Introducing VOCalc

iOS and iPadOS
Apple just approved VOCalc, a Voice Over accessible calculator I've built. From the blurb VOCalc brings you a basic calculator which you can use without reading glasses. The user interface is designed with readability for low vision users in mind. For this, high contrast and big clear fonts are used. VOCalc is optimized for use with VoiceOver. Calculator features: Expression entry is done with formula visible, like 2x(5-4). This way you always now where the result comes from and can verify the input. Access to past calculations is only one button away as history is saved as you go. Previous expressions can be seamlessly modified for new calculations. VOCalc is an universal app, meaning that it works natively also on iPad. I've done my best to make it as VO friendly as possible, with support for multiple languages. For low vision users the fonts are black on white and large. To give you an idea, on a 10" iPad the number 8 is about 7x22 mm in size, (just short of an inch tall for those using the imperial units.) The first version is purposely bare bones to keep the use simple. Possible extensions I see useful would be: 1. copy expression to clipboard 2. email of the "paper log". It already keeps it internally, with 50 last calculations persisting across sessions. 3. scientific calculator functions If you think I missed something, or would like to see some extension, I'm happy to get feedback. For the quick, three promo codes: 3ENEHAE9F7WW PJK4LP4YEEYE 9TKETYMH6JR7 Best Regards, Harri Pasanen



Submitted by Tangela on Thursday, March 21, 2013

I just redeemed the second of the promo codes, and this app does work very well with voiceOver, with very easy to follow organization. Thank you for making such an app. Due to the method of input, it is only necessary to tap once for every button, rather than twice as is standard for the Phone calculator. For this reason, it is significantly faster than that one and has a much easier layout. Personally, the only improvements I can really foresee being particularly useful would be more scientific calc functions. Best of all would be some graphing functions with audio representation of graphs similar to that offered by Mathtrax. At the moment, that is the only calculator I know of with even limited graphing capability. But the speed and ease of access in this calculator are very nice and well designed, and improvements can only increase its productivity.

Submitted by Robert A.M. on Thursday, March 21, 2013

Very nice calculator, thanks for making it! A couple of suggestions for improvement: 1. Adding different colors to the keys would help me locate them even faster. For example, the number keys could be left as they are, while the +, -, =, etc. keys could have a blue instead of a black background or something like that. 2. Please make the command line work as a standard iOS text field, so that VoiceOver announces the character that is being entered in a higher pitch and deleted characters in a lower pitch. Currently VoiceOver does not say anything at all when text is being entered or deleted. Being able to move the input cursor back and forth across the command line by swiping up and down to make corrections and changes, like on a standard text field, would also be very useful. 3. The app is currently designed to only work in portrait mode. The app does not rotate to landscape mode on an iPhone (this is correct), but it does attempt to rotate to landscape mode when using an iPad. When this happens, the lower row of keys does not fit on the screen and an empty white area appears on the right. To fix this, the app needs to be prevented from rotating on an iPad, or adjustments to the size and shape of the keys need to be made in landscape mode. 4. Scientific functions, such as the ability to enter an algebraic equation, would be greatly appreciated. Once again, thanks for the time and effort put into this, keep up the good work!

Thanks for the feedback. 1. I'll look into this, perhaps adding one or more selectable themes would be the way to go. 2. This is more tricky. The pitch change appears to be Apple internal, not available for 3rd party developers. So currently VOCalc on purpose disables the repetition of the number. You still hear an audio "ti-dit" sound from VoiceOver to confirm that the tap registered. Personally I find this actually faster, as it avoids in my mind unnecessary repetition. However, to improve the editing, how does the following sound? I could add a feature where double tapping the result field would open it up in a standard text field, with the standard Apple virtual keyboard. This way you standard VoiceOver settings editing style, copy paste, etc. would be available. 3. Thanks for the heads-up. Now fixed in the development version. 4. This opens up the proverbial can of worms and would probably be better as a separate application. It is not out of the question though, I've already thought about it and will keep thinking about it. The graphing capability mentioned by Tangela above is part of it. Thanks again

First, I'd like to thank you for coming on to Applevis and having an open dialogue with our community! It really makes me happy when developers do this! This would also be useful for braille users, as they would then be able to type using the braille display. I was going to try this, but it would appear all of the promo codes have been used, so for all I know, perhaps this is already an option for braille users?

Good point. I'm not sure if it would already display the results row on a braille display, but it might. I'll look into making it available as a text field, then it should be editable also via external bluetooth keyboards and braille devices.

Quick poll for low vision users. Which do you prefer among the following five?

Hi again Harri, Once again, thanks for the effort and being willing to work with us to make this fine app even better. Yes, the standard text field capabilities you mention would be great; I often also use a bluetooth keyboard and it would be nice to be able to use it with this app. The reason why I find the repetition of characters by VoiceOver useful when they are entered is because sometimes my finger accidentally moves from one key to another when lifting it off the screen, so this helps me ensure that I entered the correct one. Likewise, when deleting several characters at once, having VoiceOver say what was just deleted helps me delete exactly what I want, not more or less. This is just my personal preference, though, perhaps more Applevis users could give us their feedback on what works best for them? Regarding the samples, like I said by email in more detail, I think that the best one would be #2 but with the red = key from #4.. Regards!

The way I used VoiceOver when testing VOCalc was by never really lifting a finger off the screen. So I'd use two fingers, one to navigate to a chosen key which is spoken out loud, and then just tapping once with the other finger to "push" the key. Doing it this way seemed error free and fast.

Hi Harri, There are two ways to enter text with VoiceOver, the one you used is called Standard Typing, the second option is called Touch Typing, in which you locate the key you are trying to "push" by dragging your finger across the screen, and you then lift your finger to push the key. This is a much faster method than doing the split tap and it is preferred by many regular VoiceOver users. To activate Touch Typing, twist the virtual VoiceOver rotor until you hear "typing mode" and then swipe up or down. Regards!

Thanks for the tip on Touch Typing, I was not aware of that mode. Now I see the use for high pitch confirmation, as it is the only thing you hear when you just tap once a key, instead of dragging your finger. However, if you drag your finger across the screen, then you hear the lower pitched voice, and lifting your finger taps the key. For this usage pattern I don't see a point in hearing the key repeated in a higher pitch. But users are probably used to this, so I can understand the confusion when it is missing. Anyway, I don't think there is a way to enable the high pitch confirmation that the native keyboard uses. I've put the question Apple, let's see if I get a response.

Submitted by Robert A.M. on Saturday, March 23, 2013

No problem Harri, glad to help! Exactly, that's why it is useful, another reason is that, for example, you might drag your finger into the area of the "5" key, but when lifting your finger you might touch the area of the "6" key for a very tiny instant, thereby resulting in the number 6 being entered instead of the 5. This has actually happened to me several times while using the standard calculator that comes with iOS, however, the high pitch announcement makes me aware of what happened. Probably my favorite feature of VOCalc is that the whole mathematical expression appears on the screen, 2 x 5 - 4 for example, allowing me to check that what I entered was correct before pressing the = key. Because of this, the high pitch announcement is not essential, but it would still be a nice feature to have and it would speed things up if it were possible to add it. Regards!

Submitted by Chelsea on Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hi Harri, Thanks for making another great app; I'm on my way to download it now. I could never figure out the calculator built into iOS. As to the scientific and graphing functions that you may add later, I would be fully willing to help/support you from a user perspective. I am a physics major, so the more calculators that work and are easy to use, the better. I have been thinking about using iOS as a graphing calculator platform, but never learned much programming. I do, however, have a bit of knowledge about making VO read graphical elements and having the user move their finger around to discover where such elements are in relation via HTML. As a side note, I use touch typing as my mode of choice for the virtual keyboard. Thanks, and I'm here to help if I can. Chelsea

Submitted by Harri on Monday, April 1, 2013

Just a quick note that VOCalc 1.1 is now live. New features are: 1. Adds the low vision color scheme discussed in this thread. Swipe horizontally to toggle back to black and white. 3 finger swipe for VoiceOver users. 2. Makes the expression/result field available as a text field. Double tap the expression field a top to activate the change. When using VoiceOver, select the result field at top with one finger, double tap with other finger. With the text field you can use also bluetooth keyboards for editing, or the virtual keyboard. Also copy paste is possible. 3. Swipe down, (3 finger swipe with VoiceOver) allows mailing the calculation log. Last 50 expressions are kept and these persist across sessions. 4. Fixes the iPad landscape rotation issue reported in this thread. 5. Fixes decimal comma display issue on iPad for locales which use comma instead of decimal point. 6. Some translation fixes, first cut at Dutch translation. That's it for the new stuff and fixes. *** Some known issues: I discovered some small VoiceOver issues with bluetooth keyboards. After evaluating the expression, which happens when return key is hit, the result is announced correctly. Subsequent editing however confuses VoiceOver momentarily and what you hear does not correspond immediately to what is displayed. The best is either to tap the result field on display, or to hit Ctrl+left arrow to hear what actually is in the text field, then Ctrl+right arrow or arrow keys to continue editing at the desired point. I reported this bug to Apple. Braille displays and associated keyboards presented some unexpected problems. This release is somewhat usable with them, but there will be soon an updated release that improves upon braille support.

Hi Harri, Thanks for this nice app! I particularly lie the fact that we can use it in touch typing mode. I've found some glitches in the French translation: - In the help pop-up window, instead of "l'effleurer", you should write "glisser". - In the calc window: Instead of "pluss", you should put "plus" or simply "+" Thanks again. Sof

Submitted by Harri on Saturday, April 6, 2013

In reply to by Sof

Thanks for the positive feedback! I'll fix the l'effleurer for the next version. Curious, how do you know it was "pluss" and not "plus"? It is "pluss" in purpose, as VoiceOver pronounces both "plus" and "+" as "plu", which I don't think is correct in this context? Regards, Harri

Submitted by Sof on Saturday, April 6, 2013

In reply to by Harri

I've seen it with a braille display. :) But you're right, it's better pronounced when written like this. I've just thought it was a mistake. Best, Sof

Submitted by Harri on Saturday, April 6, 2013

In reply to by Sof

Aha, I was not aware that braille display shows the accessibility labels. It is logical when you think about it, good to know in any case. How do those handle the case when there is both accessibility label and value? It sometimes confusing to us developers, for instance a Label can have 1. label text value 2. accessibilityLabel 3. accessibilityValue 4. accessibilityHint all of which can be set to a different value. What VoiceOver reads and in which order is not that well documented and is easy to forget. About the "+", I've reported the pronunciation of "+" in French as a bug to Apple, as I don't think it ever should be pronounced as "plu". For non-French speakers: the word "plus" is ambiguous, in that the pronunciation and meaning depends on context. A+

Submitted by Isaac Hebert (not verified) on Saturday, April 6, 2013

Thanks for making this app this app will help so many users in every day life.

Submitted by Esther on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hello, I really like the feature where a three-finger swipe gives you access to the paper log in an email, but I was a bit surprised that I couldn't just copy the current result from the result register directly from the touch screen the way I can with Apple's calculator, and the calculators of other apps, by using the "copy" option. (This is with gestures, not with a paired keyboard. I can do a double tap and hold on the results register of the screen, and have the option for "copy" that to the clipboard. Then, if I switch to a notes app or mail, I can paste that in.) Am I just missing something obvious? I know I could go into the paper log draft and edit it to get the same thing, but this seems as though it would be an easy and useful feature to implement. Thanks for your efforts.

Submitted by Harri on Friday, April 26, 2013

New features are: 1. VOCalc now auto detects an external keyboard, so no need for double tapping the results field to activate it. 2. Better support for algebraic expressions. When using an external keyboard or the virtual keyboard, you can enter expressions like x = 3 x*x-2*x and it will use the assigned value for x in calculation. 3. Improve braille keyboard support. Braille display/keyboard support is already be improved thanks to item 1 above. Additionally in the phone settings there is a VOCalc entry called "Braille". Turning that on will simplify the VoiceOver output, which should benefit particularly the deaf-blind. 4. Simple swipe up copies the current result or expression to the phone clipboard. Fixes: Improved French translation.