Microsoft Office has a new “Black” theme.

Microsoft Office now has a new “Black” colour theme, as they put it, their darkest theme yet.


OfficeBlack[Image of the new black theme in Microsoft Word – yes that’s one of the new mouse cursors about to be released at: – e-mail me for more info if you read this before the page is updated)]


Personally I really like the new theme.  It provides great contrast on the ribbon and file menu. Office 2007 / 2010 had a similar theme at one point that was maybe a bit lighter so it’s nice to see it back and better than ever.

I’d also like to note some other tips here for those seeking to adjust the colours in Word for better readability.

Firstly some background, Is light text on dark (a-la the new black colour theme in office) better? Or is dark text on light (as per the document itself in say Word) preferable?

There is a lot written on the merits of light text on a dark background or dark text on a light backround, with results landing in both camps:

On the readability of inverted color schemes

One of my favourites is this short but interesting piece which concludes that light text on a dark background is bad based on research that 50% of people have trouble reading it. In fact, that perfectly supports my view that users should ALWAYS have a choice as to which colour scheme works best for them:
Why light text on dark background is a bad idea

So clearly some people prefer one and some prefer the other. Personally I find the extra glare of a white background irritating and hard to read so I prefer a dark theme.

So to select this new theme:
1. Fire up your favourite Office program (Word, Excel, Outlook etc)
2. Go to the file menu (alt+f)
3. Choose “Options” (t)
4. Whack the drop down box next to “Office Theme” (press alt+t, click on it, or tab to it and press the down arrow).
5. Choose “Black”.
6. Click the OK button (or tab to something that isn’t a button and press ENTER)

Now if you’re like me and prefer (for whatever reason) lighter text on a darker background, what else can you do to make Office easier to read?

Change the background!  The theme is great but it only affects the ribbon and background, not your documents which remain black text on white.  You can adjust this by changing the background colour:
1. Jump on over to the Design Ribbon tab (alt, G)
2. Choose the “Page Color” option (PC)
3. Pick a colour.

If you choose a colour from the bottom couple of rows of the black / grey or dark blue columns, it will automatically adjust your text colour to white (rather than black), which is exactly what we want as black on dark grey would be quite hard to read!

One disadvantage to changing background colour, is that the text selection colour (when you hold down SHIFT and press the arrows to select text) becomes nearly invisible. This seems to be worst on the black background where the highlight is grey on black (regular text is white on black). On a slightly lighter dark grey or dark blue the highlight becomes a slightly different shade which is still hard to read but marginally better.

If you do set your document colour to black, you’ll want to make sure (unless you want this) that you have print background colours and images disabled so if you print, it still comes out black text on white paper.  It is off by default but best to double check before you use up all the black ink / toner:

1. Open the File menu (alt+f)
2. Choose Options (t)
3. Go to the “Display” section (control+tab)
4. Press TAB (or move the mouse) to “Print background colors and images”
5. Press SPACEBAR (or click with the mouse) to uncheck this option (it’s unselected if the square next to it is black. If there is a tick in there, it’s checked).

If you want to adjust the size of things on screen, to make them bigger and easier to see, the best way is by adjusting DPI.  Here’s an article I wrote comparing how to do that – it works across your whole computer, not just Office: I would recommend, after adjusting the DPI that you next look at using the magnifier if you still want things larger:

Press WINDOWS+PLUS to turn the magnifier on or make things bigger
Press WINDOWS+MINUS to make things smaller
Press CONTROL+ALT+i to turn invert colours on (note you may prefer this to adjusting the Office theme in the first place – try both and see what works best for you).
Press WINDOWS+ESCAPE to turn the magnifier off (note that you could invert colours then use WINDOWS+MINUS to drop back to no magnification if you want inverted colours without magnification).
Whether or not you use the magnifier, you may also find zooming in or out of your document useful. This adjusts how big your text (and images) look on screen without affecting how they will be printed (if you want 72pt font on paper, you’ll need to set that font size in your document).

The easiest way to adjust the zoom of your document is by holding down CONTROL and using the scroll wheel on your mouse. There is no equivalent fully keyboard shortcut, however offers several solutions (either a macro or adding options to your ribbon).

Several other ways:

ALT, W, Q, E will get you into the zoom percentage and you can then type a value (100 = 100 percent, larger = bigger)


Click on the + or – buttons or the slider at the bottom right of the screen in the status bar with your mouse

Keyboard equivalent of that is F6 gets you to the status bar, you can then left and right arrow to the zoom control and manipulate it with the spacebar and F6 to get back to your document.
Finally, in Word specifically, if you want to get rid of the margins and go back to something which shows your text and not the whitespace around it:

1. Open the View ribbon (alt, w)
2. Choose either web layout (L) or draft layout (e)

Draft layout is what old Office 2003 users will remember as “normal” layout. You can still get to it with CONTROL+ALT+N (note that if you have a program shortcut set to start with CONTROL+ALT+N, eg NVDA, it will launch that, so you’ll need to activate it via the ribbon). You can also still get back to Print layout (the default) via CONTROL+ALT+P (again if you don’t have a program shortcut using that), but I’m not aware of an equivalent to get to Web view.

Draft layout will knock your colours back to black text on white, but web layout will keep it how you’ve set it up.

Interestingly, even when I saved this as my default template in Word, it still came up black on white when I created a new document, although if I then go into web layout, the colours go to white on dark as I’d set – So maybe leave that for now and hopefully Microsoft will fix that bug (I’ve reported it).

When you change fonts in Word there is a button to save as default, but to make more advanced changes (like I was hoping to do with the background), you need to load the normal.dotm file found in C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates – replace USERNAME with the profile you are logged in as, then make whatever changes to your setup (line spacing, font, etc) and then save the file.


What options do you use in Microsoft Office to make it easier to see or use? Let me know!


Windows 10 – Three months in, how is it going?

First of all I’d like to particularly welcome those of you who were at the Hadley seminar on Windows 10 today and like to thank Larry Muffett for setting it up for us: I’ve endeavoured to include links to further information on most of what was discussed, and also for everyone, a bit of an update and a look back on where Windows 10 is currently at.

So, for a bit of background, Microsoft created the Windows Insider program late 2014 as a way of giving those with an interest access to early “beta” versions of what would become Windows 10. Unlike previous beta programs, Microsoft have continued the Windows Insider program and you can still join it here: The reason for this is that unlike previous versions of Windows, Microsoft are going to keep improving and updating the features and user interface as part of their regular updates, as well as continuing to provide patches for bugs and security fixes. With previous versions of Windows, they didn’t tend to update or add many new features over the life of a particular version.

This introduces the potential, as I’ve discussed before, for things to stop working at any time: particularly with screen readers, and the flip side of that, it means that future upgrades should be much smoother, as when you buy a new machine, the new one should look the same as the old one, so no learning curve: Just yesterday, I received an insider build update (10576) which actually added some accessibility in the form of colouring in the title bar of Windows and adding a coloured border and so making it easier to see:

Windows 10 original white title bar

Windows 10 original white title bar

Windows 10 blue title bar

Windows 10 blue title bar

If you are worried about things changing suddenly, then you might prefer Windows 10 Professional which lets you set your updates to “current branch for business” which basically means when Microsoft come up with a new feature (for instance the coloured title bar), they test it in house, then send it out to the insiders, then after that to “Home” version users and finally a few months later to Windows Professional “Current branch for business” users. Here’s a rundown of the different Windows 10 versions: If you want to buy a new version of Windows 10 or upgrade from home to pro, here are the official pricing details:

So, how is Windows 10 doing? Well an article out this week suggests that adoption has been slow, largely due to people liking Windows 7 and not wanting to change:

You don’t actually have to upgrade. If you are happy with Windows 7 or 8 then they will still be supported, Windows 7 until 2020 and Windows 8 until 2023: Please at least tell me you aren’t still using Windows XP whose support has already ended and therefore you are at risk if you are running it.

Why should you upgrade? Well the return of the start menu, which has live tiles may be one – aimed at being “the best of both worlds” the start menu acts similarly to in Windows 7 but with live tiles similar to Windows 8 – so instead of just having a link to open the weather for instance, the live tile actually tells you what the current temperature is, and the news tile gives you current headlines right in your start menu.

Cortana is another new feature which, like Siri on the iPhone and OK Google on Android, lets you give voice commands to open programs, get information or dictate text into an e-mail or document. Here is a more in depth look at Cortana:

All the major AT vendors have announced support for Windows 10:
NVDA (2015.3 or later, though recommending users not upgrade yet):
Glassbrick (no statement on Windows 10 but I haven’t had any problems):
Zoomtext (10.1):
Window Eyes (9.2):
Dolphin (Guide v9.04, Publisher v3.51, EasyConverter v6.03, EasyReader v6.04, SuperNova 15):
Jaws (16.0.4350) and Magic (13.0.1119):

So why else might you want to delay or not update? Privacy is the biggest general issue raised: A good article on some of the privacy concerns and how to overcome them is:

Accessibility is another issue. While most features of Windows 10 work with most AT programs as above, Microsoft Edge, the new browser is one new feature which doesn’t work well with AT. The Windows Store and universal apps are another. The store you can just ignore if you wish, but to avoid Edge you will want to set Internet Explorer (which is included in Windows 10) or another browser as your default. To do that:

1. Press WINDOWS
2. Press UP ARROW until you get to “Settings” and press ENTER
3. Press TAB twice to move to “System” and press ENTER
4. Press DOWN ARROW until you get to “Default apps” and press ENTER.
5. Press TAB until you get to “Web Browser, Microsoft Edge” and press ENTER
6. Press TAB to move through the list of installed web browsers and press ENTER when you get to the one you want.
7. Press ALT+F4 to close settings.

If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10, here are some links to help: and and (This last looks like a nice easy option though I haven’t tried this app so can’t comment on accessibility).

If you do upgrade and then later want to reinstall Windows 10, you might like to download the files so you can create your own Windows 10 CD:

Finally, should you upgrade? Very good question. If you do, you should find most features work with most AT, though you may need to ensure for instance you use Internet Explorer rather than Edge. There are still some bugs and instabilities, so if you are happy with your existing version of Windows, and can get around the nags and prompts to upgrade, then you are still fine to stay with that. You have until July 2016 to decide to take advantage of the free upgrade offer.

And lastly, particularly for those who have just found your way here (and welcome again!) some other links to my own products / pages etc:

help ~at~
My book, Making Windows 10 Easy to See:
My large mouse pointers:
My Blog:
Particularly Windows 10 section:

Windows 10 – 15 days in. Also big book announcement!

Windows 10 – 15 days in. Also big book announcement!

Windows 10 was released on 29th July, just over two weeks in, how is it going? Should you upgrade yet? and what should you look out for?

All good questions! Microsoft is keen for everyone to upgrade – they’ve set the target of having Windows 10 on a billion devices by 2017:

The upgrade process, when it works well, is very smooth. I’ve documented the process and steps in my book (more below!) but you can download the chapter on upgrading for free here:

The main problem I had on my computer was most of the way through installation when it asked for my Microsoft ID (that you use for Skype, OneDrive, Xbox or other Microsoft services), I realised I’d forgotten it! I reset it on my phone though and you can create one at that point if needed. Other than that, it went fairly painlessly. On my wife’s laptop, her files, settings and programs transferred beautifully, but her mouse driver and speaker driver didn’t work meaning neither of those devices worked until we uninstalled the old drivers and Windows reverted to generic drivers which seem to work fine. For every person who has had trouble with the upgrade (some much worse than my wife’s), there are others who had a hassle free journey. If you use a branded computer (HP, Acer, etc), I’d recommend looking up the model and see what the manufacturer advises before upgrading.

You can either use the “Get Windows 10” item in your system tray (which should also flag any programs or hardware which might cause problems) or you can download ISO images from Microsoft directly: Note if you use the image you still need to “upgrade” in order to transfer your license across. You can choose to keep “nothing” during the install, which is one way of starting fresh and getting rid of any extra software bundled with your computer:

So, SHOULD you upgrade? The main points I would make are:

* Windows 10 is fairly stable – I haven’t had any crashes at all lately. I find Chrome freezes for a few seconds occasionally opening a new window, and on my wife’s laptop Outlook regularly freezes, sometimes for minutes on end.
* There are still glitches and features which don’t work completely (keyboard navigation through the Action Center, and Edge browser not recognising most screen reader navigation quick keys being several examples).
* Coming from Windows 7, the desktop and system tray are similar to what you’re used to. The Start menu is a little different and we’ll look at that shortly.
* Coming from Windows 8, the tiles in the start menu (you can go full screen) look familiar, and you can still type into the search box when you bring up the start menu.
* Not every program (or piece of hardware) works with Windows 10 yet, so check with your manufacturer on anything you need access to. Most AT vendors have announced either current or upcoming support for Windows 10:

Jaws 16 and Magic 13 both Windows 10 ready:

Window Eyes 9.2 Works with Windows 10, Zoomtext not yet Windows 10 ready:

Supernova (beta), Guide, EasyConverter, EasyReader and Dolphin Publisher all Windows 10 ready:

NVAccess recommending waiting until NVDA 2015.3 (due in late August):

Glassbrick don’t have anything on their website, it seems to work ok. On my machine I had to run in compatibility mode with display scaling disabled otherwise I couldn’t see the bottom of the screen (possibly a resolution issue rather than Windows 10 specifically?):

Serotek have a similar position to NVAccess – System Access works with some aspects of Windows 10 however they recommend holding off upgrading both until their next version and until Microsoft iron out some of the early bugs in Windows 10:

And finally our own extra large mouse pointers work well in Windows 10:


If you use adaptive technology, such as Jaws or Window Eyes, when you start the upgrade, it will speak through the first part. Once the computer has rebooted during the install, you will need to use Narrator to guide you through the rest of the install by pressing WINDOWS+U (and then need to reinstall your AT after the upgrade). How long you have to wait to start Narrator is tricky to guess – I have heard reports anyrwhere from 20 mins to 3 hours. Our computers here (1 – 5 years old), took 1 – 1 ½ hours. I would start it going, then come back and check whether WINDOWS+U does anything every 20 minutes or so.

One of the most eagerly anticipated features of Windows 10 is the Start menu.

start menu

The left side will look familiar to those used to Windows 7. Your username up the top gives option to change account settings, lock, sign out or change user. Below that are some of your most used and newest apps and under that a handful of system items including “File Explorer”, “Settings”, “Power” (where you shut down, sleep or restart) and “all apps” (changes that whole side of the start menu to an alphabetical list of every app you have installed). Windows favours the term “App” over “Program” but essentially they are interchangeable for many purposes.

The right side contains a grid of Windows 8 style tiles. When you pin something to the start menu, this is where it ends up (I’ve seen several sites mention pinning things to the left side of the start menu, however I haven’t been able to get these to work on any of our machines: As well as simply launching apps, some of the tile are “Live” eg the weather and news, which display the temperature and the top news stories respectively.

When you press the Windows key or click the Start button, focus moves to the search bar where you can start typing an app or file name, a setting or any phrase to search the web for. This is consistent with previous versions but with extra functionality.


Cortana will likely also be of interest to many people – essentially you can dictate commands or information and it works very similarly to Siri on iOS or Google Now on Android. I’ve found the recognition is ok, particularly for launching apps for instance – it made a few more mistakes when I dictated text to type in an email but I could do it (much like using Siri for the same task). Here’s a more in depth look at what you can do with Cortana:

So what’s bad about the new Windows 10? Here’s a roundup of some of the main issues:

– Security: Some settings which are on by default include connecting to open Wi-Fi networks, letting any of your facebook friends automatically connect to your network without needing a password if they happen to drop by and search sending everything you type into the search box straight back to Microsoft. One handy guides on security settings (and tightening them up) is:

Default apps are lost when you update. You can set them up again by going into search (hit the Windows key) and typing “default apps” and there you can set the default apps for various things.

Updates: One of the most contentious topics with Windows 10 is updates. If you have the home version, you get every update that comes out – both security patches (good!) and feature updates (could be good or bad). Several ways around this are: Buy the professional version and set it to receive updates on the “Professional branch for business” – you still get feature updates, but a few months down the track hopefully when any issues are fixed. Some users have also found themselves in an endless cycle of reboots after installing corrupt driver updates. If that’s you, this may be the relevant page to read:

Overall I like the new version, but I still recommend most users hold off for another couple of months to give the various boffins time to iron out the early bugs and get everything running smoothly for everyone, but if you do decide to upgrade, and once you get through the install, you should find most things work fairly well.

Finally my big announcement! “Making Windows 10 Easy to See” is now available!

[cover art for Making Windows 10 Easy to See]

[cover art for Making Windows 10 Easy to See]

Designed for users of laptops, desktop PCs and tablets. It’s the first book designed to help you not only get the most out of Windows 10, but also to help you set it up so you don’t need to squint.
Topics include:
– Turning on for the first time,
– Using larger fonts and magnifier,
– Getting around Windows,
– Common apps and tasks,
– All in easy to understand language.
Plus join the Making Windows Easy online community free!

Available directly from 22 Point at a special introductory price:

Have you upgraded yet? How have you found the experience?

Windows 10 – two weeks out!

Ok, here is your fifteen day heads up about Windows 10! That’s right, the operating system that is quite likely to be as ubiquitous in a couple of years as Windows 7 still is today is barely a fortnight from it’s prime time debut.

So, is it ready for the spotlight? And should you leap onto the bandwagon and download it on day 1?

Well I’ve had some great chats with people this week about Windows 10 – you can hear my dulcet tones chatting with Byron Lee on the 7th July edition of The Talk Zone (and do check out the rest of Byron’s site and his other shows as well), and also the team at Cool Blind Tech I don’t think that one’s up yet – but you can subscribe to their podcast and they have heaps of good info as well on all things blindness, techy and cool. Coming back to the questions though my answers to those questions would have to be “It’s getting there” and “wait a couple months”.

Overall, I think it’s going to be a great operating system. I think for most Windows 7 or 8 users, you should be able to get up and running with certainly less learning curve than was involved in moving from Windows 7 to 8, and there are some nifty goodies to explore which extend the functionality that you are familiar with from your current version of Windows. HOWEVER, there are still bugs, and these are unlikely to all be fixed by July 29.

Here are just a couple of issues I’ve noticed (as a low vision user and just as a user) in the last two days, as I updated to the latest build:

1) I used my computer on Sunday night, shut down as normal, started up on Monday and started working away, and a few minutes in, the computer suddenly shut down, giving me a screen saying it was rebooting, and it proceeded to install the latest build (going from 10162 to 10166). The feedback I have got from someone who apparently works at Microsoft (not sure which area, but from one of the Windows 10 groups on Facebook) is that it shouldn’t do that and to submit that as feedback. I have done that, and I certainly hope that won’t be the behaviour of the final version, as randomly rebooting while you are working is very much not polite!

It does bring up a positive point, which I believe will be included in the final version as well. There is a feedback utility built into Windows, which lets you browse sections (Hardware, Microsoft Edge, Personalization and ease of access etc) see the feedback, issues and suggestions others have reported and also report issues yourself.

[Image of Windows 10 feedback app]

[Image of Windows 10 feedback app]

2) The other big issue I’ve found is that Jaws won’t work at all with this build (10166). For the last couple of builds, I’ve got messages before updating saying that I had to uninstall Jaws prior to it letting me upgrade as it wasn’t compatible – that’s a bit of a worry in itself as it meant that until I did that, I couldn’t get even security patches. In any case, I’ve installed it again after updating and it’s generally been ok. This time however I installed it and it just doesn’t start. When I look in the message centre I see a message saying it’s not compatible. Interestingly I do get (slightly different) constant messages saying that NVDA might not work, but so far it seems fine I have just ignored that message.

Interestingly, when you click on those messages it opens up a page on the relevant company’s website, about their update to Windows 10 compatibility:

[Image of Jaws incompatibility message]

[Image of Jaws incompatibility message]

[Image of NVDA incompatibility message]

[Image of NVDA incompatibility message]

Note in the two images above, the right hand quarter of the screen is what is called the Action Center. Down in the system tray is a little square speech balloon looking icon which is normally white edges and lines and clear inside. When there is a message which you haven’t read yet, it inverts to all white with black lines and you can either click on it or use the keyboard to bring it up and read your messages. As well as notifications about any issues or problems which need attention, it also contains buttons to let you jump straight to some of your settings, toggle a couple of settings and do things like take notes.

Windows 10 comes with One Note which used to ship as part of Office, but I’ve never touched it before. With Windows 10, one other new feature is that OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud storage, is now built right into Windows and you can access it directly from Windows Explorer, I’ve got my documents setup there so for the most part they save automatically right into the cloud – I’ve had a couple of issues with that, particularly some things just don’t save there so I have several copies of some things in multiple places. Anyway One Note automatically uses One Drive so that could be a handy notetaking solution, particularly as there’s an Android app which utilises it as well (there are two actually – One Note is available for both Android and Android Wear- here’s the link to regular Android version of OneNote – there’s also a OneDrive app as well as all the other office apps if you haven’t checked them out already).

Where was I – yes problems I’ve found – well another one relates to that action centre – just this evening I’ve found that sometimes the action centre won’t come up no matter how much I scowl when I click on the little speech balloon – at the same time I discovered when that doesn’t work, the start menu ALSO doesn’t work. If you don’t think that’s an issue, I hope you aren’t a Microsoft developer!) – the first time it happened I restarted the computer to get it back, I’ve now found that some combination of ALT+TAB, going back to the desktop and pressing escape seems to fix it but it hasn’t happened often enough for me to be sure (it’s happened three times so far in an hour, though I’ve been on this build since yesterday morning and haven’t seen it previously so not sure why it’s started now).

Finally one issue I’ve found as a low vision user, is when I do certain things in Windows Explorer which cause it to bring up a “file open” style dialogue (eg choosing “Open with” on a file and choosing “Look for another app on this PC” to find something else to open it with), the open dialogue appears quite small – my guess is that appears at 100% DPI, even though I’ve set my display properties to use 175% DPI.

Other than that, NVDA seems to work pretty well, and Jaws was working ok in the last build I used it in (10159 I think). I hasten to stress again that these are bugs in the developer preview which are unlikely to still be present in the final build, at least for too long, so definitely don’t write Windows 10 off just yet. Overall where a lot of programs traditionally don’t work with newer versions of Windows than they were written for, I’ve installed numerous programs I had for Windows 7 and they work fine on Windows 10 – which is not to say that program you really love and use all the time that I didn’t try will work – as we saw with Jaws a few paragraphs ago, some programs at this stage definitely don’t currently work.

One other tweak I always use which does work though is modifying the mouse cursor, I’ve used my Windows mouse cursors which you can see in the screenshots above, and they work just as well as they have previously, so I’m happy about that as they’re much easier to see than the default cursor!

22 Point's large red Windows cursor

As for other AT products that I’ve found information on:

AI Squared have said:

When will ZoomText and Window-Eyes work with Windows 10?
As soon as possible after Windows 10 is released on July 29th. We’ve been testing ZoomText and Window-Eyes against the Microsoft developer releases for months and continue to pay attention to the folks in Redmond, Washington, USA. Our developers are happy with their progress thus far.

What Ai Squared products already support Windows 10?

ImageReader 1.x
ZoomText Keyboard

Dolphin have said:

We’re pleased to report that latest versions of Dolphin Guide, EasyConverter, EasyReader and Publisher are all “Windows 10 ready”.

Dolphin Guide v9.04
Dolphin Publisher v3.51
EasyConverter v6.03
EasyReader v6.04
So what about SuperNova?

Upgrade to SuperNova 15 for Windows 10 support

I can’t find an official statement from NV Access but as I say, it seems to work for the most part. I had a bit of trouble in a couple of places, notably getting around parts of the action centre, and the edge browser, I could access some things, but couldn’t use any of the usual internet shortcut keys with NVDA (H for headings, INSERT+F7 for links list etc). NVDA does work fine with Firefox though and that remains the recommended browser for NVDA users. Windows 10 does also include Internet Explorer which still works with NVDA.

So overall, I reiterate what I’ve said all along, there is a lot to like in Windows 10, however unless you are really keen on trying out the latest software – if you’re a user who just likes to turn on the computer, do what you need to do and turn it off again and forget about it for instance – then stick with Windows 7 for another few months while they iron things out. If you’re a tinkerer and use NVDA (or Dolphin products from the look of their announcement a couple of weeks ago), you might find some things not quite polished yet, but overall, you can get around most places. If you’re a Jaws user then DEFINITELY wait until Freedom Scientific bring out their new version as from the looks of things currently you could end up in a situation where your main screen reader doesn’t work at all. If you’re a Windows 8 user who hates it, has always hated it and wants Windows 7 back (and you’re not a Jaws user) then you might prefer to take your chances with the early bugs than continue with Windows 8.

If you are interested in learning more about the new features of Windows 10, definitely hit the follow button as I’m sure I’ll ramble more about it! Plus don’t forget to Subscribe to receive info from me on my upcoming book on Windows 10.

Are you looking forward to Windows 10 being released? Are you going to wait or grab it as soon as you can? Let everyone know in the comments!

Upgrading to Windows 10 could make future upgrades much smoother.

[Image of Windows logos]

[Image of Windows logos]

Last week we looked at one of the potential pitfalls for Windows 10 – that the new direction of Windows receiving feature upgrades in regular Windows updates where previously Windows only received security patches and bug fixes – leaves open the possibility of programs, and particularly accessibility programs, suddenly not working if a feature is introduced which isn’t compatible with those existing programs.

This week, I thought I’d flip things over and look at the other potential – that upgrading to Windows 10 could be the last “big” upgrade you need to do.

With any major software upgrade there is a learning curve. From Windows XP to 7, it arguably wasn’t too big – things had been redesigned and new features added, but overall if you were used to doing something a certain way, it was generally still similar. Windows 8 was much different from anything before so there was a big learning curve.  Also with any major upgrade, some programs won’t get upgraded and may never work on the new system, and others may need an upgrade of their own – with it’s own learning curve.

Windows 10 is coming back to something which looks and behaves more like a progression from Windows 7 – and looks like being a similar learning curve as say Windows XP to 7 was.

But what will happen after that? Well potentially things could be much easier – after all, if Microsoft decide to make changes to the interface, they will do so gradually, and introduce things one at a time – meaning that 3rd party program developers only need to cope with small changes at a time – not all of which will affect every program anyway. Similarly for users, if Microsoft move say the shut down feature to a whole new location (I wouldn’t be upset, where it is now in Windows 10, you have to open the start menu, choose Power which is the second option up, then Shut down which is the middle of three options), some people would find it straight away, others would need to ask someone, and others would give up and just press the power button on their computer (or leave the computer on overnight). If it was a feature which was really important and which lots of people just couldn’t find, then you would likely see articles about it in the newspaper, on the news, and all over social media as well, so the information about the change would filter through to most people. Even so, that’s one change. Over the next six months they might introduce new features which you don’t even notice, or which you do find and love instantly.

Microsoft learnt an important and expensive lesson with Windows 8 – that people don’t like large changes being thrust upon them when they were quite happy with how things were before. I would be surprised if they make that mistake again any time soon.

One of the big advantages of this new Windows 10 model, is not even something which will be appreciated straight away, but rather, as you use your computer, you’ll absorb the minor changes as they happen, and then a couple of years down the track, when it’s time to buy a new computer, you’ll go out and get one, take it home and turn it on… and it will look and behave exactly the same as the one you just upgraded from. – No more big learning curve! Plus, everything you had on your old computer last week, you can have on your brand new computer this week and it will continue to work exactly the same.

With those incremental changes, one point I raised last week, which will be attractive to some users, is that if you go for Windows 10 Professional ($199 USD to buy from scratch or $99 USD to upgrade from Windows 10 Home remembering that Windows 10 is a free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8, for the same ‘level’ – eg if you have Windows 7 Professional now, you will get Windows 10 Professional), you can put off those incremental upgrades, so if you are worried about program compatibility, you can use the “branch for business” which is touted as being even more stable, and which will give companies a few months extra to ensure their software works before you are upgraded with those new features.

Previously, Microsoft have made beta releases of new versions of Windows available to anyone who wanted to test it and ensure their software worked on it, before the final version was made public. Then once the new version is released, the beta program closes and everyone uses the final version. With Windows 10, one thing Microsoft are doing differently to ever before, is continuing the “Windows Insider” program so users who wish to, can continue using beta versions of Windows, which basically means that the implementation process for new features will be:

– Microsoft come up with a feature (or like feedback users have provided on a new feature to implement).

– Microsoft build the new feature and test it in house with their own engineers and testers.

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Windows Insiders”

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Home” users.

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Current branch for business” (Professional and some Enterprise) uses.

Along the way, each new feature will presumably only roll out to the next level, once Microsoft are satisfied with the stability and functionality among the current group of users.  They collect crash reports of any problems as well as feedback submitted by each group of users, so for users on the Professional version, each feature will have been through quite a bit of testing and been exposed to many users to ensure it’s stability, and of course companies (and individuals) have the opportunity to participate in the Windows Insiders program in which case they will keep up to date with new developers and have time to react, before changes  are rolled out to home or professional users.

So potentially after upgrading to Windows 10, particularly the pro version, but even home, you may find yourself only needing to note down small changes here and there and you may find your machine runs better and more stable than ever before.

In all likelyhood, the reality will probably fall somewhere between last week’s post and this one – For the most part I think most things SHOULD trundle along fairly smoothly through Microsoft’s updates, but I can envisage, not often but now and then, an upgrade which completely breaks something for a third party program you use, and which may not be fixed in time (whether it’s up to Microsoft or the 3rd party developer). If you do have a piece of software you rely on, whether it’s a screen reader, or a graphics editor or anything else, I’d recommend following the developers on social media – that way you can keep up with news regardless, and if there is a problem, they’ll usually let their followers know as soon as they are aware and can give advice on what to do or what their time frame for a fix is likely to be.

In terms of the initial upgrade to Windows 10, for most users, I’d reiterate that I would recommend waiting a couple of months before doing it (in terms of the free upgrade, you’ve got a year, until July 29 2016 to take advantage of it).

How do you think it will play out? What do you intend to do re upgrading?  Share your thoughts below!

Upgrading to Windows 10 – future upgrade branch options

Following my article earlier today on Windows 10, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the best way forward for users and the costs and differences between the different options.

Basically there are three options for Windows 10 (looking at PC versions here for now):

Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.  There is also Windows 10 Education which is basically Enterprise but designed for educational institutions.


Windows 10 pricing for home and small business is available now. To buy from scratch, Windows 10 home will be $119 USD
Windows 10 Pro will be $199 USD
and if you’ve already got Windows 10 home (or the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 home), to upgrade that to Windows 10 pro is $99 USD

I haven’t yet found any pricing information for Enterprise, presumably the idea is that if you are a business big enough and with systems which are mission critical enough to require Enterprise, then you negotiate a deal directly with Microsoft.


There are plenty of articles about the features the new operating system will come with, I had a first look at Windows 10 a few weeks ago and will post a new update prior to the new Windows going live on 29 July.

Windows 10 Professional

As to features of the other versions, as well as everything you get in Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro also comes with:
– Domain Join Services
– BitLocker Drive Encryption
– Remote Access Services
– Group Policy editor
– Windows Update for Business

With most of those items, if you’re not sure what they are, you probably don’t need them.  Bitlocker drive encryption is one that might be of interest, essentially it’s an extra layer of security that means that even if someone were to get access to your hard drive, they wouldn’t be able to access the files without the encryption key.  It is arguable whether it is the most secure encryption method though it is likely the best option for most average users.


As well as everything you get in Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise comes with:

– Long Term Servicing Branch
– Device Guard – help protect against the ever-growing range of modern security threats targeted at devices, identities, applications and sensitive company information


In turn, Windows 10 Education builds on Windows 10 Enterprise, and is designed to meet the needs of schools – staff, administrators, teachers and students. This edition will be available through academic Volume Licensing, and there will be paths for schools and students using Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro devices to upgrade to Windows 10 Education.

The ‘branches’

The Long Term Servicing Branch

The Long Term Servicing branch (only available to Windows 10 Enterprise customers) will continue to get latest and greatest security updates and enterprise grade support, but the feature updates that will be pushed to normal customers will not be provided during the support lifecycle of the OS. This branch is aimed at businesses who cannot compromise on stability and can do without the cutting edge features.

On Long Term Servicing branches, customers will have the flexibility to deliver security updates and fixes via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) which allows full control over the internal distribution of updates using existing management solutions such as System Center Configuration Manager or to receive these updates automatically via Windows Update.

The Current Branch for Business.

Businesses opting for the Current Branch on the other hand will be able to get the feature updates from the consumer versions but at a later date, once the features have been tested by Windows Insiders and guaranteed to not break compatibility.

By the time Current branch for Business machines are updated, the changes will have been validated by millions of Insiders, consumers and customers’ internal test processes for several months, allowing updates to be deployed with this increased assurance of validation.

System administrators will be have the flexibility to choose the updates that they would like to deploy in their operating environments, giving further control over the overall stability and compatibility of the Windows 10 installations.

This is great news as it reflects the fact that Microsoft is giving a lot of thought to Windows 10 as a Service and Windows 10 business Requirements.

Home branch

There isn’t a nice neat description by Microsoft for this, but reading from the Professional description above the feature upgrades will be sent out to home consumers along with the security and other updates, and once they’ve been found to be stable after a couple of months (possibly involving one or more patches along the way to fix issues found), then they will be sent out to Pro and Enterprise users on the current branch for business.

Windows insiders

There is one more branch which is designed for the technically minded who do love to be early adopters and don’t mind testing out features and finding bugs. The Windows Insider program allows users to get advance copies of “beta” versions of Windows features before they are sent out toe Windows home and then other users. This is not designed for use on your primary PC, but rather on a second or “testing” PC.
It’s free to join the Windows Insiders program

Enterprise pricing

Windows 10 Enterprise pricing seems hard to come by: Microsoft goes into a lot of detail about all the many benefits you get by being an Enterprise customer but not so much the price, although it does appear to be on a year by year basis and I expect would likely work out more expensive than other options for the average user.  Although you get the long term stability branch which would be attractive to some, I would HOPE that adaptive technology companies, (and others who make all the other third party software people use) would be able to keep up at least with the “current branch for business” update stream.

If you’re interested in Microsoft’s newest toy, for everyone who wants an 84″ Surface Pro hub, for all your enterprise employee collaboration needs, will set you back a cool $19,999.  If the price of a family car is a bit much for a tablet, then perhaps you will be tempted by the more modest 55″ model, for which you will only need to part with $6,999.

More to come in future entries, but with that extra information, which version of Windows 10 will you be aiming for?

Upgrading to Windows 10 could mean things stop working at anytime

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 logo

I’m excited about the upcoming release of Windows 10 – which is good, since I’m writing a book on Windows 10 (Please E-Mail me to subscribe to my E-Mail list to be in the know as soon as it’s released). I think the return of the start menu is a fantastic thing. I am looking forward to the voice activation features Cortana will bring (even if they’ll only be available to several countries at launch), and I’m ambitious about the possibilities of the new Windows Store making it safe again for people to download addon software without extra addons they didn’t ask for (see this warning about every major Windows freeware site and this warning about Sourceforge and this warning about ‘free’ Anti-virus software – in fact, while you’re on HowToGeek, and if you only read one article, make it this article about 12 common PC myths with references those others as well).

I do however, have one big reservation about Windows 10, which will resonate with anyone who has been through a major system update and uses adaptive technology (third party software which makes the PC accessible to those with various disabilities) – and indeed for anyone who relies heavily on any piece of third party software. Microsoft have announced that as part of the Windows 10 experience you won’t be able to delay updates in Windows 10 home edition. Windows 10 will come in a range of flavours, much like the versions before it, so if you are using Windows 7 or 8 home, you’ll get a free update to Windows 10 home. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8 Pro, then you’ll get the update to Windows 10 Pro. While traditionally, Windows updates have mostly been security patches and bug fixes, with the occasional Service Pack which might introduce some new functionality, Microsoft have generally held over on major system and interface updates for new releases of Windows.

Now however, Microsoft have announced that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows – meaning that instead of bringing in new features in a few years and repackaging the lot in a major update called say Windows 11, Microsoft will simply add these features as they are developed into your regular Windows updates. On the one hand this has the potential to be really handy – One day suddenly new options and settings will appear, Cortana will work in Australia, and other things will be changed and improved. But will that always be a good thing? Imagine if you were happily using Windows 7 and then one day got a Windows update you couldn’t defer and all of a sudden you lost the start menu and had the Windows 8 metro tile interface? With user interface and feature enhancements being brought into regular Windows updates, it is possible. Since in Windows 10 home edition, you won’t be able to defer updates, you won’t be able to do much about it if it does happen. With Windows 10 Professional, and Windows 10 Enterprise, users have the option of taking updates after a few months, only after they’ve been extensively tested on home users (see previous link) – which makes using Windows 10 home great if you like being an early adopter and trying out new things (you can also sign up to be a Windows insider and download early builds of Windows 10 now before they launch, and get new features in future even before they are pushed out to Windows 10 home users.

For home users, the idea of not having a choice about installing security updates is actually not so bad, as it will ensure that security updates are in fact up to date, and Windows 10 won’t be quite as in-your-face about updates as they have been on occasion in the past, but rather will download updates and install them as you reboot, as has been happening recently so many users won’t even notice except that the PC will take a bit longer to shut down on those occasions.

The problem comes in when features are added or how existing features work changes. While some 3rd party programs are very quick to respond to changes and ensure their programs continue to work, others are not always so fast, and it depends on the changes within Windows – some changes may require a 3rd party app to make only minor adjustments to continue working, or even none at all, but some may take a major rewrite – again consider the changes necessary for a screen reader to understand how the Windows metro tile interface worked in Windows 8, and then again to make all the changes necessary to support a new start menu (with some metro like tiles) in Windows 10. What this means is that screen reader company would need to have someone in the Windows Insider program, testing new features, and responding to those with program updates, hopefully before those features go live for home users, otherwise, those home users who rely on that screen reader, will not have access to at least that feature of Windows until their screen reader is able to work with it. maybe not such a big issue if the broken feature is in Microsoft Paint, but potentially crippling if the feature is the Start menu or system tray.

Probably the safest option for users relying heavily on third party software such as screen readers, could be to stump up the extra $100 to upgrade their Windows home license to a Pro license.

Potentially you could even upgrade to an Enterprise license which would allow you to still upgrade to Windows 10 but not receive incremental feature upgrades at all. Of course you can still stay with Windows 7 or 8.1 – Windows 7 will receive support up until 2020 – although the free upgrade offer is only valid for the first year so if you do stick with Windows 7 or 8 beyond July 29 2016, you’ll have to pay for the new version.

For most users, I’d recommend not necessarily upgrading on day 1, and potentially considering upgrading to Windows 10 pro. Because of the big incentive to upgrade by it being free, it will most likely be something that majority of PC users will find themselves using, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. What are you planning to do about upgrading? Are you going to be a day 1 adopter? or are you going to hold out and decide whether to upgrade in about May 2016?

EDIT: I’ve been asked a few questions and had some discussion about this post, so I’ve collated some further information into a supplementary post

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Comparison of different camera apps for Low Vision / Blind users (with data)

Ok the last couple of posts have been:

Camera apps for blind users
Camera apps for low vision users

To come up with my recommendations for those two posts, I looked at 36 camera apps.

Today I thought I’d present the list of apps I compared, along with some brief notes on each, to help you investigate the options you might be interested in.

I’ve also included two screenshots of each option – one at normal DPI and the other at double that. That follows on from my recent post about Adjusting android resolution, pixel density and font size and my series on Rooting Android (You need to have a rooted device in order to adjust font size beyond the “Huge” size which is actually only 1.3 times the size of the regular font size, or to adjust the DPI). So this page should be of interest both to those looking at different camera apps, and those looking at how adjusting the DPI affects a range of apps.

So here is a list of all the apps I tested, some points on each (in a table) and some images of each in both standard DPI (320 DPI on my Galaxy Note 2) and after I manually doubled the DPI to 640.

A Better Camera

[Image of A Better Camera]

[Image of A Better Camera]

a better camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-21-18-45-40

A Better Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Back Camera Selfie

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

Back camera selfi - high dpi - Screenshot_2015-06-01-08-49-15

Back Camera Selfie in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


binoculars Screenshot_2015-05-19-14-10-14

binoculars - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-39-48

Binoculars in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera (Google)

[Image of Google's default camera]

[Image of Google’s default camera]

camera google high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-40-35

Camera (Google) in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera 2

camera 2 - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-41-01

Camera 2 looked exactly the same in normal and high DPI.

Camera 51

camera 51 - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-29-14

camera 51 - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-34-56

Camera 51 in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera Awesome

[Image of Camera Awesome]

[Image of Camera Awesome]

camera awesome high dpi - Screenshot_2015-05-20-08-52-20

Camera Awesome in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera Fun Free

camera fun - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-44-40

camera fun high dpi - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-41-31

Camera Fun Free in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera Fv-5

[Image of Camera FV-5]

[Image of Camera FV-5]

camera fv-5 high dpi - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-41-57

Camera FV-5 in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera HDR Studio

camera hdr studio - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-45-48

Camera HDR Studio did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Camera ICS

camera ics - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-31-48

camera ics - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-46-46

Camera ICS in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Camera Zoom

binoculars Screenshot_2015-05-19-14-10-14

binoculars - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-39-48

Camera Zoom in normal (left) and double DPI (right). The app looked identical to Binoculars by the same author.

Camera Zoom FX

camera zoom fx - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-36-06

camera zoom fx - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-55-51

Camera Zoom FX in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


[Image of Cameringo+]

[Image of Cameringo+]

cameringo+ high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-57-17

Cameringo+ in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


[Image of Camu - with one of the easiest to see shutter buttons]

[Image of Camu – with one of the easiest to see shutter buttons]

camu - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-57-51

camu - high dpi - Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-57-48

Camu in normal (left) and double DPI (middle and settings at double DPI right)


cymera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-43-21

Cymera did not change appearance between normal and double DPI.

DSLR Camera

[Image of DSLR Camera]

[Image of DSLR Camera]

dlsr camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-59-20

DSLR in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Fast Burst Camera

fast burst camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-44-19

fast burst camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-00-08

Fast Burst Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

FX Camera

fxcamera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-30-15

fxcamera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-01-10

FX Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

HDR Camera

hdr camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-45-30

HDR Camera did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

High Speed Camera

high speed camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-46-03

high speed camera - Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-02-13

High Speed Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

InstaCamera Pro

[Imstacamera - no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

[Imstacamera – no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

InstaCamera Pro did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Lapse It

lapse it - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-47-30

lapse it - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-03-27

Lapse It in normal (left) and double DPI (right). Interestingly some of the controls got smaller at higher DPI rather than bigger.

Night Camera

night camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-15-48-00

Night Camera did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Open Camera

[Image of Open Camera]

[Image of Open Camera]

open camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-13-51

Open Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Paper Camera

paper camera - Screenshot_2015-05-20-10-14-22

Paper Camera did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Pro HDR Camera

pro hdr camera - Clipboard01

pro hdr camera high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-11-36
pro hdr camera setting high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-09-12-06

Pro HDR Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (middle and right)


procam - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-05-07

procam - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-13-28

ProCam in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


[Image of Pro Capture]

[Image of Pro Capture]

pro capture - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-17-02

ProCapture in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


[Image of Selfish]

[Image of Selfish]

selfish - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-33-13

Selfish in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Silent Camera

silent camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-08-36

silent camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-18-16
Silent Camera in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Simple Camera Silence

simple camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-08-44

simple camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-28-59

Simple Camera Silence in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Smart Selfie

[Smart Selfie - works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

[Smart Selfie – works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

smart selfie - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-34-28

Smart Selfie in normal (left) and double DPI (right)

Snap Gallery

snap camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-09-25

snap camera - high dpi Screenshot_2015-05-20-11-31-04

Snap Gallery in normal (left) and double DPI (right)


vignette - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-09-49

[Image of Vignette]

[Image of Vignette]

[Image of Vignette waiting for movement to stop after pressing the shutter to take the picture]

[Image of Vignette waiting for movement to stop after pressing the shutter to take the picture]

Vignette did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Zoom Camera

zoom camera - Screenshot_2015-05-21-16-10-12

Zoom Camera did not change appearance between normal and high DPI.

Following is a table I compiled of information about each camera as I was making my notes. I contemplated different ways of presenting the information and in the end decided “as is” was probably the easiest as different elements of the table will appeal to different users.

Name URL Talkback accessible Blind useable Face recognition tap anywhere does hardware volume keys Size of shutter button size of other buttons focus type zoom Image effects available DSLR type options Preview of last photo Works with high DPI Wait for device to be steady Items on screen Notes
Camera FV-5 Buttons unlabelled no no focus pretty much any setting 1.5cm 5mm Auto / options regular none most (exposure / iso / focus / shutter time) icon some options overlap yes 12 – 16 Lots of options, medium size icons, thicker black rule of thirds lines
Silent cameraw Buttons unlabelled no no focus shutter 1.5cm 1cm tap regular none exposure, flash icon ok no 9 shutter button gets washed out in large white panel at bottom of screen, some small icons.
FX camera Buttons unlabelled no no focus 1cm 5mm tap no post processing flash, timer icon some options overlap no 7 Need to sign in with facebook / twitter / email and starts in its own social page rather than camera.
dslr camera Buttons unlabelled no visual indicator focus shutter 7mm 5mm Auto / options regular 10 many icon some options overlap no 12 Lots of DSLR features but small buttons.
fast burst camera Buttons unlabelled small controls and touch anywhere to shoot make it possible no Focus / shutter shutter, zoom 1.2cm 7mm tap regular none flash, exposure, scene modes icon some options overlap no 4 Slide to zoom, tap to focus and shutter in corner work ok with talkback even though buttons unlabelled
Camera fun free Buttons unlabelled no no hide controls 5mm 5mm auto regular 30 in full version flash icon ok no 6 Only does effects (no regular) buttons small
Simple Camera Silence Buttons unlabelled yes, tap to take photo, clear screen no shoot 1.5cm 5mm auto regular none flash icon yes no 6 Works well as a very simple camera, can touch screen to take, some small icons.
Camera HDR Studio Buttons unlabelled no no shutter 1.5cm 1cm Auto / options regular many hdr focus flash icon no different Yes – waits for good shot 8 graphical menus, HDR can improve pictures, complex icons
High speed camera Buttons unlabelled no no shutter 1.5cm 1cm auto regular 10 flash, torch, timer, icon some options overlap no 12 lots of small icons
A Better Camera Buttons unlabelled tap to shoot no shutter shutter, zoom, exposure 1.5cm 12mm – 2cm Auto / options regular Ad-in post processing Exposure / focus / flash icon some options overlap Yes – waits for good shot 8 Works well, large buttons and DRO mode lights well.  Grid and horizon lines very faint and zoom tucked off to the side.
Snap Gallery trial Buttons unlabelled no visual indicator shutter, focus shutter, focus,zoom,exposure 1cm 1cm tap regular 12 iso, white balance, exposure, flash, scene none some options overlap no 5 Sinple layout and menu options though small icons
HDR Camera Buttons unlabelled no no 2cm 1cm auto regular HDR options flash, exposure icon no different no 3 Works well, large buttons, but replaced by a better camera.
Night camera Buttons unlabelled no no 2cm 1.5cm Auto / options regular night mode no icon no different no 4 Not brilliant photos in most light, may get extra detail in low light for some?  Replaced by A better camera in any case which has similar options included.
Camera Zoom FX Can’t access all controls yes (voice activated) no pretty much any pretty much any setting 1.5cm 5mm touch regular many horizon, rule of thirds, flash, white balance, iso icon some options overlap Yes – waits for good shot 11 many fx, some small icons
Camera 2 no no no zoom 1.3cm 7mm auto regular many Exposure / focus / flash, iso icon no different no 5 Many options but mostly tucked away in graphical menus, small print, poor contrast (white on grey).
Lapse It Some buttons labelled yes no 1cm 1cm auto regular 12 iso, white balance, exposure, flash, scene none good though some icons smaller no 7 More designed for taking time lapse images, starts in menu rather than camera.
Selfish Some buttons labelled yes Audible and visual indication 1.5cm auto no some no none yes no 2 kept crashing on my Note 2, worked on my Nexus 10.  Spoke “point towards face” and “smile”, but didn’t give any indication of whether I needed to move camera.
Back camera selfie no yes, speaks directions and takes photo automatically Audible and visual indication 6mm auto no none flash automatically yes waits 8 Buttons unlabeled, also for some reason setup in 640×480 by default even though it can use full range of resolutions.  Also large instruction panel in centre of screen.
Camera 51 no no visual indicator focus 1.5cm 5mm auto regular none flash, exposure icon some options overlap no 7 beeps when in best position (though what that is I’ve no idea)
Cameringo+ no small controls and touch anywhere to shoot make it possible no shoot Zoom / focus / shoot 8mm 5mm Auto / touch regular many horizon, rule of thirds, flash, white balance, iso icon some options overlap no 5-12 lots of options and fx, small buttons.
Zoom camera no yes, large shutter area no shoot 10x6cm 12mm auto 10x many flash, exposure, wb, scene icon no different no 15 buttons reasonable size, and options like torch mode, negative and extra zoom nice.
vignette no yes, tap to take photo, clear screen no shoot shutter Whole screen 12mm auto regular many flash, exposure yes no different waits 0 – 8 large buttons, easy to use, more for ‘instant’ or effect than DSLR.
Camu no no no 1.5cm 8mm auto? regular many flash icon camera good, some options overlap no 5 basic camera with large coloured button and after effects.
Pro HDR Camera no no no shutter 1cm 1cm auto regular HDR options flash icon some options overlap no 8 Does HDR well enough and that’s it. Doesn’t work with talkback.
paper camera no no no zoom 2cm 1cm auto no many no icon no different no 12 Camera viewfinder only takes up half the screen, designed for effects photos
InstaCamera Pro yes Yes – instantly takes photo when started no shutter Whole screen auto no none no none yes no 0 Camera takes a picture instantly then exits, or double tap anywhere, no buttons
binoculars Some buttons labelled yes (shutter labelled) no 1cm 5mm Auto / options 30x (full version) none torch icon yes no 9 30x zoom with full version, zoom / torch etc small (can pinch zoom).
Camera ICS Some buttons labelled yes (shutter labelled) visual indicator focus shoot,af,zoom 1.2cm 5mm touch regular four iso, exposure,flash,whitebalance icon some options overlap no 7 large shutter button section though only button itself active.  Small other options.
Procapture Some buttons labelled Yes – physical buttons no shutter, focus shutter, zoom 1cm 5mm Auto / options regular 12 iso, white balance, exposure, flash, scene icon good, some options cut off no 12 lots of options, small buttons, reasonable sized shutter.
Camera Zoom Some buttons labelled Shutter labelled no 1cm 5mm Auto / options 30x (full version) none torch icon yes no 9 30x zoom with full version, zoom / torch etc small (can pinch zoom).
ProCam Some buttons labelled no visual indicator focus shutter 1cm 1cm tap regular none iso, white balance, exposure, flash, scene none some options overlap no 3 Camera buttons themselves labelled but not labelled to get into camera, also gets stuck in camera mode and starts in menu
Cymera no no no Focus / shutter zoom 1.5cm 5mm Auto / options regular many flash, exposure icon no different no 12 large shutter button, others smaller icons.
Camera (Google) yes yes no shutter 2cmx6.5cm 8mm auto regular lens blur / photosphere modes grid, timer, flash none some options overlap no 2 very large shutter button, but other buttons small .
Open Camera yes yes visual indicator focus most controls 1.5cm 8mm Auto / options regular 12 iso, white balance, exposure, flash, scene icon some options overlap no 0 – 11 nice big shutter button, other buttons smaller.
Camera Awesome yes yes visual indicator shutter 2cm 5mm auto regular many horizon, flash, white balance, exposure, iso icon some options overlap no 10 Works well, gives post processing effect options. Not a fan of flurry, good talkback access. I never quite figured out what awesomise was though.
Smart Selfie yes yes Audible and visual indication shutter (double tap) 5mm auto none none none left on screen yes waits 4 Automatically gets faces focussed and takes hpoto, advises direction to move, preview not full screen?

Certainly from the images, you can tell that with higher DPI opens up a lot more options for camera apps for low vision users, but sometimes at a price.

Has this week’s info changed your mind from what you decided after the last two posts?  Has it given you some more to think about and try?  Let us know in the comments below!

Camera apps for blind users

Camera apps for blind users:

[Image of camera icon]

[Image of camera icon]

If you are interested in the companion podcast to this piece, it is available from: The 22 Point website and addresses the same topic but contains slightly different info.


Last week we looked at camera apps for low vision users, concentrating on features like large buttons. This week, the main focus is on Talkback, however one of the most popular photo apps for blind users currently actually has neglected to label any of its buttons, so even then it’s not cut and dried.

So, the main criteria I used for a good, blind useable camera app are:

Talkback compatibility – Only five of the 36 apps (I added Back Camera Selfie to the list from last week) had all buttons labelled, another seven had some buttons labelled and the rest either had buttons you could access but which weren’t labelled, and some you couldn’t even get to the buttons, so the best Talkback accessible apps were:

“Smart Selfie” (more on this shortly)

[Image of Open Camera]

[Image of Open Camera]

“Open Camera” –

Standard camera controls (choice of camera / video, flash, focus, iso etc) with an uncluttered interface and a large (easy to find) shutter button make this a good option for general photography. Most controls, including shutter can be assigned to the volume keys.

[Image of Camera Awesome]

[Image of Camera Awesome]

“Camera Awesome” –

No volume key support but tap anywhere on screen to shoot ability make Camera Awesome a contender as well. There are a number of buttons on screen at once. Although most are small they are on a black background so easier to see if using some sight. The app also offers a number of post processing effects.

[Image of Google's default camera]

[Image of Google’s default camera]

“Google Camera” –

Similar to Open Camera has the standard features, not quite as many options as Open Camera, although the shutter button takes up the whole bottom of the screen so is about 6.5x2cm on my Note 2.

[Imstacamera - no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

[Imstacamera – no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

“InstaCamera” –

having no buttons to label means no unlabeled buttons!  InstaCamera works by snapping one or more pictures as soon as you start the app, and then exiting.  Two launcher icons are installed with the app – one to launch the camera, and one to launch the settings.  The settings are accessible and include options such as whether to automatically focus and whether to remain in the camera app after taking pictures, in which case additional pictures can be taken simply by tapping the screen (double tapping with Talkback).

ProCapture, Binoculars, Camera Zoom, Camera ICS, ProCam and Cymera all had some buttons labelled (particularly the shutter) but others unlabelled.

Useable without sight – I scored this seperately to Talkback, as for many apps, having them set to ‘auto’ mode (generally the default) for flash, focus, exposure, white balance etc may reduce the need to access some of the buttons, as long as the shutter button (hardware or software) can be used (or in the case of 15 apps, tapping anywhere on the screen can be set to take a photo). This meant that 19 of the apps were theoretically useable without sight while I would rule out the other 17. Camera Zoom FX was the first one I tried which had the option of voice control, so you could say “Cheese” to take the photo, however this wasn’t setup by default and the controls weren’t accessible to set it up.

Face recognition – One of the most sought after camera features by blind users, only three of the apps tested not only recognised when a face was visible, but gave the user audible feedback about it, and we can thank the “selfie” trend for all three:

[Image of Selfish]

[Image of Selfish]

“Selfish”  –

lets you set the number of faces and number of images to take. It has the option to give face centering instructions, though I found this generally didn’t say anything.

[Smart Selfie - works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

[Smart Selfie – works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

“Smart Selfie” –

Works really well and advises whether to move the device left, right, up, down, back or forward to get in shot and centred. Strangely I found the preview only takes up about a quarter of the screen.

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

“Back Camera Selfie” –

Breaks my rule of not using ad supported only apps.  Otherwise it works similarly to Smart selfie, though more responsive. While the preview is full screen, there is a large instructions panel in the middle which gets in the way if you wish to visually see the subject during the photograph as well.

In practice, for a blind user, I would recommend:

For photos of people: Back Camera Selfie works best, although set to a very low resolution by default. Although its buttons aren’t labelled, the resolution is announced on its button although after pressing it you need to explore down the right hand side of the screen to find the different resolutions (highest at the bottom of the list). Smart Selfie has more labelled buttons so try both and see which you prefer.

For DSLR type photography: With the same caveat as in last week’s article – that until Android 5’s Camera2 API is more widely adopted, there is only a certain amount of DSLR capability available in most apps. For now the app with the most functionality accessible is Open Camera or Camera Awesome.

For the simplest photography, I’d recommend Google camera for traditional ‘point and shoot’ as it’s large button is easy to get to. Alternatively I quite like InstaCamera which doesn’t use any buttons. It has a seperate ‘settings’ app which lets you setup how it works, and when you launch the main instacamera app, it simply takes it’s photo and exits (or can be set to stay in camera mode and you tap (double tap with Talkback) the screen to take additional photos). You can set it to take multiple photos initially although it does not have a setting to automatically pick the best (A Better Camera, one of the low vision recommendations has such a feature, however it’s buttons aren’t labelled in order to set it up).

Android camera apps for low vision

Quick recommendation: If you only want one large print photo app and want a bit of everything, Vignette is a good bet. “A Better Camera” is an app with a few more ‘standard’ camera controls and excellent photo improvement features such as DRO and HDR but without the real time ‘effects’ options.

[Image of Google's default camera]

[Image of Google’s default camera]

The longer answer:
I enjoy photography, so I thought I’d do a little series over the next few weeks looking at various aspects of photography for both low vision and blind Android users. I’ve taken a lot (35 – it’s a lot when you’re the one installing and testing each of them!) of the top paid and free apps (though as always, I’ve declined apps which only have a “free with ads” version), and put them through their paces.

This week I’ve specifically looked at how these apps feel for me as a low vision user. As with many things, there are some I quite like, but probably no single app which will ideally suit everyone.

So, the main things I was looking for were large buttons & controls and features useful for vision impaired users:

[Image of Camu - with one of the easiest to see shutter buttons]

[Image of Camu – with one of the easiest to see shutter buttons]

Large buttons, firstly a large shutter button of course. Of the apps I tried, only DSLR Camera, Camera Fun and Cameringo had shutter buttons which were smaller than 1cm, though DSLR and Cameringo (and 13 of the other apps) could both assign the volume keys as shutter buttons. The majority of options had shutter buttons that were at least larger than the other buttons, though not all were as easy to see. Camera FV-5 for instance has a large (1.5cm) shutter which is yellow where the other controls are white, though its controls are directly overlaid on the preview of what you are about to photograph so may not be as visible if looking at a yellow object. Camu had a nice red button on black and set on a black background so ensures it’s easy to see.  Cymera’s shutter button is also 1.5cm but aqua on black.  15 apps had the option of “tap anywhere to shoot” which will be a preferred option for some users, and Camera Zoom FX and Selfish both had the option of voice activation (saying “Shoot” or similar to take a photo).

[Image of A Better Camera]

[Image of A Better Camera]

The size of the other controls was where a couple of apps really shone for me as a low vision user. Selfish and Zoom Camera both had large buttons, but the best two for me were definitely A Better Camera and Vignette (Night camera was good as well, though that, and HDR Camera from the list have both been superseded by “A Better Camera” from the same developer).

[Image of Vignette waiting for movement to stop after pressing the shutter to take the picture]

[Image of Vignette waiting for movement to stop after pressing the shutter to take the picture]

I also had a look at other factors which might be useful. Particularly as it’s often hard to finely review images at the time to ensure they are adequate, the option to ensure everything is steady and unmoving before a photo is taken is useful (perhaps particularly so if using the volume keys to shoot as that almost guarantees moving the device). Only five apps offered such a feature, Vignette, Smart Selfie, A Better Camera, Camera HDR Studio and Camera Zoom FX. After you pressed the shutter, all waited until they detected no movement to take their photo. Camera FV-5 has an image stabilisation option which aims to minimise blurring from movement.

Which app is best for you is going to come down to what you want out of a camera app. I have come up with three broad categories below:


[Image of Manual Camera showing (among others) Manual White Balance in degrees Kelvin, Manual Shutter speed 1/30, Manu lISO set to 300, Manual exposure compensation 0.3 which all require the new Camera2 API]

Device which come from the factory with Android 5 have a new “Camera2” api which lets apps have more control over hardware settings (Camera2 should work on official manufacturer ROMs which get updated to Android 5, though not on custom ROMs like Cyanogenmod installed on older hardware unless the manufacturer has also released an updated camera module). As more compatible devices are released AND more apps which take advantage of it, expect to see DSLR apps with better features than ever.

[Image of A Better Camera]

[Image of A Better Camera]

For now, and for large print users, the best general camera app for my money is A Better Camera. This app has large, easy to see buttons, a simple interface, image stability and DRO mode which as advertised, improves most photos at the expense of taking slightly longer to capture each. It also has a HDR mode which is as good as any of the HDR camera apps I found and a night mode for shooting after dark. Overall it’s very easy to take good photos with this app, and it has a number of “DSLR” type features for those who want a bit more control. The only downsides I found are that the zoom is tucked away on the edge of screen which I don’t like quite as much, and the composition grid and horizon lines are quite faint.

[Image of Camera FV-5]

[Image of Camera FV-5]

[Image of DSLR Camera]

[Image of DSLR Camera]

If you’re really after more DSLR type control, Either Camera FV-5, DSLR Camera or Manual Camera (I don’t have a compatible device, but Manual Camera is one of the first Camera2 DSLR apps) all offer the most features – all three aren’t quite as low vision friendly though would work well using magnifier to setup options then all three have mostly unobstructed viewfinders to take the shot). The controls in Camera FV-5 and DSLR Camera at least both scale up if you are rooted and increase your DPI though with some overlapping of buttons.


[Image of Vignette]

[Image of Vignette]

If you like to add effects to your photos, while you can also do that in post processing with A Better Camera (or any number of other seperate post processing apps I might look at another time), my favourite here is definitely Vignette, it has numerous effects, which can be set specifically or randomly, and after each shot it displays the image with the ability to randomly change effects or frame, or save as is (if you set it to “multi shot”, it will just save the original, a copy with a random effect and not display a preview leaving you ready to take another shot and be surprised later). If using custom DPI, I did find that the app crashed in settings when I was at 640 DPI but worked fine otherwise. At my phone’s standard 320 DPI it worked fine. It has quite a few features for general composition (a rule of thirds grid option, control over white balance, exposure, iso and so on) so is right up there with “A better camera” for general photography as well.

[Image of Cameringo+]

[Image of Cameringo+]

Special mention in this category also to cameringo+ which while most of it’s controls are quite small, it can also be set to tap anywhere to shoot and to add specified or random effects to photos, again with or without a review. When using effects, while it displays the effect in the viewfinder preview, it does have the option of a 1/9th screen viewfinder without effect. Camera Zoom FX also works similarly, and was the only one I noticed with a voice activation function.

Simplest camera:

While most of the cameras can be set to automatically select most options for you, a couple which can be setup to be extra simple are:

[Imstacamera - no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

[Imstacamera – no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

Instacamera: I like having this one on my lock screen or having a shortcut in my notification panel (see apps such as Custom Notification for this), so if I really need to snap a shot in a hurry, I just launch the app and it automatically takes one (or more) images. You can set it to stay in camera mode so you can use it like other camera apps after that – in which case it has no buttons, you simply tap the screen to take additional images.

[Smart Selfie - works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

[Smart Selfie – works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

Smart Selfie: Great for taking images of people (either yourself or others), it looks for faces and advises audibly whether you need to move the camera to get everyone in, and then automatically takes the picture when lined up.

[Image of Google's default camera]

[Image of Google’s default camera]

Google Camera: comes setup with two buttons visible on screen – the whole bottom quarter of the screen is the shutter (with small white camera image in the middle of a black box) – press anywhere in that black box to shoot. There is a small elipses (…) you can use to open extra options and while these are quite small, ignoring those it is one of the cleanest displays out of the box (some of the others can be setup quite simply if you look through the options).

Vignette: setup to not use effects (actually the default setup), Vignette displays an empty screen with little arrows top and bottom indicating you can drag down to show more options, but otherwise just tap the screen to take a photo.

A few other large shutter apps: Camera Awesome, Camera 51 (This attempts to guide you to take the perfect photo every time and I can’t for the life of me figure it out – it puts a little icon on screen you should move towards where it recommends), simple camera has a fairly clean layout, Open Camera has a bit more info on screen but a nice large shutter button, Fast burst camera is easy to use (and taking bursts of images can be useful in capturing the right moment)

Lastly, I should probably mention Binoculars and Zoom Camera. I’m not sure what the difference is between these two as they look identical to me (I did write to the dev but haven’t got a response yet, I’ll update if I do) – certainly the 30x zoom promised in the paid version sounds attractive, although I’ve tried a few apps which use software zoom and while it can be useful, it does degrade very quickly. Stay tuned to the rest of this series as I’ll post more about magnification!

Which camera app(s) do you use?  Did i miss any good ones?  Please let me know in the comments!

Happy snapping!