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: http://www.22point.com.au/cursors.html – 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:
http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=000082

On the readability of inverted color schemes

https://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=1445
http://uxmovement.com/content/when-to-use-white-text-on-a-dark-background/

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: https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/resolution-vs-dpi/). 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 http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2013_release-word/page-zoom-in-or-out-keyboard-shortcut-for-word/bc6d388b-f040-4389-8131-a4856ff9a5ff 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)

or

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!

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Adjusting Android Resolution, pixel density and font size for large print

The quick recommendation: What works best in one app, doesn’t necessarily work best in other apps, so the best solution is one which can be adjusted easily. Font size is easy to adjust and effective. Pixel density can also be effective in some cases.

The longer answer:

Recently I’ve tried rooting my phone and installing a custom ROM. More on that in another post shortly, but one of the big reasons I was keen to try this, is that it gives you access to settings you can’t otherwise touch and I wanted to see how I could manipulate these to increase the large print useability of my phone.

My previous post on DPI (Pixel density) and resolution on a Windows PC (here: https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/resolution-vs-dpi/) has some explanation of the technicalities, which mostly translate across to a phone. On the PC I recommended setting he resolution to its highest, the DPI high and using the magnifier as needed beyond that, but I’ve never been a fan of using magnification on my phone if I could avoid it as the screen is so much smaller and more fiddly to pan around with my big fingers!

Settings:

In my testing, I manipulated three settings

Resolution: This is how many pixels (dots) wide and high the screen is. On my Samsung galaxy note 2 for instance, it is 720 x 1280. Theoretically, lowering these numbers could make things appear larger as something which is 180 pixels wide will take up ¼ of the width of the screen at this resolution, but if I drop the resolution to 360 x 640 then that 180 pixel wide item is now half the width of the screen (that’s how it works on a Windows PC).

Pixel Density: (often used interchangeably with the terms Pixels Per Inch, PPI and Dots Per Inch, DPI) This is how many pixels are displayed in a line per inch of screen space – From a hardware perspective, the higher this number, the sharper and clearer the display looks. Adjusting this higher than the hardware specifications has the effect of enlarging things. If your phone has an actual hardware Pixel Density of 200 and you change the pixel density setting to 400, something which should be 1” high will be drawn 400 pixels high, but because your phone can actually only display 200 pixels to an inch, that object will render at 2” high.

Font size: I’ve covered apps which let you change font size before (here: https://22point.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/android-font-enlargement-apps/ ) and this time I’m looking at the effect that adjusting font size (along with resolution and pixel density) has on the useability of apps.

Testing methodology:

Currently, I have 200 apps on my phone, and even more conveniently, 100 of these could be considered to be ‘games’. I make the distinction because some will say they don’t play games, and I was also interested to see how differently games behaved to other apps. I tried using each app in six different scenarios:

  • Control: The native resolution (720 x 1280) and pixel density (320) of my phone at standard font size.
  • Most adjusted: A lower resolution of 450×800, higher pixel density of 400 and font size at 200%.
  • Slight tweaking: Native resolution, 150% pixel density (480) and 150% font size.
  • High DPI: Native resolution but double pixel density – 640 rather than 320, standard font size.
  • Lowest resolution: A resolution of 270 x 480 (pixel density scaled back accordingly to 120)
  • Large Font: Native resolution and pixel density but 200% font size.

The “most adjusted” setup was designed to affect the most parameters and so be more likely to have an effect (one way or the other). The “Slight tweaking” setup was designed to be a potentially practical solution which didn’t adjust any value too harshly, but provided a combination of effects which would hopefully be beneficial.

Effect of adjustments:

Resolution: Changing the resolution had the least effect in most cases. It turns out that most apps seem to be designed to draw things as a percentage of screen size so this didn’t make any difference to most things.

Pixel Density: Changing the pixel density tended to make things bigger, from the status bar to the size of icons and information within apps. Some apps handled this well and it was a great improvement and other apps, particularly some of the games, became unusable.

Font size: Changing the font size increased the size of text in many apps. Often this made the text easier to read, however in some cases the text was then bigger than the app was expecting and so overwrote other information or caused things to disappear off the side or bottom of the screen.

Some apps displayed exactly the same regardless of how I changed settings. In one way this was good as it meant that they were not negatively affected by any of the changes, but on the other hand it meant that I was not able to come up with a way of improving their large print readability beyond any settings in the app itself.

Just to take one marker, I’ve listed the size of app headings on their individual pages in the Play Store for each setting below:

  1. Control: 12pt
  2. Most Adjusted: 48pt
  3. Slight tweaking: 24pt
  4. Highest DPI: 22pt
  5. Lowest Resolution: 12pt
  6. Large Font 22pt

Usability results for (non-game) apps:

Leaving things untouched was the equal best case in 39% of apps and the equal worst setup in 89%. It was possible to adjust the pixel density, resolution or font size such that there was an improvement in 83% of apps, and in only 16% of apps, some combinations of changes caused a negative reaction.

The two biggest improvements here were in adjusting the font size (better in 71% of cases and worse in only 2%) and pixel density (better in 70% of cases and worse in 9%). While the slight tweaking scenario was only the best case in 3% of apps, this was mostly because there was an improvement (79% of apps) however it wasn’t as marked as when we doubled the DPI or font size. This setup was only worse than doing nothing in 6% of apps.

Adjusting the resolution had the least effect here – it was the same in 98% of cases (worse in one and better in one).

Results for games:

The default setup was the equal best setup in 78% of cases and the worst case in only 12%. Only 22% of games could be improved by adjusting the settings and 39% of games could be made worse or unusable with the wrong setup.

Similar to the non-game apps, lowering the resolution all the way down didn’t change anything for 93% of games though in 73% of cases this was still equal to the best setup. Adjusting the font size made 15% of games better and one worse and was the (equal) best setup in 77% of cases.

Changing the pixel density (and thus also the two combined scenarios) actually made things worse more often than better – not so much for font size alone, but just because some of games weren’t designed to cope with such an adjustment and only improved things for between 12 and 17 games but made things worse for between 14 and 35 games.

Overall results:

Screenshot_2014-12-12-16-08-22sScreenshot_2014-12-12-16-06-53sScreenshot_2014-12-12-16-11-47s

Above: The music Cyanogenmod music app, in the default resolution / pixel densit, in the most adjusted setup and in the slight tweaking setup.

Adjusting the pixel density seemed really good for many productivity based apps, but can be detrimental to some of the games. Adjusting the font size seemed overall to have the most positive effect with the fewest negative situations. In an ideal world, the best solution would be if there was a way of quickly changing the font size and pixel density for different situations.

Changing setups:

In my testing, I used an app called “Font Size Setter” by Cedric Gatay (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.gatay.android.fss) , to adjust the font size setting. I found this app good as the interface is basically just a slider you adjust to choose the size and an apply button which immediately makes the change. I also placed a shortcut to Font Size Setter in my notification shade using Custom Notifications, which made it even easier to bring up.

I used Resolution Changer by Lugalabs (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lugalabs.resolutionchanger) to adjust the DPI and resolution, and the way this worked was that after making the change, the screen would flicker, and then take you to the phone’s lock screen. During this time it also displayed a message asking if you wish to keep the changes and giving you 15 seconds to agree before going back to the old setting (similar to when you adjust the screen resolution on a Windows computer). While effective and potentially a safeguard in the event of choosing a setup your hardware could not display, I did find that this process took a little while, and I would be reluctant to want to change DPI too frequently. If there is another app which does the process more easily I would be very excited to learn of it.

Conclusion:

With most of my previous recommendations, it’s been possible to choose one or several apps or setups which work best to achieve a particular outcome. With adjusting the display properties with the goal of making the font larger, there isn’t one recommendation which will work for everyone. Some apps respond great to some tweaks, whereas others become unusable, and depending on what apps you use, you will likely find that what works in one app, doesn’t work in another. For myself, I’m still using the slightly higher DPI mode though I tend to leave my font set at 200% except where this causes problems, but at least I can easily adjust the font size back. There are a few (games) I won’t be able to play in this setup, and a couple more I can play by adjusting the font size, but overall it’s definitely an improvement on the stock experience.

Summary:

Adjusting the font size using an app like Font Size Setter is the easiest and quickest way of getting an overall larger font, and easy to turn off if needed. Changing the DPI can have more of an effect in some places (eg the status bar) but doesn’t work in some apps and can be a longer process to change back and forth. What works best for one person and one app, won’t necessarily work across the board so it’s a matter of trial and error to find the best setup. What setup have you found that works best for you personally? Please let me know!

Magnifier apps.

The quick recommendation: Magnify Reader is simplest but bare, Magnifier by Person has the best combination of features and App Town’s Magnifier is also good.

 

The longer answer:

Modern smart phones have excellent cameras and with the right app are a real, practical alternative to dedicated electronic magnifiers for enlarging printed text and making small items easier to see.  Here is a roundup of some of the best, free options I’ve come across.  The main features I was looking for were:

–          Ability to start in magnified view (otherwise you might as well use the default camera app).

–          Magnified view takes up as much of the screen as possible.

–          Easy ability to change zoom level, focus and toggle camera light on and off.

–          The ability to freeze an image was a desirable bonus.

–          The ability to invert colours was also a desirable bonus.

 

Firstly as a control, the Standard Camera App.  I used the camera app from the Galaxy Note 2.  Other device’s camera apps may be quite different.  The view takes up about 75% and starts unmagnified, you can pinch zoom in and touch to focus.  You can freeze (take a photo) and use effects to change the colour, however you can’t turn the light ‘on’ except as a flash when actually taking a photo.

 

Magnifier (Magnifying Glass) by Person

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ik.dotbogi

The view takes up virtually the whole screen; there is a small semi-opaque rectangle in the bottom right corner with the word “Menu” which brings up the options (Freeze, colour effects, light toggle).  View starts magnified and you can pinch zoom in and out, tap to re-focus and double tap to toggle light.  Pinch zoom can be slow to respond.

 

Magnifier by App Town

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nob13.magnifier

The view takes up about 90% of the screen.  There are three controls at the bottom of the screen: a button to toggle light, a slider for magnification level and a button to refocus.  View starts magnified and adjusting options (via controls – no gestures) is more responsive than previous app.  No colour options or image freeze.

 

Magnify Reader by Mlinell

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.linewall.magnify

The view takes up the entire screen with no controls.  The app starts at minimal (~1.25x magnification and you can swipe to the top of the phone zoom in and to the bottom zoom out.  Tap to focus and double tap to toggle the light.

 

Old Person App by Third Layer

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thirdlayer.oldperson

While I find the name a bit insulting, the app is relatively straight forward.  It has three big buttons at the bottom “Magnifier”, “Light” and “Notepad” and they toggle those three things.  The view takes up about 75% of the screen but the app starts with instructions and you then press the magnifier to go into that mode.  There are no adjustment options but it is at maximum zoom and automatically refocuses as needed.

 

Other apps looked at:

Andreader Magnifier / Reader by Peter Glen (Uses 100% of the screen, pinch zoom and tap to focus however view is sideways and skewed and there is no way of turning the light off). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.peterglen.andreader

Digital Magnifier by Appsnack – (Starts unmagnified; view is distorted and only takes up 80% of screen). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appsnack.dm

GrandMa’s Magnifier (App name in Chinese text, icon is pink magnifier) by JEJun – (No focus or magnification options, view is about 1.25x). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jun.scale

Handy Magnifying Glass by Darkstar – (Trial version is unusable with the view covered in writing.  Even full version appears to be an image of a magnifying glass with only the circle of the magnifying glass showing a magnified view). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.simplyusefulapps.android.handymagnifier.freetrial

Hugo’s Lupe Magnifier by Bend Schwarzmann – (No focus ability and zoom adjusted in small steps by volume keys). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.emmo.lupe.gui

Magnifier and Mirror by Dong – (View only takes up about 60% of screen, is easy to rotate and starts unmagnified.  Does have a mirror). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mnm

Magnifying Glass by David Parry – (View only takes up about 50% of the view and the buttons to control magnification and focus are quite small). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.davidparry.magnifying

 

Summary:

As with many types of apps, there are a lot of options available, many of which contain ads or other intrusive software, and even of the dozen I looked at, only a third really stood out.  Person’s app has the most features, Old Person app is the simplest, Magnify Reader has the cleanest screen and App Town’s magnifier has a balance of visible on screen controls which don’t take up too much room.

Review of Android Calculators.

The quick recommendation: DarkCalc and Cyanogenmod both have the option of a basic or scientific calculator view with large text and which are Talkback accessible.

 

The longer answer:

A calculator is one tool which is quite handy to have and which everyone has their own ideas on what they need from one.  Most devices come with a calculator app but some are better than others for large print and Talkback accessibility so I’ve rounded up all the ones I could easily find on the Play Store which don’t need Internet access and put them through their paces.  I’ve put together a table of the main accessibility features of each sorted by (smallest) font size, and then listed each of the apps.

Name Talkback works Smallest font Functions
DarkCalc (Popup & Normal Calc) Yes

60

Scientific
Calculator No

26

Basic
Calculator (CyanogenMod) Yes

22

Scientific
Simple Calc No

22

Basic
Calculator Widget Yes

18

Basic
Calculator Free Yes

16

Basic
Easy Calculator Yes

16

Basic
Simple Calculator Yes

16

Basic
Calc and Graph No

16

Scientific
MyScript Calculator No

16

Scientific
Easy Calculator Pro No

14

Scientific
RealCalc No

12

Scientific
AirCalc Yes

10

Scientific
Calculator and Widget (21 Themes) Yes

10

Basic
My Basic Calc Yes

10

Basic
Scientific Calculator No

10

Scientific
MagicCalc Lite, Graphic Calc No

8

Scientific
Mobi Calculator FREE No

8

Scientific

 

DarkCalc (Popup & Normal Calc) by DARKPAIN (Free)

DarkCalc

Two screenshots: Left showing initial view.  Right showing scientific screen.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.darkpain.darkcalc&hl=en

Buttons 60pt.  Basic with scientific functions and history.

Works with Talkback

 

Calculator by LEVIDENSIS SOFT (Free)

2

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.levidensis&hl=en

Buttons and result, 26pt, buttons brightly coloured.  Very basic function calculator, no history or memory.

Buttons read with Talkback but do not work.  Dev email bounces.

 

Calculator (CyanogenMod) by Xlythe ($1.86 or free demo)

3

Two screenshots, Left: basic view, Right: Swiping to the right brings up scientific options

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.android2.calculator3&hl=en

Numbers 28pt, result 26pt, functions 22pt.  Black or white colour themes.  Basic and Scientific calculator with graphing, history and simple layout view.  No “memory” buttons but can reuse history results.

Graph and a couple of buttons unlabelled but pretty much everything reads well with Talkback.  Widget and colour themes.

 

Simple Calc by Softhouse Co.,LTD. (Free)

4

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.sic.SimpleCalc

Numbers and result 22pt.  Basic calculator, buttons black on grey with white or black background.  Does not work with Talkback (Numbers read, but pressing numbers appears to activate the “Del” button).

 

Calculator Widget by ABGNE.TW ($1.03 with free trial)

5

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tw.abgne.calculatorwidgetlite&hl=en

Buttons 18pt, result 28pt.  Basic calculator (widget only) with memory.

Works with Talkback although bottom row with 0 . and = buttons not visible on my Galaxy Note II.

 

Calculator Free by STORMIN DORMAN PRODUCTIONS ($0.99 or Free demo)

6

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.util.calculator&hl=en

Numbers 20pt, functions 18pt, result 48pt, current calculation 16pt.

Basic calculator with memory, works with Talkback, buttons have 3D effect, which I find a little harder to see.

 

Easy Calculator by ANDREI KULIK (Free)

7

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.junglesoft.calc&hl=en

Buttons 24pt, Result 20pt, current calculation 16pt.

Buttons coloured black on Green / Blue / Orange and hard to see.  Result updates as you input (eg if you enter 20 + when you press 1 the result will show 21 immediately, if you then enter 4 it becomes 20 + 14 and the result changes to 34

Works with Talkback.

 

Simple Calculator by TECNOTOPIA (Free)

8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.tecnotopia.SimpleCalculator

Numbers 20pt, functions and results 16pt, some scientific functions.  Buttons are white on colours (grey for numbers, blue for functions, red for clear / del, green for memory and purple for advanced functions).

Works with Talkback.  Function buttons visually appear to stick down when pressed but behave as expected.

 

Calc and Graph by BURLINE SOFT (Free)

9

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.calc.graph&hl=en

Numbers, operators and results, 16pt, function keys 11pt, alt functions 8 pt.  Scientific calculator with graphing and memory

Graph has zoom buttons.

Buttons read with Talkback, however results and Graph not readable with Talkback.

 

MyScript Calculator (Appears in app list simply as calculator) by Vision Objects (Free)

10

Two screenshots showing Left: My very poorly hand drawn calculation and Right, the correctly interpreted numbers and symbol.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.visionobjects.calculator

Font size for writing starts at about 48pt but decreases in size as calculation gets longer. Scientific calculator, Handwrite numbers, operators etc on screen instead of buttons.  Seems to do a good job recognising input.  Does not work with Talkback.

 

Easy Calculator Pro by MOBILESOFTJUNGLE (Free)

11

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msj.easycalcpro&hl=en

Numbers 28pt, Result 60pt, current calc 14pt

Basic or scientific calculator with memory and history.  Does not work with Talkback.

 

RealCalc by Quartic Software ($2.99 or Free trial)

12

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.nickfines.RealCalc

Numbers and Results 24pt, Functions 14pt, Alt functions 12pt

Buttons are white on dark grey, alt functions yellow on dark grey, results black on LCD style green.  I do like that it can convert lengths / weight / speeds / all kinds of things.

Does not work with Talkback.

 

AirCalc On-Screen Calculator by MBFG (Free)

13

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.myboyfriendisageek.aircalc&hl=en

Numbers 18pt, copy, paste etc buttons and results, 10pt.  Scientific calculator

Appears over the top of other apps, only takes up a small amount of my screen and partly transparent so hard to see.  Works with Talkback only by explore by touch, no swiping, image buttons unlabelled though numbers, operators and results read automatically.  I actually never found the scientific features until I lookied on the play store for an image to use above!

 

Calculator and Widget (21 Themes) by SMALLDARCHER ($1.37 or free demo)

14

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=small.darcher.free.calculator.widget.co&hl=en

Buttons and results 24pt, history 10pt.

Basic calculator with memory, works with Talkback. Widget and colour themes.

 

My Basic Calc by VOIDFLINGER ($0.99 or free trial)

15

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=basic.calc.vf

Buttons and result 22pt, current result / formula, 10pt. Basic calculator with no extra functions, works with Talkback.  Actually a good basic option, only dropped in the list because of the small font for showing the current formula.

 

Scientific Calculator (Appears as Trinimon Calculator in App list) by André Heuner (Free)

16

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.trinimon.calculator

Numbers 20pt, functions 10 pt, results 26pt.

Scientific calculator, does not work with Talkback.

 

MagicCalc Lite, Graphic Calc by HOUCINE ROMDHANE ($1.06 or free trial)

17

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.magictools.magiccalclite&hl=en

Numbers 16pt, functions and screen 8pt.  Scientific calculator, does not work with Talkback.

 

Mobi Calculator FREE by IP ($3.00 or free trial)

18

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=my.android.calc&hl=en

Buttons 24pt, result 16pt, alternate button functions 8pt

Basic or Scientific calculator with history and memory.  Buttons do not work with Talkback, though results and history do read.

Summary:

There are a range of basic and scientific calculators available with large fonts and I quite like how in several such as Cyangenmod and DarkCalc you are initially presented with a basic view, but can swipe to the side to bring up extra optons which gives access to all the features without cluttering up the screen.

Android dialer and messaging replacements

 

 

The quick recommendation:   Big Dialer or Big Telephone directory for calls, Big Text SMS or Handcent for SMS.

 

The longer answer:

 

The stock dialer, messaging and contacts apps vary from phone to phone, and sometimes from launcher to launcher.  If you’re using Big Launcher for instance, it includes large print dialer and SMS apps.  If you aren’t happy with whichever ones you are using, I’ve put together a few large print alternatives.  I actually held off on posting this for a few weeks looking for the ideal solution, however I haven’t found an all in one app I really like so I’ve listed most of what I found below.

 

 

Dialers

 

Big Telephone Directory by aotai.jp

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.aotai.largecontacts

Big Telephone Directory

Font size – 4 settings up to 42pt Bold.

Starts in list of contacts, go into a contact and either tap number to call, long press to SMS or tap email to send message.

 

Has black on white dial pad with 24pt numbers, call history with small action icons and Japanese date characters.  Works with Talkback. Only scrolls through contacts numbers (name is always shown at top, which can cause problems with large fonts and long names).

$3.00 with ad-supported demo.

 

 

Magnus Vitrum by Avitus Testlabs

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avitustestlab.magnusvitrum

Magnus Vitrum

Font size, pinch zoom from 18pt up to 36pt (At 36pt could only get about 10 chars wide in portrait mode – current contact does scroll left / right automatically).

 

Scrolls as if on a cylinder.  Buttons to switch between contacts, call history and dialer in corners but small.  Call history in Arial 10pt.  No talkback support.

 

Simple Dialer by AAMIR LOGDE

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aamir.simpledialler

Simple Dialer

Font size up to 48pt numbers, 16pt Dial / Del buttons

Mostly a dialer, contacts button takes you to system contacts.

Works with Talkback, however contacts button labelled as “image button” and “add contact” button labelled “alpha button”.

 

Big Dialer by BK Mobility.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=at.abraxas.bigdialer

Big Dialer

Font size up to 60pt numbers, 24 pt dialled number and 10pt letters on keys.  Configurable colours / font size / speed dial (hold down numbers). Contacts button links to system contacts. $1 with free demo.  Reads with Talkback.

 

Big Big Dialer and voice sms by K2 Soft

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=k2.soft.Dialer

Big Big Dialer

Font size up to about 64pt numbers, 28pt dialled number (though partly cut off for me).  Only dialer and only blue on white.  $1.34 or free demo version.  No buttons labelled for Talkback.

 

Big Phone Pad by DEVFROG

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=devfrog.BigPhonePadFree

Big Phone Pad

Numbers 22pt black on grey buttons, recent calls 16pt white on black. Does not fill screen on higher resolutions and recent calls only give number, not contact name etc. $0.99 or free with ads.  Numbers read with Talkback but delete number and contacts buttons don’t read and don’t work at all with Talkback.

 

ExDialer and contacts by Modoohut

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.modoohut.dialer

ExDialer

Font size on Huge: 14pt.  Contacts: 18pt (call info 12pt). Dialer 36pt numbers with 14pt letters. Small buttons to access features.  Reads with Talkback, when moving through contacts, photos are simply labelled button.

 

RocketDial Dialer and Contacts by Intelligeen

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=intelgeen.rocketdial.trail

RocketDial

20pt contact names

16pt call duration

8pt time

20pt dialpad numbers

8pt dialpad letters

Buttons don’t read with Talkback, does read contact names in recent call list.

 

Big Text SMS by SEPTIUM CORP

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=bigtextsmsreader.android

Big Text SMS

Sms 48pt.

Received time 16pt

Action buttons icons with 12pt text labels.  Most buttons read with Talkback

 

 

Handcent SMS by Handcent_market

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.handcent.nextsms

Handcent SMS

Text 20pt

Chars and message count 10pt.

Not all buttons labelled.

 

Summary:

The best solution seems to be a combination of a dialer app and a separate SMS app.  If you do have a good app I haven’t mentioned, please share it for everyone in the comments below!

Android Font enlargement apps.

(Update: I’ve fixed the links below which were originally not working, sorry about that!)

The quick recommendation: Big Font (paid version) or Font Size Setter are the biggest.

The longer answer:

Android 4.0 and later have the option to adjust the system font size (Look in Settings, Accessibility, Font Size).  The largest setting the operating system provides is “Huge” which is about 120% of normal. There are a number of apps on the play store which provide even more size adjustment and also provide the option for devices running earlier versions of Android.  Unfortunately from Android 4.2 apps are not able to adjust the system font unless the phone is rooted.  That is very unfortunate for low vision users particularly as 4.2 is the first version of Android to include a screen magnifier.

The system font isn’t used in every app, but being able to adjust it can provide a significant increase in font size where it is used.

For the following comparisons I’ve used my Galaxy Note II (5.5” screen), and I chose the Play Store since it is one app that’s hard to avoid and hard to replace with a 3rd party app (though I’ll happily take suggestions if you’ve found a replacement!):

First for a benchmark, the default view (at Normal font size):

Title of apps: 12pt

Text in the description: 8pt

If we use the built in accessibility options to set the font to “Huge” which is I think about 30% bigger than “Normal”:

Titles are now: 16pt

Text is now: 10pt

Next let’s look at the apps I found to increase font size.  They all have different options and ways of setting the font.  Some of the apps allow you to change the font itself (so you could use Comic Sans MS or Calligraphy if you like).  For our comparison I’ve only looked at font size, and taken the largest size available for the default font:

Big Font (change font size) by Sam Lu (Cost: $3.99 in app purchase, otherwise free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.a0soft.gphone.bfont

Title 16pt

Text 10pt

Android 2.3.3+

The free version allows up to “130%”.  The pro version allows up to 300% which would be Title: 36pt / Text: 24pt)

Font size setter by Cedric Gatay (Cost: $1.86 or free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.gatay.android.fss

Title: 22pt / Text: 16pt

Requires: Android 4.0 – 4.1

Big Font Pro by Fonts for Flipfont (Cost: Free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tiny.android.big.font.pro

Title: 22pt / Text: 16pt

Requires: Android 2.2+

FontEditor-Change Font Size by diyun (Cost: $1.86 or free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kapp.font.editor

Title: 20pt / Text: 14pt

Requires: Android 2.1+

iFont(Fonts For Android) by diyun (Cost: $1.26 or free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kapp.ifont

Title: 20pt / Text: 14pt

Requires: Android 2.1+

MyFont (Fonts for Android) by My Font (Cost: Free with ads)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.xinmei365.font

Title: 18pt / Text: 12pt

Requires: Android 2.2+

FontUp by Chislon Chow (Cost: Completely free)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wordpress.chislonchow.fontup

Title: 17pt / Text: 11pt

Requires: Android 4.0+

So the biggest option is likely Sam Lu’s Big Font if you buy the full version then Font Size Setter which still doubles the original size of the text (allowing for a margin of error in my measuring!)

I didn’t look at apps like Font size editor which require root.

Summary: If you have a device running Android 4.1 or earlier these apps are definitely worth looking at.  Note that if you have (or get) 4.2 or later they won’t work without rooting your phone.

Android on-screen Keyboards

The quick recommendation: There is no one size fits all – try a few with the features and font size you need.

The longer answer:

Firstly, this is a longer post than previously but there wasn’t an easy place to break it up and choosing a suitable keyboard is one aspect where there isn’t a clear best answer but what you use does fundamentally affect how smoothly you can interact with your device.  There are many on screen keyboards available for Android, all with different features and different ways of predicting text (or not) and displaying different items on the main keyboard (number row, arrows, etc).

I tested as many of the ‘large print’ and most of the more popular keyboards I could find.  I excluded several keyboards with ‘dymanic’ layouts such as the ThickButtons Keyboard (where keys change size depending on what the keyboard expects you to need next) as these require even more constant scrutiny of the keyboard visually and were more tiring to use than even a constant layout, smaller print keyboard.  I have listed them here in order of their key text size on my Galaxy Note II with its 5.5” screen (and the size of suggestions and secondary characters which can be accessed by holding down keys), as well as colour options and whether they work with speech:

Keyboard URL Price Works with Talkback? Layout / colours Letter size Secondary symbol Suggestion size

A.I.type Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aitype.android

$3.99

No Themes 36pt 16pt

LinType Keyboard Beta

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lrandroid.lintype Beta No Themes 32pt 10pt

Perfect Keyboard free

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=free.inputmethod.latin.perfectkeyboard

$2.99

No White on grey 28pt 16pt

Flexpansion Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.flexpansion.android

$1.91

No Themes 25pt 11pt 18pt

Ultra Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.binarybulge.android.apps.keyboard.trial

$2.38

No Customisable 24pt 12pt 18pt

Dodol

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fiberthemax.OpQ2keyboard

$0.00

No Customisable 22pt 12pt 10pt

Jelly Bean keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free

$3.11

Yes Themes 20pt 12pt 14pt

TSwipe-Pro

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thaicomcenter.android.tswipepro

$0.00

No Themes 18pt 18pt 18pt

Agile Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.np.Agile.Keyboard&hl=en

$1.25

No White on black 18pt 16pt

Kii keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zl.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes Themes 18pt 14pt 12pt

Big buttons keyboard standard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigbuttons

$2.90

No White on grey, Modified querty (in grid) 18pt

Adaptxt Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kpt.adaptxt.beta

$0.99

No Purchasable 17pt 12pt 16pt

Big keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mah.big.keyboard

$0.00

No White on grey, grid layout 16pt 16pt

Swiftkey Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.touchtype.swiftkey.phone.trial

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 12pt 14pt

Easy keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.customizingandroid.easykeyboard.free

$2.89

No Themes 16pt 8pt 12pt

Interwrite

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.sunnysoft.iwkeyboard

$0.00

No Black on white 16pt 12pt

Slide IT keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dasur.slideit.vt.lite

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 8pt 10pt

Google Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 6pt 12pt

iKnowU

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iknowu&hl=en

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 12pt

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.celllatinime.latinp

$0.99

Yes White on grey honeycomb shaped keys 14pt 12pt

Samsung Keyboard

(On Samsung phones)

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 12pt

Magic keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.picomat.magickeyboardfree

$2.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 11pt

swype

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nuance.swype.trial

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 8pt 10pt

Touchpal

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cootek.smartinputv5

$0.00

No Themes 13pt 6pt 13pt

Super keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.beautifulapps.superkeyboard.free

$3.11

No White on dark grey with silver background 12pt 8pt 14pt

There are several main options for entering text into Android, each has their pros and cons:

–       Only Tap – Entering each character manually.  The downside of this method is that it is very easy to slightly miss a letter and enter typos.

–       Sliding (or Swiping).  This method involves placing your finger on the first letter in a word then sliding across to the next letter, then without lifting, slide to the next letter and so on.  The keyboard’s dictionary will then predict which word you have typed.  The advantage is that you can often get away with not being quite as accurate and it doesn’t require as much concentration, staring at the screen.  Another big advantage is if you have Android 4.2, you can enter text quickly without tapping the screen repeatedly and inadvertently turning the magnifier on and off.

–       Tap w/ Word prediction.  As you are typing a word, a line above the keyboard shows the most likely words you are trying to enter and you can stop typing and tap on one of the words.  The disadvantage of this mode is that you need to be constantly concentrating on the list of suggestions, which on most of the keyboards I tested, was in a smaller font than the keyboard itself.  I found on many keyboards, the most efficient way of using the suggestions, was to type at least three letters before looking for suggestions.

Voice input.  To be honest I didn’t really test this method, as quite often I’m in public and would rather type discretely into my device rather than talk into it (gone are the days when ‘talking into it’ was solely what a mobile phone were for!).

The next table lists the keyboards by order of the available input methods and key text size, and also lists some of the features of each:

Learns – Indicates whether the keyboard learns words that you type, in order to offer them to you as suggestions in the future.

Auto Correct – automatically correct common typing errors.  Great when it fixes things you mistype, but frustrating if it changes something you weren’t expecting.

Auto Capitalise – Indicates whether the first letter in a new sentence is capitalised.

Number Row – Indicates whether there is a row of numbers at the of the main keyboard screen.  If not, it will be on a secondary screen available by a key on screen.  On some keyboards numbers and symbols can be accessed by holding down certain letters.

Arrows – These, if present, allow you to move through text you are typing character by character, or line by line.  This can be easier than trying to tap in the right place in the text itself to edit.

Keyboard Method Learns Auto Correct Auto-capitalise Number row Arrows

LinType Keyboard

Slide Yes No No Yes No

Ultra Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

TSwipe-Pro

Slide Yes No Yes No Secondary

Slide IT keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Cellular Big Button

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Samsung Keyboard

Slide Yes No Yes Yes No

Swipe

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Google Keyboard

Slide No Yes No No No

Touchpal

Slide Yes Yes No No No

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Yes No

Perfect Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No Selectable No

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes No No No No

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Full version Full version

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes Yes No No

Big keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

iKnowU

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Super keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No No No

Dodol

Only tap No Yes No Selectable Selectable

Big buttons keyboard

Only tap No No Only new line No No

Interwrite

Only tap No No No No No

Magic keyboard

Only tap Yes No Yes No No

I took two pieces of text (The Hail Mary prayer, and a typical email I sent a friend recently with more common and informal text but more varied punctuation), which worked out just over 40 words each.  I typed each out both by tapping, sliding and using the word prediction where available with each keyboard, and timed it, then took the averages to come up with the table below, sorted by the speed of each.  For comparison I also tested with a ¾ size Bluetooth keyboard connected to my phone, and a full size PC keyboard (on my PC):

Keyboard

Method Average WPM Rank

Full size PC keyboard

Touch Type

63.20

1

3/4 size bluetooth keyboard

Touch Type

39.18

2

swype

Slide

37.64

3

Touchpal

Slide

35.92

4

Google Keyboard

Slide

34.13

5

Slide IT keyboard

Slide

33.39

6

Samsung Keyboard

Slide

33.29

7

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

31.52

8

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

30.81

9

Touchpal

Only tap

29.43

10

Kii keyboard

Only tap

29.07

11

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Slide

28.91

12

Swiftkey Keyboard

Only tap

28.88

13

A.I.type Keyboard

Only tap

28.62

14

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide

28.58

15

Adaptxt Keyboard

Only tap

28.06

16

Slide IT keyboard

Only tap

27.76

17

Flexpansion Keyboard

Only tap

27.66

18

Ultra Keyboard

Only tap

27.38

19

Dodol

Only tap

26.76

20

Google Keyboard

Only tap

26.63

21

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

26.61

22

LinType Keyboard Beta

Only tap

26.45

23

Magic keyboard

Only tap

26.37

24

Ultra Keyboard

Slide

26.06

25

Perfect Keyboard free

Only tap

25.69

26

Super keyboard

Only tap

25.67

27

swype

Only tap

25.21

28

Touchpal

Tap w/ word prediction

25.10

29

iKnowU

Only tap

24.77

30

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Only tap

24.63

31

Easy keyboard

Only tap

24.45

32

Agile Keyboard

Only tap

24.41

33

Interwrite

Only tap

24.25

34

Ultra Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.69

35

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.63

36

Samsung Keyboard

Only tap

23.28

37

Jelly Bean keyboard

Only tap

23.26

38

swype

Tap w/ word prediction

23.04

39

TSwipe-Pro

Slide

22.10

40

LinType Keyboard Beta

Tap w/ word prediction

21.72

41

Swiftkey Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.96

42

TSwipe-Pro

Only tap

20.93

43

LinType Keyboard Beta

Slide

20.91

44

Google Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.81

45

Perfect Keyboard free

Tap w/ word prediction

20.65

46

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.56

47

Samsung Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.77

48

Slide IT keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.58

49

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.33

50

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.06

51

Super keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

18.70

52

iKnowU

Tap w/ word prediction

18.44

53

TSwipe-Pro

Tap w/ word prediction

16.03

54

Big buttons keyboard standard

Only tap

14.80

55

Big keyboard

Only tap

14.41

56

Big keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

13.36

57

While the physical keyboards came out on top, carrying around and pairing Bluetooth devices isn’t always convenient.  Interestingly, the size of the key text was only one factor in how quickly I was able to type during the test.  Many of the extra large print keyboards, either don’t have slide input or don’t have very accurate word prediction (Ultra keyboard is very customisable but I do often find I need to look at the list of suggested words to choose the right word), and many of the keyboards with excellent prediction don’t allow very large print (eg Swipe or the Samsung keyboard).  Having a keyboard I can read easily though is still more comfortable than one I can potentially type faster on, but which I need to concentrate more to use.

I was interested to see that using word prediction actually slowed the speed down a lot in most cases, because on most of the keyboards, the suggested words are displayed in a much smaller font and it took time to read through what were often very similar words to choose the right one – usually I found this was more worthwhile when writing longer words with unique letters near the start (eg keyb…..).  It does increase accuracy on keyboards which don’t automatically correct to the most likely suggestion.

Another point to mention is that as a longstanding touch typist, I am quite familiar with the traditional QWERTY layout so can navigate some of the listed keyboards with smaller keys without too much difficulty even without reading the letters clearly, and also I did have more difficulty with some of the modified layouts such as on the Big Keyboard and Big Buttons Keyboard, as the keys weren’t necessarily where I instinctively expected them to be.

Summary:

Key text and word suggestion size will likely give you a starting point on which keyboards you can see.  Trial a few suitable keyboards to see which features you prefer.  Ideally many of the keyboards work best if you try them for a few days in order for them to ‘learn’ how you type to better tailor suggestions.  I didn’t do that with all the keyboards in the test, and it also meant I sometimes had to search for punctuation marks, if they weren’t where I was used to finding them.

Which keyboard do you use with your Android?  Share your findings in the comments below.

Launchers Part 3 – Mainstream Android launchers with large print

The quick recommendation: Lightning has more flexibility than Big Launcher, but not everything is large print.

The longer answer:

There are several launchers which were designed as lightweight, mainstream launchers, which just happen to have some large print features worth looking at.

Lightning Launcher (Free, several free and paid add ons).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.pierrox.lightning_launcher&hl=en

Image

Lightning was designed primarily as a lightweight launcher to work on any phone.  It doesn’t have large print contacts or features like Big Launcher, (we can use other apps for this which I’ll cover in a future post) but you can zoom in on the home screen and you can set the all apps list to be a list with print as large as you like.  The launcher works with Talkback, although when you’ve zoomed in, Talkback still finds icons in their original position (ie, in the top left quarter of the screen).  Text in the setup menus for Lightning are 12pt and it can take a bit of extra tweaking compared to say EqualEyes.  It does offer a lot of customisation and access to the full range of widgets.

I used Big Launcher on my 4” phone; however on the Note II with its 5.5” screen, I’ve been trying Lightning with 3 x 4 icons, which also gives me full size widgets.  Default setup is one massive ‘page’ you can add as many icons you like in any direction, zoom in manually and scroll either in one or both directions.  I have setup pages of 3×4 icons which take up full screen automatically.  To do that:

  1. Tap the phone’s “Menu” button and choose “Customise Lightning”.
  2. In “Current Screen”:
    1. Under “Layout” set “Grid Columns” and “Grid Rows” both to fixed size, set Columns to size 150 and rows to size 190
    2. Under “Zooming and Scrolling” ensure that “Enable pinch zoom” is checked.
    3. Under “Items”, set font size to 20pt (or whatever size you like).
    4. In “General”, “Events and Actions”, set something (I use Double tap on empty space) to “Zoom full scale”.
    5. Use the “Widget Options” of the “LL Widget” screen switcher widgets to add multiple pages.
    6. Setup your screen(s) with no more than 3 x 4 icons and double tap on a blank space to zoom in to maximise them.  You could set the screen to 2 x 3 or even any other number but you might need to tweak the column and row size values from my suggestions above to fit).

LightLaunch (Free).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.suphi.lightlaunch&hl=en

Image

LightLaunch is another lightweight launcher.  It gives you a simple grid of all your apps which you can scroll up and down through.  You can set it up fairly easily to 2 column, 3 row, 200% size icons.  Like Lightning, it doesn’t provide a replacement dialer etc, so a 3rd party large print replacement would be needed.  I couldn’t quite figure out the app sorting order, but you can hide apps from the list which is useful.  Font can be set up to 14pt and icons are up to 27mm high.  Having large, scrolling icons is nice though lack of sorting is frustrating.

Summary

Lightning is a good option if you would like a grid size other than 2 x 5 and bigger widgets, but not everything is large print like it is in Big Launcher.

If you’ve found any other launcher options, please let me know.

Quick update on Talkback

I thought I would deviate from my series on launcher options today to post two things about Talkback, the screen reader on Android for those who use it.

 

Firstly Google released an update to Talkback on the Play store yesterday with a couple of nice new features.  Here is the list from the “What’s new” section:

 

-Earcons and TTS pitch changes to indicate text formatting

-Automatic scrolling of lists during linear navigation

-Spells text replacements after speaking them

-Moved granularity selection to the local context menu

-Gestures previously used for cycling reading granularity can be used to jump to the first or last item on screen

-Stability improvements to the explore by touch tutorial

-Bug fixes

 

One I quite like there is the automatic scrolling of lists, which has seemed a little disjointed previously.  Now as you swipe through a list it will automatically scroll the page once you reach the last visible item.

 

Talkback support for last week’s list of simplified launcher.

 

Also potentially of interest to any Talkback users reading this, I did make some brief notes on the Talkback accessibility of the simplified launchers I reviewed last week and then completely forgot to include it in the post!  So for you, here is a little bit on each one.  For a full review of the launchers themselves from a large print point of view, see last week’s post: “Launchers Part 2: – Simplified Launchers”:

 

EqualEyes – As mentioned, EqualEyes works very well with Talkback (including implementing explore by touch on older phones)

 

Odinhome – text labels (calendar and applications) read but other buttons are unlabelled

 

Fontrillo – works well in many areas, but not all buttons are labelled

 

Phonotto simple phone – Buttons are listed twice when swiping with Talkback (once as simply “button” and once named correctly), otherwise seemed to work ok.

 

Seniors phone by mobile – most buttons have visual text labels and work well although several image only like the ‘back’ button read simply as button)

 

Phone for Elderly people – main buttons read, battery status etc don’t read.

 

 Coming soon I’ll be posting part 3 of my series on launchers, which will look at a couple of ‘mainstream’ launchers not specifically designed for large print users, but which can be adapted.

Launchers Part 2 – Simplified Launchers

The quick recommendation: EqualEyes gives speech access in older phones and comes pre-configured but is very expensive.  Seniors phone is a neat simplified package, my personal favourite is still Big Launcher.

The longer answer:

As well as Big Launcher, there are a number of launchers which have been designed for the vision impaired or elderly, most of which try to make the interface as simple as possible and in many cases restrict the features you can access easily.  Because of this, I would recommend them to someone who really needs a simplified phone, with other features hidden from use.

EqualEyes Accessibility – $64 (Free 30 day demo) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.equaleyes
ImageEqualEyes comes completely pre-configured.  It has three screens with two columns of five icons already setup.  The icons are about 14mm high, single colour (green by default) and the launcher automatically uses Talkback speech.  One great feature for speech users is that it implements its own ‘explore by touch’ which means that it’s completely useable without sight even on Android 2.x.  It also includes an OCR app built in, phone book, dialler, call log, messages, weather, ‘Where Am I?’ and more.  The font varies from 9pt for the icon labels, up to 34pt for messages.  The biggest drawback for many will be that a 2 year license is an in-app purchase for $64.  The demo works for 30 days.

OdinHome by Colin A Jones – Free – https://play.google.com/store/search?q=odinhome&c=apps
ImageA basic single screen, which gives you access to a few of the phone’s default key functions (though some of the buttons didn’t work on my Note II).  It does give you access to the all apps list, though not in large print and nothing else is modified – it also only displayed on about ¾ of my screen.  With Talkback, text labels (calendar and applications) are read but other buttons are unlabelled.

Fontrillo, the Easy phone – Free (Beta), full version released soon – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fontrillo
Image10 screens & an SOS button: settings & Quit, Memo, Flashlight, Camera, Gallery, clock, contacts, messages, dialler and call log.  Font sizes range from about 10pt in call log received time, to 18pt for the name of the caller.   Works well in many areas with Talkback, but not all buttons are labelled.

Phonotto Simple Phone Seniors – Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gammapps.SimplePhone
ImageA single screen with clock, three contacts shortcuts, dialler, call log and text message functions.  Text sizes vary – Text message contact is about 28pt but the message itself is only 14pt.  Using Talkback, buttons are listed twice when swiping (once as simply “button” and once named correctly), otherwise seemed to work ok.

Seniors Phone by Mobili – Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.simplymobile.simplephone
ImageA single screen with buttons to call contacts or send pre-set text messages, including location information or SOS message.  Weather, time and battery also displayed on screen.  Most details are in 16pt.   With Talkback, most buttons have visual text labels and work well although several image only like the ‘back’ button read simply as button).

Phone for Elderly People by App Maker It – Free demo, full version costs $2.37 – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=peplite.b4a
ImageOne screen with up to six big buttons to directly call contacts, however the setup screens are in about 8pt.  With Talkback, the main buttons read, but battery status etc don’t read.

Summary

EqualEyes looks promising though the price is very steep and the fonts vary in size.  Most of the others here are much more restricted and also vary in font sizes.  Seniors Phone is a great neat package for what it does.  Personally for many large print users I’d still recommend Big Launcher.