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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 July 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 7

New Product Announcement

AccessNote: AFB's New Note Taker for Your iOS Device

The AFB Tech lab is excited to announce that AFB will soon be releasing AccessNote, a note taker for your iPhone or other iOS device. AFB Tech, in conjunction with FloCo Apps, LLC, has designed what is expected to be a groundbreaking productivity tool for people with vision loss, and developers plan for its launch at the App Store later this summer.

AccessNote is a powerful and efficient note taker that takes advantage of the tremendous built-in accessibility of your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. To allow for much greater typing speed, increase accuracy, and permit keyboard commands, AccessNote is designed to be used with the Apple Wireless Keyboard (QWERTY) as well as wireless braille keyboards and displays. AccessNote will be completely compatible with VoiceOver and the iOS screen reader. It can be used without a keyboard, but a keyboard adds efficiency.

Description of AccessNote

Although there is not yet a final price point, AccessNote will be priced under $30, and it will have many of the features found in traditional note takers and accessible PDAs. AccessNote creates notes in the .TXT file format, and it can also import .TXT files from e-mail or Dropbox accounts. It is designed with a clean, simple interface that uses standard iOS design techniques, so its layout will be familiar to iOS device users.

The home screen is titled All Notes, which is the heading at the top of the screen. The next element is the "Add" button (for adding a new note) followed by the Search field. Next is the user's list of files and notes, which includes a table index for quickly scrolling through notes. Finally, there are three buttons at the bottom of the home screen: "Settings," "Favorites," and "Help." Once the user is in a note, the screen includes a "Back" button to go back to the All Notes screen as well as a "Review" button for going into a read-only mode.

Some of the features designed into AccessNote include:

  • Compatibility with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and wireless braille displays.
  • Fast and efficient navigation.
  • Powerful search features.
  • Automatic saving and syncing with Dropbox files.
  • Customized keyboard commands.
  • A review feature.
  • Options for larger text.
Compatibility with the Apple Wireless Keyboard

Although typing on an iOS touchscreen is certainly accessible, it is not nearly as efficient as using a traditional QWERTY keyboard, a primary reason for designing AccessNote for use with the Apple Wireless Keyboard (available from Apple for $69). Another reason is due to how well the Apple Wireless Keyboard works with VoiceOver to control an iOS device. There are keyboard commands for nearly all of VoiceOver's gestures, including swiping/flicking, using the rotor, and reading text. AccessNote will also be compatible with wireless refreshable braille displays. So far, AccessNote has been tested with the BraillePen12 from Aroga, which also has many commands for controlling an iOS device.

Fast and Efficient Navigation

Using the Apple Wireless Keyboard, users have several options for navigating a note. These options include navigating and reading by character, word, line, paragraph, page, or note. Users can also jump to a particular word or phrase with the Find feature, and users can also quickly jump to the top or bottom of a note. These navigation features also work on the device itself using standard and custom VoiceOver gestures, and most of the commands are available on wireless braille displays.

Powerful Search Features

AccessNote has two powerful features for searching notes: Search and Find. Search (found on the All Notes screen) is a global search tool used for searching for text throughout all of the user's files, and it can also search for file names. Find is used to search for text within the current note that is open. To activate the Find feature, users can use the Option + F command for the keyboard or a "double-tap and hold" gesture for use on the iOS device itself.

Automatic Saving and Syncing with Dropbox Files

To avoid any data loss, all edits are automatically saved when typing in a note. AccessNote also syncs automatically with the user's Dropbox account, so you have all your files all of the time.

Customized Keyboard Commands

The AFB Tech lab was able to create a handful of customized keyboard commands for the Apple Wireless Keyboard. These commands include:

  • Option + C to create a new note.
  • Option + R to rename a note.
  • Option + F to search for text within a note.
  • Option + P to search for a previous note.
  • Option + O to move to the next note.
  • Option + M to mark a note as a favorite.

Although these custom commands have not yet been added for the wireless braille displays, this could come in a future update.

The Review Feature

In case users simply want to read their notes (for example, when studying for an exam), there is a convenient "Review" button at the top of each note. When using the Review feature, AccessNote is in a read-only mode, and thus, users don't have to worry about making any unwanted edits. There are also "tilt" gestures available when using the Review feature. Simply tilt the iOS device to the right to quickly switch to the next note or tilt it to the left to switch to the previous note.

Options for Larger Text

In Settings there is an option to choose the default text size. The available sizes are 14 point, 18 point, and 22 point font. AccessNote will also work with the Zoom feature built into iOS, but Zoom cannot be used at the same time as VoiceOver.

Your Feedback Matters

AFB Tech is very excited about AccessNote and has high hopes for its release. Because Apple's iOS devices are very powerful, AFB Tech wants to take advantage of that to allow students and professionals to use the same mainstream device that their sighted peers are using. The developers, of course, will be looking for feedback from those who purchase and use AccessNote, and they are anxious to hear your reactions to the new note taker.

This of course turns the tables on the AFB Tech lab rats. For years, those in the AFB Tech product evaluation lab have been evaluating products designed by others and have never been known to pull any punches, so please let the lab have it if it has missed the mark. It is ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The AFB Tech lab appreciates the feedback received from readers using the AccessWorld app, which was the first iOS app AFB Tech developed in conjunction with FloCo Apps, LLC. The developers added several ideas provided by the readers to the AccessWorld app and hope to do the same for AccessNote upon its highly anticipated release.

Stay tuned to AccessWorld and the AFB Blog for announcements of AccessNote's official release date.

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Copyright © 2012 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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