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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2000 Issue  Volume 1  Number 2

Questions and Answers

Don't know where to get the answer to that nagging computer question? I might not know the answer, but I know how to find out. E-mail your questions to me at <crista@afb.net>, and I will try to find the answer for an upcoming issue of AccessWorld.

Question: How do I clean my braille display?

Answer: If you like to read with your left hand while eating sticky donuts with the right, you might find you need to use something more than a slightly dampened clean cloth. Blazie Engineering recommends using denatured alcohol to clean the display. Be sure the machine is off while you clean it. Be conservative with the amount of alcohol you use. It evaporates quickly, but a good dousing could do damage.

Denatured alcohol, by the way, is not the same as rubbing alcohol. The ordinary rubbing alcohol you find at your pharmacy or grocery store can damage your display. If your pharmacy doesn't carry denatured alcohol, ask to make a special order.

Question: I use Eudora Light, a free E-mail program. How can I send one message to several people?

Answer: One way is to put all the E-mail addresses in the "To" field, separated by commas. So, if you wanted to send a message to both senators from South Carolina at the same time, you would write: <senator@hollings.senate.gov>, <senator@thurmond.senate.gov>." If you want to send the message to 20 senators, just keep going.

If you send messages to senators on a regular basis, you probably have put their addresses in your address book. You can type their nicknames instead of their E-mail addresses, but remember to separate them with commas in that case, as well. If you have put the senators in your address book as "Hollings" and "Thurmond," Then to send them the message, type "Hollings, Thurmond" in the "To" field.

One last time-saver: You can go to the address book in Eudora and select all the recipients' names. To do this, press Control-l to bring up the Eudora address book. You will find a tree view loaded with the nicknames you have put there. Arrow up and down to find the first name to which you want to send this message. Once you have found it, press Shift-Down Arrow to select the name below it. Keep pressing Shift-Down until you have selected all the names you want. Press the Enter key. Eudora will open up a new message and put all these names in the "To" field, separated by commas. If you want to remove a name, delete it from the "To" field, just as you would if you had actually painstakingly typed it there.

Question: What are toolbars? Are they useful?

Answer: Toolbars appear as rows of little pictures representing features or commands. They usually show up just below the menu, near the top of the program's main window. The developer of the program or someone else has collected together the most commonly used features and put their icons there so people do not have to pull down all the menus to find the things they want. Often, a program has several toolbars, each for a separate category of task. For example, Save, Save As, and Open might all be on the Standard toolbar. Back, Forward, Favorites, and Go might be on the Web toolbar. Generally, programs do not have features on the toolbar that are not also on the menus.

The main purpose of the toolbar is to speed things up for mouse users. If you use speech exclusively, you will probably find that it is quicker to hit the hot key for a feature or pull down the menu and press the letter rather than search around the screen with your screen reader to click on the toolbar icon. There are a few exceptions to this that I will discuss in a minute.

Status information is sometimes displayed on the toolbar, too. For example, if you are arrowing around in a document and happen to land on text that is bold or italic, the Bold button on the toolbar might look like it is pushed in to let you know it is activated. If you use a screen reader, there is a good chance it is watching those buttons and telling you when bold or italic has been turned on or off, based on the appearance of those icons. If this is the case, that toolbar is important to you, even if you never click on its icons.

In most programs, the toolbars are just a row of graphics that are accessible only via the mouse. In a few programs, though, they can be reached by using the keyboard. Microsoft Word 97 and 2000, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Visual Basic 6 are examples. To use the toolbars in these and some other Microsoft applications, press and release the Alt key as if you wanted to get into the menu. The usual menu item will be highlighted. Your screen reader, if you are using one, will speak its usual message (for example, "File"). Instead of using arrows as you normally would in the menus, press Control-Tab. This key combination will cause you to jump to the first toolbar. If your screen reader supports this feature, it will voice the item you land on ("New Blank Document," for example). Move across the toolbar by pressing the Tab key. Jump to the next toolbar, if one exists, by pressing Control-Tab. When you have moved through all the toolbars, you will be brought back to the menu. While exploring the toolbars, if you find something you want to try, press Enter.

Question: Why does JAWS for Windows keep saying "Andy 233?"

Answer: I bet it is actually saying "ANSI 233." ANSI is the name for one of the systems of codes for characters used on the computer. To make a long story short, some characters are treated as special by your screen reader. Accented vowels, upside down question marks and less common mathematical symbols might not be read as smoothly as letters, numbers, and commas. So, if your screen reader is blurting out "ANSI" or "ASCII" followed by a number, it is probably just telling you the literal, but unhelpful, truth.

Here is how to adjust this setting in JFW 3.5: Hold down the Insert key and press the number 6 key on the top row of the main keyboard. This key combination brings up the JAWS Configuration Wizard. Bring down the Settings menu by pressing Alt-S. Choose "Graphics and Symbols." In this dialog, tab to the radio button labeled "ANSI Character Verbosity." Here, "None" causes JFW to stop saying ANSI 233 altogether, and "Say All" causes it to announce the values of these characters wherever it finds them. There are three intermediate settings. Find the one you like by pressing arrow keys, then press Enter to close the dialog box. Save the settings by pressing Control-S. Alt-F4 closes the Configuration Wizard and takes you back to where you came from.

The steps just covered will change this setting for the situation that caused you the problem. For example, if you were in WordPerfect 8 when you decided you were tired of "ANSI 233," then you fixed the problem for only this and every session with WordPerfect. But, if you use Microsoft Word later, the problem might reappear. Follow the same steps in that program, as well.

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