Installing SpeakOn and getting started >

Getting started with SpeakOn using the Standard keyboard

Page index:

1. Introduction and important settings

2. Basic concepts and keyboard use

3. Basic operations, finding and playing media

4. Essential keys and their actions

1. Introduction and important settings

This page gives you very basic instructions to get started with SpeakOn using the Standard keyboard. The Standard keyboard provides all the functionality for operating SpeakOn and is recommended for new users. Other methods of interacting with SpeakOn such as the Numerical keypad, TouchScreen and TouchPad have their advantages but the Standard keyboard is the most comprehensive form of interaction providing access to some less common operations not available with the other types of interactions. Users are therefore highly recommended to make themselves familiar with operating SpeakOn with the Standard keyboard regardless of whether they are going to use the Standard keyboard as their main method of interaction with SpeakOn.

After reading this page you should be familiar with the basic concepts behind SpeakOn and be able to perform basic operations such as finding and listening to media. The Tutorial section of this manual will guide you step-by-step through SpeakOn's common operations. For a full understanding and detailed information on configuration, please see the other sections of this manual.

SpeakOn is self-voicing. To prevent SpeakOn and your screen reader from talking at the same time, depending on the screen reader you are using and its settings, you may need to either mute your screen reader when the focus is on SpeakOn or shut down your screen reader altogether. For example with NVDA, when the focus is on SpeakOn, press Desktop: [Shift + NVDA + s] or laptop: [Shift + NVDA + z] to switch NVDA to a sleep mode; this mode lasts until SpeakOn is shut down and needs to be applied again when SpeakOn is restarted. This is done automatically if you install the SpeakOn MediaSuite NVDA add-on which you can download from:

Some screen readers such as JAWS can be configured so that they mute automatically when the focus is on self-voicing applications such as SpeakOn. There is more information about how to do this with popular screen readers in the Tutorial section of this manual:

2. Basic concepts and keyboard use

Operations in SpeakOn are grouped into tasks. To access media you start a task which enables you to find, retrieve if necessary and play different types of media. As an introduction, later on this page you will learn how to start the Podcast task and listen to streamed podcasts.

Every media task provides the functionality to access and play the media and you will spend most of the time using these tasks. From time to time you will start other smaller tasks to perform specific operations. Every task contains one or more controls. You interact with these controls which perform actions based on the keys you press.

Each key is given a name which relates to its functionality and the key indicators are enclosed in square brackets [ ]. For example the Help [F1] key refers to a key that toggles the Help context menu on or off and is activated by the [F1] key on the Standard keyboard.

There are two groups of keys used by SpeakOn: Main keys which include the function keys, [Alt] and [Tab] keys, and Context keys which include the four arrow keys, the [Enter], [Home], [End] keys and a few other less commonly used keys. Main keys perform the same actions anywhere in SpeakOn and the Context keys are used to navigate and operate individual controls and menus.

A list of essential keys and their actions is provided at the end of this page for quick reference and the operation of most of these is explained below. As you become familiar with SpeakOn you will know many of these keys and their associated actions by heart but you can always remind yourself of the keys available and invoke the actions directly by using the Main keys sub-menu and the 'Keys available for the current control' sub-menu. These and other help features are available from the Help context menu described below which acts as a central point for all help functionality.

3. Basic operations, finding and playing media

Install and start the SpeakOn program. You will be warned if SpeakOn cannot access the internet. The Manager task will start and continue to run throughout the session, acting as a 'launch pad' and enabling you to start other SpeakOn tasks.

To change the speech volume, press the 'Speech Minus' [F5] or 'Speech Plus' [F6] keys. To change the speech speed press the * 'Speech Minus' [Ctrl + F5] or * 'Speech Plus' [Ctrl + F6] keys.

You will interact mostly with SpeakOn using the Context keys. Features which are used less frequently are available from a context-sensitive menu called the Main menu. You will also find that most features available using the context keys are also available from the Main menu and the equivalent keystrokes are clearly indicated.

One of the most useful keys when you start to use SpeakOn is the Help [F1] key. The Help context menu acts as a central point for all SpeakOn help features and will assist you in learning SpeakOn quickly. When you press the Help key, you are presented with context menu items and sub-menu lists of help features available in SpeakOn. You can scroll the list of the Help context menu by using the 'Up' [up arrow] and 'Down' [down arrow] keys.

The first item in the Help context menu is the 'Turn Input Help On'. When the Input Help mode is 'On' you can explore the actions of all the keys. Simply press the various keys on the Standard keyboard; the key's name and a short explanation of its action are announced.
To turn the Input Help mode 'Off', press the Help key or the Escape [Esc] key.

If you forget where you are in SpeakOn, choose the fourth menu item in the list, 'Where am I?', which you can select by pressing the 'Select' [Enter] key. You will be told the name of the current task and control. If you select this menu item now you will find that you are in the Manager task, Available Media list control. You can also access this 'Where am I?' feature by pressing the # 'Help' [Shift + F1] key. The various help features available in the Help context menu are explained in detail in the Tutorial section.

You will learn later on in this page how to use a typical media task which has a self-contained Media Player and facilities for finding, retrieving and playing media.

The media can be audio or text-based files, and audio streams on your computer or on the internet.

You are now in the Manager's main task and the focus is on the Available Media list control. For the example here, first you need to start the Podcast task. Press the 'Up' or 'Down' arrow keys until the Podcast media is chosen, then press the ‘Select’ [Enter] key to start and switch to the Podcast task. The task will announce itself and after trying to access previously used media, will confirm that it is loaded with the message 'Ready'.

Usually every media task has two controls; the Player control enables you to play and navigate media and the Library control enables you to find media on the internet or on your computer.

When you start the Podcast task, you are always placed in the Player control which is the first control. Immediately after installation, the Player has nothing to play so you must first find some media to play. To do this, press the 'Focus' [Tab] key to move the focus to the Library control.

The Library control is of the type 'tree' which means that it has a tree structure and organizes media types into directories (similar in concept to folders in Windows). Use the 'Left' [left arrow] and 'Right' [right arrow] keys to navigate between different levels in these directories and the 'Up' [up arrow] and 'Down' [down arrow] keys to step through the same level in a directory.

Each directory can contain other directories or media. SpeakOn will tell you where you are and when you reach a media you like to listen to, press the ‘Select’ [Enter] key to play it. Usually you cannot use the ‘Select’ [Enter] key in a directory, and if you do, you will get an error message. Some directories and media require internet access which will normally cause some delay and you will be informed about this. Similarly, accessing a CD may cause a short delay.

All media, regardless of type, are organized in exactly the same way. Most are available to you immediately. Others such as DAISY require you to insert a DAISY CD into the CD drive. The Music directory will be available to you after you configure SpeakOn to add music audio folders that you may have on your computer.

In this short introduction, you will learn how to find and listen to podcasts. A podcast is a series of audio media files which are distributed over the internet using internet feeds. Putting it simply, a feed is a file located somewhere on the internet with information and links to podcast audio files also known as episodes.

Podcasts are provided by commercial organizations and individuals. There is a vast range of podcasts available on a huge number of topics. In the instructions below, a BBC Radio 1 programme is used as an example.

Make sure you are in the Library tree control of the Podcast task by pressing the # 'Help’ [Shift + F1] key which will tell you where you are. Press the ‘Left’ [left arrow] key a few times to make sure you are in level 0 (the Media Directories level) of the tree. You are placed in the Podcast directory.

Press the 'Right' [right arrow] key and you are placed in the 'All Feeds' directory. This directory enables you to find thousands of podcast feeds on the internet. Press the 'Right' key and you are placed in the 'BBC' directory. Press the 'Right' key again and you are placed in the 'BBC station list' directory. Another Right press followed as necessary by a few Down presses until you find the 'Radio 1' directory which contains all the feeds offered by BBC 'Radio 1'. Press the 'Right' key again and you are placed at the first media item which at the time of writing this tutorial is a feed of a program called 'Scott Mills Daily'. You can listen to this feed or find another one by using the 'Down' and 'Up' keys.

To start streaming a podcast, press the 'Select' [Enter] key. The focus moves automatically to the Player control. The first episode (podcast audio file) in the feed starts to play. To stop the file playing, press the 'Select' key again.

The feed is presented to the Player as a list of one or more episodes which are MP3 streamed files. Most feeds (the BBC feed contains only one episode) contain more than one episode and you can navigate between these (if they exist) with the 'Up' and 'Down' keys.

Sometimes you might want to restart to play from the beginning of the current media (in our case a Podcast episode). To do this press the # Select [Shift + Enter] key; the podcast episode should restart to play from the beginning.

To select another feed, press the 'Focus' [Tab] key to move the focus to the Library Tree control. Navigate between feeds and choose another one.

You can always move the focus between the Player and Library controls using the 'Focus' [Tab] key. Note that when you return to the Player control, you will continue from where you left off.

Occasionally you may come across one of the following problems:

As stated above, the feed files normally contain one or more episodes. Sometimes however, a provider may choose to leave the feed empty meaning that no episodes are available - SpeakOn will inform you about this problem which you can do nothing about - choose another feed.

The quality of these podcasts varies enormously; not all feeds are active or formed properly (there are many amateurs who create their own podcasts), and in this case, after pressing the 'Select' key you will hear (after 20 seconds or so) that the feed or that the server cannot be found. If you find that for some reason nothing happens for a while, it is possible that there is some other problem and you can try to press the ‘Cancel’ [Ctrl] key to cancel the operation which may take up to 20 seconds to take effect.

Please note that sometimes the connection with the server can be slow and this can result in intermittant sound. There is usually little you can do about it, so please choose another feed or try the same feed later.

The sequence of finding and playing media is the same as described above no matter what type of media it is. Navigating media in the Player is not covered in this section and depends on the media played. You can read more about it in the Tutorial section of this manual.

To end the Podcast task, press the 'Menu' [Alt] key. You are placed in the ‘End task’ menu item and to apply it press the ‘Select’
[Enter] key.

After you end the Podcast task, you are switched back to the Manager task. To shut down SpeakOn press the ‘Main’ [Alt] key. You are placed in the 'Shut down SpeakOn’ menu item and to apply it press the ‘Select’ [Enter] key. You can also shut down SpeakOn in the usual Windows way by pressing [Alt + F4] keys on the standard keyboard.

This is a very simplified guide. Only the simplest operations have been described. However some keys have multiple actions and to get the most from SpeakOn and understand its operation, you should read the Tutorial section and other relevant parts of this manual.

Complete reference which includes everything you need to know about Standard keyboard use including a full keys and their action list is provided

4. Esential keys and their actions

'Help' [F1] - toggles the Help context menu

# 'Help' [Shift + F1] - 'Where am I?' - speaks the current task and control in focus

'Menu' [Alt] - toggles the Main menu

'Focus' [Tab] - moves the focus between controls in the same task

'Speech Minus' [F5] - reduces speech volume

'Speech Plus' [F6] - increases speech volume

* 'Speech Minus' [Ctrl F5] - reduces speech rate

* 'Speech Plus' [Ctrl F6] - increases speech rate

'Cancel' [Ctrl] - mutes the speech synthesizer temporarily and cancels the internet connection

'Escape' [Esc] - aborts or closes tasks

'Up' [up arrow] - for navigation in a control if applicable

'Down' [down arrow] - for navigation in a control if applicable

'Right' [right arrow] - for navigation in a control if applicable

'Left' [left arrow] - for navigation in a control if applicable

'Select' [Enter] - for specific operations in a control if applicable

'Home' [Home] - for navigation to a first item in a control if applicable

'End' [End] - for navigation to the last item in a control if applicable

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