What's new, updating SpeakOn, mailing list and contact information > Previous versions' history >

Version 1 history

The development and changes in version 1 are detailed below in reverse order:

What's new in version 1.7.6 - (28 April 2008): 

Bug fix: Scrobbling problem in the Last FM application has been fixed.

What's new in version 1.7.5 - (17 April 2008):

This version is about improved user interaction, new minor features and bug fixes.

Improved user interaction:

Internet messages are less intrusive, as follows:

When SpeakOn is using the internet, you get a short message: 'Connecting'. If the connection takes more than a few seconds, you will usually get a longer message; for example:

'Connecting to internet directory, please wait'.

'Connecting to RSS feed on the internet, please wait.'

'Connecting to media on the internet, please wait.'

So if the connection with the relevant server is fast you will hear only the word 'Connecting' followed by the media itself.

The term 'Remote Directory' was changed to 'Internet Directory' for simplicity.

* Rapid focus changes are ignored so you get focus change messages only if focus change lasts for more than one second.

Note that SpeakOn has no control on its focus; it is at the mercy of Windows. It only announces what Windows tells it. The focus under Windows is not perfect. Also there may be various events such as a window or balloon popping up momentarily on your screen or a screen saver which are not always detected and reported by screen readers. So, if SpeakOn loses its focus, all you can do is move the focus back to it.

* Messages when navigating menus are clearer. In addition, if a user tries to select a sub-menu a beep is delivered followed by a tip telling the user what to do.

New features:

* In the Last FM application, using the Main menu, you can start Internet Explorer and it will take you directly to the Last.FM website as follows:

You must have your screen reader or magnifier working; Internet Explorer starts in a few seconds (there is currently no support for other internet browsers).

Note that if you spend a long time on the website, when you move the focus back to SpeakOn, the music from the Last.FM may not be available. To start the music again in such situations, in the Player press:
[Shift + Enter] to contact the Last.FM server again. If it does not work, end the Last FM application and start it again.

* The following is a minor point: In the Messages Settings task in the Manager, you have to select OK from the Main menu to confirm your choices - this is in line with similar settings tasks.

Bug fixes:

* There was a problem that occasionally, on some computers, SpeakOn did not start properly but the process was still running preventing you from starting SpeakOn again without killing its process. This bug is now hopefully fixed.

* The loading of the Last.FM music by contacting the server again in situations where the music stops for some reason, now works. In the Player, press:
[Shift + Enter]. Note - don't use this feature if the music plays normally as it involves unnecessary load on the Last.FM server.

* The problem where the music in the Last FM Listener task stops when changing categories in the Radio Options control is now fixed.

* If Real Player Alternative (recommended) or Real Player (not recommended) is not installed on your computer, when you try to play audio in 'Real' format, SpeakOn will give you a clear error message.

* Audio Scrobbling errors due to recent changes on the Last.FM server have been resolved.

What's new in version 1.7.0 - (13 March 2008):

This version is about incremental improvements across the board. There is significantly more content, the user interface has been cleaned up, there is better support for DAISY and text media, timing navigation in audio media can go across files and there are a number of minor features added. All known bugs have been fixed.


In the Media Centre Library Podcast directory, a new directory which lists all BBC podcasts categorized by channels, has been added. This allows streaming of podcast content thus creating a radio on demand for the available podcasts. A publically available podcast directory 'Digital Podcast' has been added; this directory provides thousands podcasts - we are grateful to the developers of this directory for providing this diverse content.

The Radio directory in the library has been revamped. All radio stations categories are now under a single directory. All BBC channels are now available in various categories. There is a new category called 'Blind community' which contains the ACB radio from the US with its four channels as well as 'Insight Radio' from the UK (Scotland).

Changes to the user interface 

Ten rarely used keystrokes have been removed and three have been added:

The F2, F3 and F4 keys are no longer used (they are used by Windows applications usually for other purposes so they are in reserve for future use by SpeakOn). Instead use [Tab, [Ctrl + Tab] and [Alt] respectively for the same functionality. These alternative keys were introduced a few versions ago.

All Help keystrokes have been removed for simplicity; access to these features is as in previous versions through the Help menu
[F1] (7).

A number of keystrokes have been introduced for clipboard operation, see below.

Terminology - The name of the 'Control' [Tab] (3) key has been changed to the 'Focus' key to avoid confusion with the [Ctrl] key on the standard keyboard; operation is exactly the same as before.

Terminology - The name of the 'Location' [F9] (fullstop) key has been changed to the 'Info' key; operation is exactly the same as before. This key will be used for more information messages in the future.

All of the above changes have been incorporated into the SpeakOn help system; Help Menu [F1] (7).

* DAISY support has been enhanced; playing is smoother and a number of books on a single CD are now supported. When opening the CD directory in the library, all books are presented as media nodes in the usual way; simply select the book you want to listen to.

* When reading a TNAUK publication you can copy the name of an article, the full article or a portion of it to the clipboard and you can then drop the text into your favourite word processor for future reference. The following commands are available:
[Ctrl + n] - Copy the name of an article to the clipboard.
[Ctrl + a] - Mark the full article as selected.
[Ctrl + b] - Mark the beginning of a partial selection.
[Ctrl + e] - Mark the end of a partial selection.
[Ctrl + c] - Copy the selection to the clipboard.

The same commands work for any text files (any files marked with '.txt). These include Seeing Ear Library books and any other files which you can put in a sub-directory under the Various directory in the library.

* When you are in an Edit control, you can press [Shift + F6] to switch to 'Echo Off' meaning that when you type, you do not get echo. This mode lasts only for the duration of your current session so when you start SpeakOn again, echo mode is always on.

* When you want to change a voice, there is an extra step; you have to confirm the voice by selecting OK from the Main Menu. This was introduced to prevent users accidently selecting a 'dead' voice.

* You can skip by time accurately not just within a track as now, but between tracks (items). This is useful when reading books to go back by say five minutes even if the required point is in a previous track.

Bug Fixes 

* DAISY books did not work properly with some productions; this problem is now fixed.

* The Last FM application now reports the details of the music played with the correct accents encoding.

* In the Last FM application, user playlists now work correctly

* Seeing Ear Library books' names are generated correctly in all cases.

* SpeakOn shutdown is now more robust; in most cases it is immediate and in the worse case should take no more than 15 seconds.

What's new in version 1.6.22 (28 December 2007):

This version introduces the following new features to the Last FM application:

* Updated protocol 

* Adding the currently playing artist to 'My similar artists' and 'My fans' categories

* Playing 'Similar artists' music of your choice

* Discovery mode 

* Editing categories.

There are also a number of minor improvements and significant bug fixes in other parts of SpeakOn.

And in more detail: 

* Updated Last.FM protocol 

The Last FM application has been updated to Audioscrobbler version 1.2 and a later protocol of the player. There are indications that previous protocols may not be supported by Last.FM for much longer.

So the operation of SpeakOn, except for the new features outlined below, is the same.  You will notice that music and station information is now immediate and 'Skip' is also somewhat faster.

* Adding the currently playing artist to 'My similar artists' and 'My fans' categories

* Playing similar artist music of your choice. 

When you bring up the Main menu and scroll down, you get menu items to add the currently playing artist (or station where applicable) to new categories: ‘My similar artists’ and ‘My fans’.  These files are created automatically once you add the artists to them for the first time.  These categories are then available with the lists of categories in the Finder in the usual way.  

* Playing similar artists' music of your choice. 

You can play immediately music similar to an artist (individual or group) that you like.  

Go to the Main menu [Alt] (9) and scroll down to ‘Play new similar artists’; select it and a task opens.  In the ‘Play new similar artists’ task you are focused on an Edit control.  Type the name of an artist whose style of music you like to hear (you will not necessarily hear the artist itself more than once per session because of copyright restrictions).  The character by character speech has a small delay so you can type as fast as you want and speech will stay out of the way (if you type fast, you will hear only the last character).  Once the artist’s name is entered, press Select [Enter] (5) and the station will be played in a temporary category called ‘Play new’. 

After the station starts playing, you can save the station to ‘My similar artists’ or ‘My fans’ categories as described above. 

* Discovery mode 

You will find in the menu a new option to enable or disable Discovery mode.  This mode is only available to paying subscribers.  When enabled, the Last.FM server ensures that you only listen to new music i.e. music you have not listened to already within the last year (I am not sure myself that this is always working and it is of course under the control of the Last.FM server not SpeakOn). 

* Editing categories 

If you go through the Last FM settings and bring up one of the categories, you can delete entries and arrange the stations by using Cut (Ctrl + x) and Paste (Ctrl + v).  You can also change the visibility of stations by checking or unchecking them as before.  To end this task, use the menu and select OK to save your changes or Cancel to cancel your changes.  

* There is a small improvement - when you load a new category, you are now always placed in the Player even if before you were in the Radio Options control. 

* You may notice that combination keystrokes are now more responsive.  

* Bug fixes 


In the previous version, when you changed focus to another Windows program [Alt + Tab], the Main menu sometimes used to come up erroneously – now it works correctly.  

Media Centre application: 

* In the Podcasts directory, the 'Save to favourites' of podcast streams now always works correctly.   

* When the Media Centre application starts, the playing position of relevant media is always placed in the item you last played.  Note that the word ‘relevant’ above means that some types of media such as Podcast files stored on your computer and radio stations, are configured to work this way.  When you start the Media Centre application, other media such as Music are not configured to work this way (you usually don’t want to listen to exactly the same track as you listened to previously). 

* When you leave the Media Centre Settings task, you are now correctly placed in the Manager. 

* SpeakOn can now play DAISY books generated by the Plextalk PTR1 recorder. 

What's new in version 1.6.13 - (12 November 2007):

*s Additional alternative key strokes for compatibility with standard Windows keystrokes where applicable (the original relevant SpeakOn's keystrokes to perform the same operations are still functioning and used throughout this manual.

* A new Edit control for entering text. This control's operations are compatible with standard Windows text manipulation keystrokes.

* A new Login Information task for entering usernames and passwords within SpeakOn itself.

* Confirm and Cancel operations are now part of the Main menu.

And in more detail: 

* Additional alternative keystrokes for compatibility with Windows standard keystrokes. (This only applies to the standard keyboard; operating SpeakOn using the numerical keypad remains unchanged).
[Tab] key - To move between controls (in addition to the [F3] key).
[Ctrl + Tab] key - To move between tasks (in addition to the [F2] key).
[Alt] key - To bring up the Main menu (in addition to the [F4] key).

* Edit control.

A new single line Edit control has been developed. You can enter text in very much the same way as in an Edit box control in Windows. In addition to the usual text navigations ([Home], [End],
[left arrow], [right arrow], [Ctrl + right arrow], [Ctrl + left arrow]) you can copy, cut and paste using the usual Windows keystrokes [Ctrl + c], [Ctrl + x], [Ctrl + v]. You can select the text in the control using [Ctrl + a].

Like all other SpeakOn controls, there is no visual element to the Edit control.

* New Login Information task.

Until now, entering your username and password within SpeakOn was achieved by entering the text directly in Notepad which was launched automatically as necessary; this is no longer the case. Instead, a new Login Information task is now started from the relevant settings lists. This task contains two Edit controls of the type described above. Simply enter your username and password in these in exactly the same way as you would in a typical Windows username and password dialog box, moving between controls using the
[Tab] or [F3] keys.

* Confirm and Cancel operations are now part of the Main menu.

OK and Cancel Action (buttons) controls are eliminated. Instead if you need to acknowledge or confirm a task, simply select these from the Main menu. This improves consistency among all tasks. All tasks, applications and SpeakOn itself can be ended or shut down using the Main menu. Putting it in another way, the Main menu will allow you to exit any situation wherever you are in the system.

What's new in version 1.6.10 - (28 October 2007):

* Character key navigation; you can find items in menus, list and tree controls easily.

* Independent volume control so you can listen to SpeakOn in the background while using other applications with your screenreader on your computer.

* The Last FM application has more features and works better. There are more stations to choose from. Stations are divided into categories and you can create your own.

* All user settings are under a single folder.

And in more detail: 

New in this version (1.6.10, 28 October 2007):

Using the standard keyboard, all relevant controls can be navigated using character keys; pressing a character key takes you to the next item which has a name starting with the character key pressed. This feature is implemented in menus, lists, check lists, options, tree and player controls.

In the Media Centre player, only relevant media can be searched using the above method. For example, you can search for a track name you know in a playlist but there is no point searching for articles with names you don't know in a new newspaper.

In addition, in all relevant controls, the Home key takes you to the first item and the End key takes you to the last item in a list.

The above features are in addition to existing methods of navigating controls.

New in version 1.6.8 (14 October 2007)

Independent volume control 

In this version you will find that in the Manager you can change the Master Volume of the computer as in previous versions. However, in the Media Centre and Last FM applications, the volume is independent; this switch of function of the same keys [F7] (-) and
[F8] (+) is done automatically. You can adjust the audio and speech volume independently .

Last FM application 

The Last FM application has been completely reworked but the interface is mostly the same. The messages are now more informative and there is improved feedback to the user when something on the Last FM server goes wrong.

A 'Finder' Task is now added to the Last FM application which allows the user to choose different categories of stations. The Finder task works in exactly the same way as in the Media Centre application [F2] (1) but instead of having a tree, it has a list. Go up and down the list, select the stations category you want and you are then transferred to the player which starts to play the first station in the category.

Alternatively in the Finder task, press * Select [Ctrl + Enter] (0 + 5) and you are transferred to the Listener task but the player does not start to play until you scroll up and down the list to your desired station which you can then select in the usual way.

When the Last FM application starts it always remembers the last category and station you were using in the previous session.

There are now many more stations to choose from, and you can create your own stations to do all sorts of weird and wonderful things such as listening to artists who are similar to ones you like, artists' fans music, and to listen to music of named Last.FM users and much more.

This is explained in the tutorial:

Tutorial > Last FM application > Last FM settings > Advanced - adding and modifying your own stations and stations categories.

In the Listener task a new menu item is available to switch the 'Record to profile' mode on or off.

The profile is the list of played tracks that you see on your customized page of the Last.FM website (when you are logged in). This affects what is played to you on your personal station (if you are a Last.FM paid subscriber) but also affects your neighbours and recommended stations even if you are not a paid subscriber. So when you listen to new music and do not want this music to form part of your profile, go to the Main menu [Alt] (9) and switch this mode OFF.

When you start the Last FM application the 'Record to profile' mode is always on.

New and modified folders - important 

The folder structure has partially changed:

You will find that SpeakOn (after starting the Media Centre or the Last FM applications for the first time), has automatically changed the name of the 'SpeakOn_MediaCentre' folder you had in previous versions of SpeakOn to 'SpeakOn_User_Content'. All the previous media that you downloaded will be preserved.

A new folder 'C:\SpeakOn_User_Settings' is created automatically; this folder structure is self-explanatory. After accessing various media for the first time, the relevant login.txt files are created which you can edit directly if you wish to specify any relevant usernames and passwords. You can of course change the same details from the relevant SpeakOn settings menu in the usual way.

You may have noticed that the old 'library' folder under the SpeakOn folder has changed to 'app' (for applications); the structure in this folder has changed also but you don't need to be concerned about this change as it is internal to SpeakOn's operation.

What's new in Features release 1.5 (23 July 2007):

Version 1.5.4 provides the following:

  1. TNAUK publications audio streams can now be skipped article by article in the player. If you have updated SpeakOn and want to use this feature, you need to perform the following manual operation: (You don't need to do this if you are using SpeakOn for the first time or are not interested in this service.)

. Ensure that SpeakOn is OFF.

. Delete the file (if found):


(make sure that you do not remove the file config.template)

Start SpeakOn, start the Media Centre application and enter the username and password for the TNAUK audio download service in the usual way.

  1. The Bookmarks control is now visible only if there are defined bookmarks. Please note that SpeakOn still remembers the place where you left off for relevant media.

  2. Automatic voice selection when SpeakOn is installed for the first time has been improved. Minor bugs have been fixed.

From Version 1.5.2  

This version fixes a problem with the Last.FM player:

Sometime late in June 2007, some changes were experienced with the Last.FM server and consequently, the SpeakOn Last FM player (as well as other non-accessible Last.FM players) stopped working properly.

This problem has been fixed in this version and other minor improvements to the player were also made.

From version 1.5.0 

In this release, support for listening to online streamed TNAUK audio publications is introduced. Settings have been made considerably easier. Support for CDs containing MP3 files such as books or music is now available. Support for audio CDs has also been introduced.

TNAUK audio online publications 

SpeakOn now provides full support for this newly introduced service provided by TNAUK. You can now browse the entire range of online audio publications which is arranged by categories, in the Media Centre's library and listen to the publication of your choice.

Easier settings 

The Speech and Messages Settings application has been removed. Instead, all settings tasks can be started from the Main menus of the different applications as follows:

From the Manager Main menu all global settings including:

. Speech settings task;

. Messages settings task.

From the Media Centre Main menu:
A new Media Centre Settings task has been introduced to handle:

. visibility of media in the library;

. TNAUK username and password;

TNAUK guide channel options;

. the Seeing Ear username and password.

From the Last FM Main menu:

A new Last FM task has been introduced to handle:

. the Last.FM username and password;

. visibility of genre stations available in the player.

Applying the settings 

For those settings which require text input, Notepad is launched automatically with the appropriate simple configuration file ready for you to type any changes.

For toggle selection such as the networks required in the various TNAUK guides, a confirm task is started ready for you to scroll up and down the options list and select the item required.

Improved CD media support 

In addition to support for DAISY books, CD-based MP3 media including books (such as those supplied by Calibre) and music is now supported. The detection of the MP3 files' format on the CD is automatic.

Support for audio CDs is introduced. The detection of the audio CD format is automatic and if you are connected to the internet, album and track names are retrieved automatically from a remote database and announced.

Buffering techniques have been introduce to reduce CD access time and thus minimizing CD spin noise and improving battery life on your laptop.

Minor improvements 

The Main menu in the Manager application now includes (if you are using Windows XP) an additional menu item which enables you to shut down SpeakOn and then (ten seconds later) shut down Windows. In the Last FM application the player includes two new personalized radio stations; the first plays the tracks that you indicated previously that you 'love' and the second plays music recommended by other Last.FM listeners (and probably Last.FM itself).

What's new in Features release 1.4 (latest version 1.4.7 - 16 April 2007):

This release is about improved usability for new and experienced users.

A Help menu which enables easy access to SpeakOn's help features has been introduced. Press the 'Help' [F1] (7) key to toggle this menu.

A help tip message for the current task has been introduced. You can get this message from the Help menu or directly by pressing the * 'Task' [Ctrl +F2] (0 + 1) key.

A Help tip message for the current control has been introduced. You can get this message from the Help menu or directly by pressing the * 'Control' [Ctrl + F3] (0 + 3) key.

Access to SpeakOn's Online Manual using Internet Explorer from the Help menu has been introduced.

A direct check for updates has been introduced. If required, download of the new version and installation follows automatically. You can access this feature from the Main menu in the Manager application.

Keys changes 

The 'Application' [F1] (7) functionality has been dropped for the sake of simplicity; this functionality was not really necessary. You now start one application at a time. You need to end the current running application before starting another one. The keyboard keys [F1] (7) are now used for the Help menu.

The 'Help Key mode' toggle functionality is now accessed from the Help menu or by pressing the # 'Help' [Shift + F1] (7 long) key.

There have been some minor name changes:

The following keys reflect the above name changes:

The Speech Settings application has been modified and is now called Speech and Messages Settings application. This application has three tasks:

  1. Selector task - to select the settings for modification;

  2. Speech - to select the voice and change its pitch;

  3. Messages - to set the information and Help messages levels.

Other improvements 

Real '.ram' local audio format support has been introduced.

Better reporting of Internet errors. For example, if the username or password in the Seeing Ear Library or TNAUK are incorrect, the error is correctly reported.

Better handling of podcasts 

From version 1.4.4:

From version 1.4.7:

What's new in Features release 1.3 (latest version 1.3.9 - 2 January 2007):

New Last FM application 

This Features release introduces the new Last FM application which provides a player for the popular Last.FM music website. You can learn more by reading the 'Last FM application' subsection of the Tutorial section.


The Tutorial section has been reorganized into subsections according to the various SpeakOn applications.

The following is only available from version 1.3.4 

The functionality and names of the following keys [F5, F6, F7, F8] and their equivalent in the numerical keypad (/, *, -, +) have been changed to enable control of the system (Windows) volume and balance as follows:

'Speech Minus' [F5] (/) - reduces the speech volume.

'Speech Plus' [F6] (*) - increases the speech volume.

* 'Speech Minus' [Ctrl + F5] (0 + /) - reduces the speech rate.

* 'Speech Plus' [Ctrl + F6] (0 + *) - increases the speech rate.

'Audio Minus' [F7] (-) - reduces the audio volume.

'Audio Plus' [F8] (+) - increases the audio volume.

* 'Audio Minus' [Ctrl + F7] (0 + -) - shifts the audio balance to the left.

* 'Audio Plus' [Ctrl + F8] (0 + +) - shifts the audio balance to the right.

Other modifications include removal of the Apply Action control from the Speech Settings application; speech is loaded by using the 'Select' key in the voices list.

The interface to the Seeing Ear library has been expanded and improved.

Text processing has been improved.

The following is only available from version 1.3.6 

The interface to TNAUK has been improved.

The following are only available from version 1.3.9 

Location messages have been improved.

A number of bugs have been fixed.

What's new in Features release 1.2 (version 1.2.19 - 27 October 2006):

Media Player and Real Player format support have been added. Navigation of media in the player has been improved and other usability features have been introduced.

General operations 

SpeakOn can now be shut down using the usual Windows [Alt + F4] way from the standard keyboard and all settings are saved. There is also a minor change in terminology; the 'Go' key name has been changed to the 'Select' key.

Media Centre application 

SpeakOn now supports all the common (and some of the less common) audio formats associated with the main audio players - Winamp, Media Player, and Real Player. More specifically SpeakOn in addition to formats supported in previous versions can now play '.wma' and '.ram' files. It supports '.wpl' (for a single entry only) playlists and '.asx' redirect files. It also support Media Player and Real Player streaming formats.

Please note that to play Real Player formats you have to either have Real Player or Real Alternative installed on your computer. There are more details on this topic in the 'Listening to internet radio' page of the tutorial and in:

Reference - Using SpeakOn applications > Media Centre > Media Directories > Radio

Player navigation - The navigation units for text files now include an extra page navigation unit if the file is more than 50 lines and an extra 10 pages navigation unit if the file is more than 500 lines. You may find this useful when reading large one-block text files such as the Seeing Ear library books.

The navigation units for audio files have now been modified and extended to include: 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 1 minute and 5 minutes.

Navigation units to jump between media in a collection are now only included if there is more than 1 media in the collection.

In text media, it is now possible to repeat the content of the current navigation unit selected ie. paragraph, sentence, line, word and character by pressing:

* 'Select' [Ctrl + Enter] - on the standard keyboard, or

* 'Select' (0 + 5) on the numerical keypad (Hold down the 0 key and press 5).

Other usability improvements include a confirmation task which is presented whenever the user wants to delete a file or all the bookmarks; the user can navigate between the controls (the message and OK and Cancel action controls) in this task by pressing the
[Tab] (3) key in the usual way. Alternatively as a shortcut the user can press the [Enter] (5) key to confirm or [Esc] to cancel the delete operation once this task is presented.

The format of the podcast 'rls' file has been simplified and contains only the URL of the RSS feed; compatibility with the previous format that starts with 'rss=' has been maintained.

What's new in Features release 1.1 (version 1.1.3 - 21 August 2006):

Usability enhancements - especially for new users 

General operations:

There is now a quick way to remind yourself of the keys' functionality. There are two new menus to help you to explore and remember the SpeakOn key commands:

# 'Menu' [Shift + F4] (9 long) key - universal keys menu

# 'Control' [Shift + F3] (3 long) key - context keys menu

On either of these menus, you can scroll up and down and then press the 'Select' key on the command you want which will run the command as if you were to have pressed the key itself.

If you are in either of these menus and you want to get out, just press the same keys again.

Minor improvements include 

SpeakOn tells you if there is only one application running when you press the 'Application' key and when you start SpeakOn.

SpeakOn tells you if there is only one task in an application when you press the 'Task' key.

Speakon tells you if there is only one control in a task when you press the 'Control' key.

Media Centre Application: The 'Cancel' [Esc or Ctrl] (0) key works more quickly for disconnecting internet requests when a server is not responding.

First public release of SpeakOn, features release 1.0 (version 1.0.0 - 26 June 2006)

Isaac Porat
SpeakOn's developer

[ Next - Version 2 history ]

[ Up - Previous versions' history - Section ]

[ Up 2 - What's new, updating SpeakOn, mailing list and contact information - Section ]

[ Up 3 - SpeakOn MediaSuite Manual and Tutorial - Main Index ]