Sunday, 31 August 2008

31. Sound and note recording - Lecture Recorder 4.4

This is a low cost (not free) piece of software that allows you to record the sound, plus makes notes as you go along.

Lecture Recorder 4.4

Saturday, 30 August 2008

30. Time management - Time Sprite

It is easy to slip from one task to the next, and let time slip past. This piece of software allows you to monitor where your time has been wasted! This is shareware with a 30 day free trial. Then you need to pay $35.

Time Sprite

Friday, 29 August 2008

29. Online backup - Carbonite

I know of at least two people whose computers died just before they had to hand in a thesis. Fortunately both had send copies to friends to proofread only a few days before, which was a fortunate "back-up" system. But how many of us remember to regularly back-up. It could be a thesis, a report, a book or just personal photos.

And when I say back-up I don't mean just create a second copy on the same machine in case the first become corrupted. Nor do I mean putting it on a memory stick that is kept in the computer bag (and the bag gets stolen). Or in the house when the computer is stored, so when the computer is stolen the copy goes too.

Back-up means that no matter what happens to the top copy, a second one is still available.

Obviously you can just upload to some free storage space. But will you remember to do it every day? Carbonite is an excellent online service that provides the perfect back-up. You get 15 days free trial. But then the costs seem reasonable.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

28. Password Protection - Keepass

Many website, include those listed on the blog, require you to enter a password. But what password do you use? You don't want the same as your bank account? And what about your Google account? Do you use that? Is it the same as your Yahoo account? Maybe you signed up for services such as Buzzword, or downloaded some demos? How do you keep track? And as any dyslexic knows, it is all too easy to loose the passwords. That is if you can remember the User Name!

Fortunately we can use the technology to help, by putting all the "keys" in one store, so we only have to have one "key". There are two ways to do this: online and offline.

The best offline version I have come across is Kee Pass. This allows you to store all items in one secure place, and you only need to remember one password. It is award winning open source (ie free) software. There is even a portable version of it.

You can find it at:

Online ones will be reviewed later.

And here is a (strongly recommended) suggestion. Keep the password for Keepass written down somewhere safe. I suggest you write it on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed envelope. Duplicate this, and give copies to two trusted people. (Eg one to parents and another a best friend.) Then all you have to do is remember who has it!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

27. Cutting down reading - Subject Search Summarizer 4.01

There are two ways you can reduce the amount of "reading" for a given text. Either you can change the modality, from reading to listening to it being read or you can make a synopsis of the text, and then read the much shorter synopsis. This can now be achieved through commercially available software. Although clearly aimed at the commercial sector, this could be an excellent tool for the dyslexic individual.

However, a word of warning - the camera make a "best guess" on the picture exposure by comparing the scene to "expectations". These expectations are average. The "average" picture (ie mix all the colours together) is light grey. Without going into details, the consequence is that when you shoot a dark image (eg a man in a black suit) the suit looks too light as the camera is trying to make the picture (ie the suit) grey. If the main image was a white dress, the camera is still assuming the scene is "grey" and consequently the dress appears grey. (Technically, the suit is over exposed and the dress is under exposed.)

The point is that the system relies on averages. But any one scene may be a long way from average. In the same way, synopsis software relies on "average" text, and the result needs to be treated with caution rather than as a panacea.

Examples include

However, check that it is compatible to your system.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

26. Shared remote screens - Teamviewer

Team Viewer is a neat free program that allows somebody else to see your computer screen. Talking through a problem over the internet is one thing, trying to use a webcam is difficult, but the ultimate is to allow somebody else to see what is on your screen. They do not even need to have control of it since you can use other internet services such as Skype to communicate.

Monday, 25 August 2008

25. Web page validation - Aprompt

There are many web page validation tools available, each with their own advantages. Here is a link to the Aprompt one that not only shows the problems but also fixes them. Of course there are no dyslexia ones, but at least this one goes beyond the usual machine based versions, and questions those parts that can only be manually assessed.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

24. Comparing E-books

There are two main players in the field of e-books: Sony and Amazon. Both are subject to huge amounts of marketing, but are they dyslexia friendly? Until I can get hold of one, it is not easy to say. In theory they could be good, since they are electronic format, and therefore should be available in the way that other versions are available to use ones own preferences. But then where is the discussion of the text-to-speech and changeable background colours.

For a comparison, see

Personally, with Negroponte looking to launch a new $100 machine in 2009 looking remarkably like an e-book, I am left wondering if this independent e-book has a short life as the sub-notebook looks to find its place.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

23. Location hardware - Loc8tor

Do you remember those little devices a few years ago where you clap your hands and the device makes a noise so you know where it is? Well the latest version has a range of 200 metres and a radar-like locator to tell you which direct it is in. The "tag" is small enough to attach to a phone or key ring.

Friday, 22 August 2008

22. Mobile Office backup

There have been a number of pieces of software that allow Word, Excel and Powerpoint to be edited on the Smart Phone and Blackberry. But are they good for dyslexic individuals? It would be easy to criticise about small size, background colours etc. But that would be to miss the point. The point is that it provides a back-up system that allows changes if you forgot to make them earlier, or to note/change while you remember it.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

21. Dyslexia friendly approach - WAI

The Web Accessibility Initiative is intended to provide a basis for making website good for all. However if fails to take into account the largest group - dyslexics. But then, who will advise them when none of the dyslexia groups has a dyslexia friendly website.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

20. Colour combinations - from hgrebdes

It has long been recognised that the reading ability of many dyslexic individuals is increased (or at least the visual stress decreased) by changing background colours both for paper and computer screens. However, there are few opportunities to experiment with their preferences beyond a few preset choices. Furthermore, the preference may depend on the font and size for which the alternatives are usually restricted.

The website below allows all the variables to be changed, though the number of word in the test area is a little limited.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

19. Most frequent words - AskOxford

Ever wondered what the most frequently used words are in the English language? According to over 25% of all words are accounted for by just ten words (the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, I), while 50% is accounted for by 100 words. (Another 900 words only adds another 25%.) There are other gems, such as the 14 most common adjectives are monosyllabic, while the ten most common verbs are - be, have, do, say, get, make, go, know, take, see.

Question: If it is so easy to define the word frequency in a language, why is it that when I try to learn a language they always try to make me learn such obscure words?

Further information on this can be found on the Ask Oxford website

Monday, 18 August 2008

18. Accessible literature -

While downloading quality classic literature many not be the obvious preference for dyslexic individuals, this site does allow this, and you can of course then use text to speech to listen to them. More importantly, you can also change the typeface and font size, as well as print on a paper that suits your preference.

The range of authors includes people Darwin, Balzac, Descartes, Dickens, Dostoevsky, DH Lawrence, Bram Stoker, Tolstoy, Mark Twain and Jules Verne.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

17. Reminders online - Remember the milk

Task management, or organisational skills, are important for anybody, but especially if you cannot remember what is happening when. The dyslexic individual has two major problems in this area - a) to remember what to do when, and b) to remember where the reminders were put. This website is designed so that you can put all your appointments in one place.

Manage online but can also access on the mobile through the web. In other words, no need to synchronise" Can get reminders through email, sms or instant messengers like Sype, MSN and Google Talk).

Also you can share it online, so a friend or tutor could also remind you.

The downside is that you do need to have internet access, as well as still remember to top it up with every appointment.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

16. Key board skills - Qwerty Warriors

There are many keyboard skills programs out there, but I have not found one as addictive as Qwerty Warriors. Quite simply it is a shoot 'em up game, where you have to press the correct keys to destroy the words. Not really a lot more you can say about it. In theory it can be adapted with your own word lists, but I never cracked that part. Anyway, a very exciting game for the older learner. It would be great to see a commercial product of a similar nature.
Note that this game has moved a couple of times recently. If you cannot find it, just type in Qwerty Warriors into Google.

Friday, 15 August 2008

15. Knowledge management - Knowledge Workshop

I try to avoid posting items where I have not personally checked out the software fully. But Knowledge Workshop seemed interesting enough to be highlighted. It seems to present the sort of e-portfolio that many students would look to create.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

14. Research online - Zotero

For all those looking for a way to collect all those reference together, and save having to type out (and refind!) all those key website, try Zotero. It describes itself as "a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself."

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

13. Study Skills Software

Although a little dated in appearance, this simple Study Skills guide contains many useful tips. Do not be put off by the fact that it appears to be relevant to one country. The tips are still very good.
Also there are many links contained in it. Here is just one:

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

12. Online office "systems" - Zoho

When it comes to all round online software systems, few offer as much as Zoho. If anything, they offer too much as there is a danger of trying to try everything. The programs include word processor, spreadsheets, presentation tool, notebook, wiki, planner, chat and email.

Monday, 11 August 2008

11. Online Concept mapping (free) - Wisemapping

There are a number of concept maps on line. But this seems the best of them all. It is (currently) free, and can be shared with colleagues for viewing or even to modify. The above example was a quick version to test it out. It is easy to use. The only problem is that text sites on a single line. (They invite feedback which has been sent.)

Sunday, 10 August 2008

10. TOCA - Try other colours again

If you want to change colours in your browser, try TOCA. To be more precise, try Alt + TOCA. This will open the browser panel to choose the background colour. To put that more clearly: Alt + T = Tools window Alt + O = Options window Alt + C = Colour change Alt + A = Allow pages to choose colour is turned off.

However, this does assume that you have done this once before and that the default for Options is Content. If not, do this once and the programme will save it. The image above is from Mozilla Firefox.

TOA will give you Advance settings for typefaces.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

09. Automated functions - Auto Hot Keys

I have often thought that I would like to have a program that will run that will do a series of keystrokes that I repeatedly need to do. Finally I may have found one.

According to the web site, this program can:
* Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder.
* Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.
* Expand abbreviations as you type them. For example, typing "btw" can automatically produce "by the way".
* Create custom data-entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars. See GUI for details.
* Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
* Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
* Run existing AutoIt v2 scripts and enhance them with new capabilities.
* Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers that don't have AutoHotkey installed.

Friday, 8 August 2008

08. Free Magnifiers - Virtual magnifying glass

There are many magnifiers out there with various claims. Here is an easy to install and reasonably easy to use one. It is also very small, so does not clog the system. For a full range of magnifiers, try

This is one that can be carried on the USB, also free.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

07. World on a USB

Ever turned up somewhere and found the software you need is not on the computer you are allocated? Maybe the Powerpoint software for your presentation is too old. Or perhaps you rely on text-to-speech and you don't take have the installation discs with you on holiday. (Yes there are still people who don't do that!) The latest answer is to carry all your software on your memory device.

Of course it is never quite that easy as you cannot use any software and just transfer it to the USB device. It has to be compatible. However, there is plenty of free software, such as Open Office Portable, which covers all the standard applications of word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations (and yes, they can read the Microsoft equivalent).

And the future? We shall have all our software installed on the memory card in our mobile phones and use the built in wifi capability to connect to a "dumb terminal" which is the keyboard and screen. But that may have to wait a month or two.

The Portable Office can be found at:

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

06. Concept mapping blog - Mindmappingblog

I have found an excellent blog for concept mapping. It contains all the latest news and review, and probably too many pieces of software for anybody to review. Well worth the browsing.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

05. Free text-to-speech software - Readplease

There are many text-to-speech tools around with their own little quirks and extras, but this is still the one I tend to recommend first because it is easy to install and you can adjust setting such as change the voice, vary the speed and font size as well as highlight text. It is a classic cut-and-paste style (i.e. you put your text from any document into the text area) which works well in most cases including from the web or Word documents. Of course there are now better voices, but this still works well for dyslexics and English as an additional language individuals. And it is free.

Readplease also appearsa to work in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish using free Microsoft voices.

The web link is

Monday, 4 August 2008

04. Free scanning from your mobile phone - Scanr

Simple concept - use your mobile to photograph a document, send it to a webpage ( and it will turn it into text in your account. Very simple, and high quality (obviously depending on the phone image quality). Unfortunately the free trial period is not over, but it still only cost about £15 (€20) per year. This means that you could take photos anywhere - at home, at work, in the library (with due respect to copyright laws) and have the information immediately available as electronic material. This even works for non-English material (tested in Portuguese). You can then either go onto the web to look at the results of have them sent to your email address. That would allow you to copy the result into your document and adjust to your preferences.

However, the secret is to ensure the contrast is good. Many cameras will take a reading from the paper and assume an "average" colour, which makes it under exposed and looking grey. It is suggested that if you have the option, change the camera setting to "+1".

Sunday, 3 August 2008

03. The "No Pain" way to speak a foreign language - Emime

Speaking a foreign language has always been a problem for the dyslexic individual, whether it has been in the French class in school or ordering food in Greece. But now it seems that there may be an alternative on the horizon. The Emime project, a collaboration led by the University of Edinburgh and includes Nokia as a partner aims to take the words of the speaker, translate them and then use the users own voice to speak back the words. Is this the ultimate Babelfish? For further details watch the Emine project website.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

02. Portuguese get one laptop for every child

It seems that the Portuguese government have just bought a laptop for every child between the ages of 6 and 10 years old. This really is brilliant news and is likely to start things moving in other places. The one tiny problem is that they have no good literacy learning program in Portuguese. There is currently no such software around. Of course it does mean that they can learn every other subject. But the one subject that opens up all the others, development of reading and writing skills, is not there.

Friday, 1 August 2008

01. Welcome to Techno Dys

I set up this blog just to have a place to record my findings relevant to technology and dyslexia. All too frequently I have found an interesting piece of software, information or a service, and rather than make a clear record of it, I make a note in some obscure place and fail to log the information appropriately. Therefore, I now have a place that I can send to, and share, which can be supplied by my internet connection, the Blackberry or whatever else I wish.