alone about this and suggested a better arrangement, for VO users anyway, would be to have the Next and Previous buttons on each side of the clue window. The VO user could then locate the clue window, have the clue read out, and then flip right or left to access the Next or Previous buttons.

Stand Alone's developers seem to be preoccupied with some other project at the moment an they have not been as responsive as they have been.

Glad you are enjoying it.

#13 Thanks for the great feedback!

App Developer

Guys,
Thanks for the great feedback on Crosswords! Rob has been very helpful in adapting the app for VO usage, and getting more points of view definitely helps as well. We'll be releasing a new build incorporating some of the feedback here in the next few weeks.

Ben

#14 Family Sharing Crosswords Pro

Hi,

Can the upgraded crosswords after purchase be family shared? I've purchased the upgrade to pro but can't seem to family share the upgrade, thanks,

Richard

#15 Crosswords - Family Sharing

Hi Richard,

I don't use Family Sharing so have not tried it in Crosswords. According to the iTunes App store it is Family sharing capable.

If you are having problems with this feature I suggest you write directly to Stand Alone.

Rob Stacey

#16 Advantages to upgrading

Hi. What are the advantages of upgrading? I tried to and got a message saying the catalog wasn't available.

#17 Crosswords - Advantages of Upgrading

Hi Terra,

Are you running iOS 8 or 9? I Don't think Crosswords is compatible with earlier IOS.

Upgrading gives you access to many free daily puzzles from different sources and allows you to download puzzles from New York Times, etc. if you have a subscription to their puzzles. I don't know what you mean by 'catalog wasn't available'.

Here is an extract from Stand Alone's FAQ that might help:

Is Crosswords for iOS 9 really free?
Crosswords for iOS 9 is free to download, and comes with 40 free Starter Puzzles. You can purchase additional puzzle bundles within the app, as well as purchase an $9.99 in-app upgrade to allow you to download puzzles from a wide variety of puzzle providers.
Can I upgrade from Crosswords Classic to Crosswords Pro for iOS 8?
If you previously purchased Crosswords Classic, you can upgrade to the full version of Crosswords for iOS 9 for the discounted price of $3.99. That's a savings of $6.00!
To upgrade, simply tap on the 'Upgrade' option. As long as you have Crosswords Classic installed on your device, you should see the upgrade price listed as $3.99 instead of $9.99.
What if I can’t upgrade to iOS 8? How will I play puzzles?
You can continue to use and download new puzzles via Crosswords Classic, in iOS 8 or a prior iOS version, and we will continue to support Crosswords Classic with bug fixes. However, due to our focus on iOS 8 and future iOS updates, we will not be adding new features to Crosswords Classic.

#18 Latest ios still can't upgrade

I have the latest version of ios and I still get the catalog isn't available right now.

#19 Upgrading

Terra,

I would make sure that you are using Crosswords and not Crosswords Classic. The Crosswords Classic is compatible with the older iOs. Are you upgrading through Settings and upgrade in the app?

Earlier, I asked about family sharing and why my in-app purchase couldn't be used by a family shared member. I've been reading about family sharing and it seems that in-app purchases just like subscriptions can't be shared with family. I guess this is why it isn't working though if there's a way around it or if I'm found to be wrong, I'd be very happy about it.

Richard

#21 Upgrades

Hi. I saw crosswords classic for $9.99, but I have the one called crosswords

#22 Crosswords - Advantages of Upgrading

Terra,

You should definitely stick with Crosswords, I have no idea if Crosswords Classic is even accessible.

With regard to your problem upgrading I can only assume it is some sort of glitch with the iTunes Store. I cannot test this because I upgraded some time ago. Presumably Richard had no problem upgrading. You should try again.

Here is what Stand Alone say about Crosswords vs Crossword Classic:

What is the difference between Crosswords for iOS 9 and Crosswords Classic?
Crosswords for iOS 9 is a complete re-design of our award-winning Crosswords Classic for iPhone/iPad app, and optimizes the crossword playing experience for iOS 8.

#23 Re: Family Sharing Crosswords Pro

App Developer

Unfortunately, developers have no control over Family Sharing. We've certainly done nothing to disable it, so if it's not working, I'd suggest the standard iTunes dance:

- restart the app
- restart the device
- contact Apple App Store support.

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!

Ben

#24 Crosswords vs. Crosswords Classic

App Developer

Crosswords Classic is our older app. It's been updated to work on iOS 9, but is definitely not optimized for it. It's not accessible, and I wouldn't recommend it for users of this site. Crosswords, on the other hand, was rebuilt for iOS 7, and has been aggressively updated (for example, it no longer is compatible with iOS 7 due to changes we made for iOS 8 and 9).

Crosswords is free, and comes with 40 puzzles. If you upgrade, you'll receive a fresh batch of puzzles from around the web each day. Without upgrading, you'll still be able to play that initial batch of puzzles, or purchase additional packs.

Hope this helps!

Ben

#25 Making a Crosswords Account Instead of Game Center

I've been playing around with making a crosswords account under settings instead of using a game center account. My credentials don't seem to be able to be saved. Every time I exit from the app and re-enter, game center appears even though I've made a new account. Has anyone used syncing? I know what it says in the FAQ but I want to hear some real life examples of how I can use this feature.

One other feature I saw under actions is "loupe." Anyone know what this does?

As far as family sharing is concerned, I'm pretty convinced now that in-app purchases can't be shared. I appreciate Ben's suggestion but I think the only way around it would be to have an actual Crosswords Pro App which comes unlocked upon purchase. If this is the case, a family member could download that same version if shared.

#26 Family Sharing

App Developer

My apologies: apparently Apple does not support sharing In-App Purchases via Family Sharing (which is a bother, but easily worked around). Crosswords will make every attempt to restore its 'Pro' status, so, to get it on your other devices, try logging into the Original Purchaser's AppStore account, open the app, and it should be "Pro". Then you should be able to sign back in to your other user's account to retain access. Definitely not ideal, but hopefully Apple will extend In-App Purchase sharing in a future update.

Thanks!

Ben

#27 Loupe

Does anyone know what loupe in the actions menu does? Also, is there a way to download older puzzles from sources

#28 Crosswords - Getting Older Puzzles

Terra,

I don't know what you mean by "loupe in the actions menu" so I can't answer this.

To get older puzzles here is what Stand Alone say on their FAQ:

"But I want more puzzles! How do I play older puzzles?
You can download older puzzles from our archives by tapping the More button at the bottom of the provider/puzzle list screen then select the 'Older Puzzles'. Then all you have to do is choose which day you want puzzles from!"

To make this more clear I would add this:

On the Puzzle Library List page tap the title in the top menu bar and select the puzzle provider that you want to download older puzzles from. You should now see only the puzzles from this provider on your Puzzle List page. Click on the 'More' button at the bottom left of this page and select Older Puzzles from the pop-up menu. You can now select the date of the puzzle you want to download.

Note: This Older Puzzles option is not VoiceOver accessible. If you have some vision you may have to use Accessibility Zoom which can be turned on in the System Settings and then activated by double tapping with three fingers..

#29 Older puzzles

I will have to hope they make this accessible with voiceover in the future. I have no usable vision.

#30 Voiceover differences

Rob,

I think Voiceover takes some of the menus and re-names or re-locates things. For voiceover users, there is an "Actions" button that is on the bottom right corner of the screen. When you tap on it, it brings up the menu that has reveal clue, check clue, hints, loupe, enter rebus, clear all errors, and cancel. On the bottom of the screen, we have these buttons from left to right: back to puzzle list, view all clues, view puzzle info, and actions. Above these buttons is the keyboard with a backspace key at the very bottom right edge. Above the keyboard is Previous clue, the clue, and Nex clue. I find that if you tap and hold on any of them, eventually you can bring up the Actions menu. Above this is a listing of the clues but not the same listing as in the "view clues" screen.

Functionally, with voiceover, we only have access to enter in solutions, view clues, go back to the puzzle list etc. I've heard that there is a pen and pencil mode wich will freeze the solution but I don't know how to access this.

Richard

#31 Crosswords - iPad vs iPhone Layouts

Richard and Terra,

The reference to 'Loupe' in your posts and Richard's description made me realize that you must be using something other than an iPad to play Crosswords. I have found out that there is a significant difference between the iPad layout and iPhone layout. In some ways the iPhone layout may be easier to navigate with VoiceOver than the iPad because it has a menu below the keyboard (accessible by four finger tap near bottom of screen) and the the menu above the keyboard contains only the clue controls.

The iPad does not have the Loupe option, which I can only assume allows one to magnify the grid.

The iPhone my wife has is an iPhone 3 which has no VoiceOver and is too old to run Crosswords! So, if I didn't mention it before all my comments relate to using Crosswords on an iPad

#32 Update for Crosswords just Released

Hi All,

Just noticed that Crosswords has been updated. I'm very excited about it. Has anyone tried it and is there anything to report in terms of new accessible functions? Thanks,

Richard

#33 Crosswords version 3.59 VoiceOver changes:

Crosswords version 3.59 VoiceOver changes:

I asked the developer of Crosswords, Stand alone Inc. (SAI) to post a list of changes that have been made to Crosswords since version 3.58 in this AppleVis Forum . However, they have not yet responded to this request.

I will try to remember the changes that have been made and will list them below with an explanation if necessary.

First I should remind anyone reading this that I only have an iPad and all my comments relate to using Crosswords on that device. I have never used it on an iPhone.

I should mention the VO label on the Settings button, top right corner of screen, is missing in the new 3.59 version. I have reported this to the developer.

As I cannot be sure when these changes were made I will first give some changes that I think were made in version 3.58 that may have been missed by some users:

1. New icons were added to the top menu bar on the puzzle list page allowing one to select small or large size puzzle thumbnails. These icons are located to the left of the Settings button. The size of the puzzle thumbnails can also be changed by the pinch gesture with VO off. These icons have now been labeled correctly in v 3.59
2. With VO turned off one can swipe left on a puzzle thumbnail to reveal actions, Delete or Clear. With VO on this can be done by a double tap and hold then swipe left gesture on a selected puzzle thumbnail. The ‘Actions’ gesture, swipe up or down, to give these actions. is not available.
.
The following are changes affecting VO in v 3.59:

1. The date picker in the ‘Older Puzzles’, accessed by selecting the ‘More’ button in the bottom left of the puzzle list page, can now be used with VO on. Select the crossword puzzle group one wants the older puzzle from before selecting the ‘More’ button
2. In the Settings options (select button in top right of the puzzle list and puzzle playing screens) there is a new set of options titled ‘VoiceOver’. This set of options only appears when VoiceOver is on. Two new options are provided in this section: ‘Enable Smart Backspace’ and ‘Restart on Swap’.
Enable Smart Backspace: This option was added when I reported problems when backspacing over correct letters, VO did not announce letter deleted after skipping a correct letter. However, I cannot figure out what this option does (if anyone can find out what this option does please post explanation).
Restart on Swap: When this option is off the puzzle solution cursor on the grid remains in the same position when switching orientation by double clicking on the clue window. In some cases, after swapping orientation, the solution input cursor can be at a location in the solution which is not at the start of the solution. When Restart on Swap is on the solution entry cursor jumps to the first letter in the solution. This can be an advantage for people unable to see the solution grid. Note: when the cursor is placed at the start of the solution after swapping it is always on the first letter of the solution even when this first square contains a correct letter.
3. This may apply only to the iPad; In the previous version when the VO cursor was in the menu bar above the keyboard, on the puzzle playing screen, the movement of the VO cursor, from menu item to menu item, when swiping left or right was somewhat illogical and did not correspond to the actual location of the menu items. In version 3.59 the VO cursor movement has been improved and is now much more convenient and more intuitive.

Those are all the changes I can think of at the moment.

One problem that has not been fixed and has been present in all the versions of Crosswords I have used is this:
On the iPad, if one opens a puzzle in portrait orientation and then turns the iPad into landscape orientation the keyboard becomes unresponsive. If the iPad is turned bak to portrait orientation the keyboard works again. If one opens a puzzle while the iPad is in landscape orientation and then turns it to portrait the keyboard becomes unresponsive.
I have reported this to the developer on several occasions but, so far, without effect.
If anyone else has this problem and if this problem also exists on any other iOS device, please contact Stand alone Inc. and let them know.

#34 Latest release and selecting older puzzles

Hi. How do you select older puzzles? I have the screen with several dates but I can't figure out which ones have puzzles to download

#35 Re: Update for Crosswords just Released

App Developer

Richard,
We took care of a number of smaller bugs related to Voice Over. For features, we added the following:

- the contextual popup for a square is now accessible via the 'magic' gesture
- the popup is now presented as an accessible action sheet if Voice Over is on
- we standardized our alerts so that the Cancel option is consistently placed
- added accessibility to the "Older Puzzles" view so that you can download past puzzles
- cleared up the ordering of the clue and buttons in the clue bar (above the keyboard)

We're continually tweaking and adding to our Accessibility code, so there will be additional features added in future releases.

Thanks!

Ben

#36 Re: Crosswords version 3.59 VoiceOver changes:

App Developer

Richard,
We are still trying to track down the keyboard issue you've reported. We're not sure if this is an OS issue, an Accessibility issue, or a bug in our code, but we're working on it.

Thanks!

Ben

#37 Crosswords version 3.59 'Magic Gesture':

Ben referred to the 'Magic Gesture'. I looked up ‘magic gesture’, it is a two finger double tap. I use it all the time for various actions in different contexts. It can be used to start and stop music, start and stop dictation when in a text entry field, etc.

Nice to know that it can be used, when VoiceOver is on, in Crosswords to bring up the same pop-up menu as the ‘Square Options’ button brings up.

This same menu can also be brought up by a double tap and hold gesture on the grid. However, one has to be able to see where one is tapping to do this. The Magic Gesture does away with the need to see where one is tapping.

#38 Crosswords: Downloading Older Puzzles

Terra,

After selecting which 'Active Source' of puzzles or All Puzzles just double tap on the date you want to download in the Older Puzzles 'calendar'. Any puzzles that are available on that date will be downloaded for the specific Active Source or All Puzzles depending on which you have chosen.

#39 Crosswords version 3.59 'Magic Gesture':

Oops! My experience on the iPad is that he Magic Gesture only works if a clue has been selected by double clicking a clue in the clue list. If the clue is selected by tapping on the clue window above the keyboard or by the next or previous button the magic gesture starts playing the last audio track one was playing either from the Music app or from a streaming radio station, etc.

#40 Still having trouble

When I click on older puzzles I see dates but it just cycles through the same ones. I am using an iPhone. I see May and April and May, but no idea what year. Even three finger swiping up and down doesn't help. Any suggestions?

#41 Crosswords Older Puzzles

Terra,

I had only tried downloading older puzzles a day or two old, one week max, that worked fine. however, when I tried going back further with a three finger swipe the calendar would keep coming back the the current date, as you describe. I have let the developer know and they have already issued a new beta build that fixes this problem but they still need to do more. I hope a new version will be released soon that will fix this problem.

I am curious to know why you want to go back to puzzles older than a month, for example. If you have time to explain this it may help the developer to set up the date selection to accommodate your requirements.

#42 Older puzzles

Hi, I subscribe to Mew York Times crosswords and was just interested in downloading some of the older puzzles.

#43 My take on Stand-Alone Crosswords

I've just discovered this app, and I'm in love! I've been doing crosswords for well over fifty years, and this is basically it! It's a little verbose, and pretty fiddley, but it allows for total access to each square of the puzzle. I've done NY Times puzzles for years, using the SBG crossword program developed by Ian Humphreys. I can now, finally do them on my phone! I haven't yet figured out how to find a specific older puzzle from the Times archives, but there is a new, classic puzzle every day. And you can download the current day's puzzle. I think you have to really want to use this app, but if you do, it's very, very doable! I should add here that I am, and have always been, totally blind. I found the initial comments about this app to be more than a little patronizing. I want to insure potential totally blind puzzlers, you don't have to see to do this! Happy puzzling!

#44 Reply to Rachael

I am glad that you found Crosswords by Stand alone Inc. to be 'doable' and that my 'post' to AppleVis introduced you to it. However, I am not sure what you mean when you say my initial comments about this app to be more than a little patronizing'. Perhaps, in my own defence, I should mention that my initial' post' was, in fact, an email to the AppleVis staff to bring their attention to the Crosswords app and add their own input by testing it and then posting their conclusions on their web site. However, to my surprise, they posted my email without any editing or input of their own!

also, at the time of my original email Crosswords was not really ready for full VoiceOver access. Since that time SAI have made many improvements to the app during my beta testing and it is now as you describe it. The app still has a fairly steep learning curve and it still needs a number of enhancements not least of which is VoiceOver prompts to indicate any letters in the solution which are incorrect. Unfortunately, SAI seem to have stopped adding any further VoiceOver enhancements. Another omission from Crosswords is a tutorial or help section. You can get to SAI's FAQ web page by clicking on the About button in the Settings menu but this list of FAQ's can be too confusing to be useful.

With regard to getting past crosswords you should first select the publisher of the crosswords you want to download (click on the All puzzles button at the top of the main puzzle grid page and select the provider from the dropdown list). Then select the More button at the bottom left of the main puzzle list page and select 'Older Puzzles' from the menu. You can then select the dates you want to download from the calendar provided.

#45 Is the honeymoon over?

My new love is behaving badly! It will no longer skip letters, and of course, it doesn't announce them. I can just write over what is here, but I miss this feature, and I'd love to get it back! Short of uninstalling and reinstalling it, I don't know how! I've done all the easy fixes to no avail! Any thoughts?

#46 Crosswords Not Skipping Letters

Hi Rachael,

With regard to the input cursor not skipping letters already in the solution grid you say you have tried 'the easy fixes'. By this, and at the risk of sounding 'patronising', I assume you have got the 'Skip filled squares' turned on in settings.

When this option is turned on letters already in the solution grid are skipped and announced but only if the letter is correct. If the letter in the solution grid is not correct it is typed over and there is no VoiceOver prompt.

Another option you might want to turn on is the 'Restart on Swap'. This option is explained below, copied from an earlier post of mine::

Restart on Swap: When this option is off the puzzle solution cursor on the grid remains in the same position when switching orientation by double clicking on the clue window. In some cases, after swapping orientation, the solution input cursor can be at a location in the solution which is not at the start of the solution. When Restart on Swap is on the solution entry cursor jumps to the first letter in the solution. This can be an advantage for people unable to see the solution grid. Note: when the cursor is placed at the start of the solution after swapping it is always on the first letter of the solution even when this first square contains a correct letter.

I hope this helps.

#47 Hi, I just decided to give

Hi, I just decided to give this app a try, and its very good, it will be interesting to see if I can beat my family at the crosswords we do together.
I did spot an unlabeled button in the main menu if you find where it says 40 puzzles then flick to the right you will find this button.
also, I am wondering do we know if the developers have considered adding in braille screen input support? it is annoying having to peck at letters on the keyboard, though I am not sure if this is possible given that the app doesn't use edit fields for entering text into squares. Alternatively I would like to be able to use a hardware Bluetooth keyboard for entering letters.
what is the actions popup for on the squares where you have things like enter rebus.
a final question how do you know if a puzzle is complete is there a dialogue to say you have managed to complete the crossword once it is solved?
one other thought I think it would be great if it could show that a puzzle is so many percent complete.

after having played with this app some more I have questions relating to actually solving a crossword, the one I am trying with is the telegraph quick crossword, and I have noticed some strange issues with VoiceOver and wondering if anyone has any ideas, there are several squares where clues are actually not announced, so for example VoiceOver says 2 2 with no clue at all, surely they don't have picture clues in a crossword.
the next issue I am having is that the same clues are being read in different parts of the grid, so in this case for example VoiceOver tells me 1 3 9 across roll up, if I then flick through the clues going to the right if I get to 2 3 I get the same clue. there are many clues where VoiceOver doesn't read anything apart from the numbers. Not sure if this is a bug with the app or the crossword it has downloaded. either way glad I signed up for the free trial before stumping up any money.

#48 Reply to alex wallis

Hi alex,

I will try to answer some of your questions to the best of my ability but some of them should be addressed to the developer.

First I want to let you know that I have only used Crosswords on an iPad and I know that the layout of the interface is different on the iPhone. For example the iPad always shows all the clues in a panel on the righthand side of the grid, something that is only available on the iPhone in landscape orientation, I believe.

The button at the bottom right of the main screen, where one selects the puzzles, should say 'Bundles' this is where one buys bundles of crosswords from various publishers. However, if one selects the 'Edit' button on the top menu this button changes to 'Bulk delete' where one can choose various delete options. These buttons may not be active in the unpaid version.

Questions about Braille and external keyboard input should be addressed to the developer.

A final, congratulatory, screen comes up when the puzzle is completed but this does not appear to give a VoiceOver prompt. This and the request to give percentage complete has been requested a few times by me but so far SAI have not included them.

You have indicated that you are having problems inputing and understanding the behaviour of moving around the grid to solve the puzzle. For a person using VoiceOver I would recommend that you do not use the grid at all for this purpose as the movement of the VO cursor, around the grid, can only be done by swiping right or left and the cursor moves one grid square down or up, column by column.

To solve the puzzle using VO I recommend that you do not use the grid at all. You should select the clues from the clue list or, preferably, as it works on the iPad and on the iPhone, is to use the clue window above the keyboard and the previous and next buttons to move from clue to clue.

Crosswords is by no means perfect but with patience it can be used with VoiceOver by low vision and blind users to solve crossword puzzles as can be attested by some of the posts in this thread. And, if more users from these groups contact the developers with feedback and suggestions it may be possible to persuade them to improve the app.

Hope this helps

#49 Hi thanks for your reply, I

Hi thanks for your reply, I have actually decided not to bother keeping this app on my phone, the accessibility is just two fiddly to work with, braille screen input doesn't work well in the app, and even when I use the ordinary keyboard I am having a weird issue where I try to answer a clue and my answer gets put into completely the wrong box. also my cursor has a habit of going to completely the wrong part of the grid after entering an answer.
I also experienced an issue where when I was trying to use the option to clear all errors I was using the clear errors option but it wasn't clearing them. also VoiceOver says something weird when I use the backspase on the keyboard I can't understand what its saying even with the speech slowed down.. Its a shame as I think this app has potential but its just two fiddly for me as it is and when there are other games out there I would rather use my time for other things. Of course if the accessibility should improve I would be willing to take another look at it.