Thursday, 31 December 2009

31. Desktop Publishing with Scribus

Scribus is a desktop publishing package that is free and open source. There is not much more to be said since most people know what these words mean! Very useful if you want to present material in a very professional manner.


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

30. Search the computer with SearchMyFiles

Do you ever get frustrated that you cannot find the right file on your computer? You know it is there somewhere, but the Windows search is not specific enough? SeachMyFiles here is an alternative. According to them "It allows you to easily search files in your system by wildcard, by last modified/created/last accessed time, by file attributes, by file content (text or binary search), and by the file size. SearchMyFiles allows you to make a very accurate search that cannot be done with Windows search. For Example: You can search all files created in the last 10 minutes with size between 500 and 700 bytes." I am not sure the last time I created a file of only 700 bytes, but the principle is excellent.


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

29. Visual home page with Symbaloo

This is a new visually-based website that is good for a home page, to replace the more widely used text-heavy iGoogle or similar. Simply set up each square for a link to your regular information sources and it will display all those pages. The image you see above is the UK standard default, which already includes quite a few of my favourite websites.


Monday, 28 December 2009

28. E-Readers from Barnes and Noble - The Nook

Barnes and Noble have launched their own e-Reader, and sold out their pre-launch versions such that now the next delivery will not be until February. (Check their website for details Barnes and Noble)

However, before you buy, you may want to compare to the Kinder. A comparison on specifications can be found in the Gizmodo website. In brief, it uses the Android operating system, and seems to avoid text-to-speech, probably to avoid the problems that Amazon had had over access issues. However, a hacker has found there may be speech-to-text. So there may be other things still to come.

Unfortunately, I think this case with a blind student in the US will limit the take-up of e-readers in the near future as manufacturers will be reluctant to include text-to-speech until the issues are resolved. (If my interpretation of the legal issue is correct, the problem is put across in the media as the device is not accessible to the blind, a legitimate concern. However, if you read the background, it appears that the problem is around concern that the course notes are not available at the beginning of the course in a form that is accessible to Kinder in a manner that can be easily accessed by the blind. But this failure of the university to offer e-notes to the student(s) has been around for a long time. So the reality is that the blind student is still as badly off now as they were before Kinder, while the dyslexic individual would be better off but is denied its use. Instead of addressing the old issue of ensuring course material is available at the right time, his university has been accused of discriminating. So Kinder appear to have withdrawn the text-to-speech, and so no dyslexic individual can benefit. Of course, there is also the argument with the Writer Guild of America. But that is separate.

Gizmodo review of the Nook

Sunday, 27 December 2009

27. Better searching - through YouTube

In the good old days, searching for information was simple - you went down to the local library when it was open! Things have changed slightly with the internet. The trouble is, there are so many tricks that you cannot keep track of them all. However, if you go to YouTube and type in "effective searching in google" (for example) you will find a number of very informative tips that may help cut down the huge volumes of useless information.


Saturday, 26 December 2009

26. Notes on the desktop - Hott Notes

As you can see from the illustration, you can not only use this for notes, but you can also add images to it.

Hott Notes

Friday, 25 December 2009

25. How many days until - Timeleft

Do you ever loose track of how long it is to a big event? Here is an excellent piece of software which has multiple and fully adjustable "timers", including reminders, Clock, Timer, Auction Watch, Countdown, Stopwatch and Stickers. Available in English, German, French and Italian.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

24. Auto Enter with TypingAid

Typing Aid is, as the webpage says, a simple, compact and handy auto-completion utility. It includes:
- Auto-complete words and phrases in any window which you set
- Support European languages with accents - so you can use in any language.
- Show suggestion tooltips, no toolbar used.
- Add words and phrases to word list with shortcut key.
- No configuration needed
- Portable (you can put it on an USB memory stick), so installation needed.

So for example, I could just type "Ian" (it uses the first three letters) and I can make it so that it would give me the full set of alternatives such as my email address which I then enter using the number keys.

The download comes with a "blank" template for work lists, but there are many on their website to download.

And it appears to work in all programs including Word and while doing this blog in Firefox. It is without doubt one of the neatest I have seen, and would say this is my find of the year (so far!).

Typing Aid

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

23. Keeping it clear in Chrome with Adthwart

The Google Chrome browser is slowly making inroads to the market, and the inclusion of an Extensions Gallery will, not doubt, begin to remove the advantages that Firehfox has with all those little extras. One of my pet hates is all the advertising that now follows us around, and litters the desktop landscape with distracting dross. Now it seems there is a new extension Adthwart for Google Chrome that blocks intrusive ads using EasyList filter. I wonder how happy Google will be about that?!


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

22. Manage your chaos! Use Chaos Manager

According to their website, "Organize your chaos. Chaos Manager is a compact freeware organizer with a simple and easy look and feel. Features appointments/to-do's, contacts (address-/phone book), calendar, multi-topic notebook (supports text formatting), sync via Internet, e-mail forwarding of appointments/to-do's, print/import/export, search options, skinnable and lots of customizable options, so you can personalize it"

Chaos Manager

Monday, 21 December 2009

21. Easy access using MouseExtender

This is a screenshot from MouseExtender, showing roughly what it would look like when you set it up. Basically you can make it a great little short cut device to quickly access programs, folders and files. Very flexible.


Sunday, 20 December 2009

20. Do we need to know who is dyslexic? Just give us the technology!

In the UK we have had a number of recent “reviews” around the subject of dyslexia. First there was Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (affectionately known as The Rose Report) published on Monday 22 June 2009. Then we had the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee report, published 18 December 2009. The first reviewed the research, while the second questioned the quality of the evidence and the use of the term dyslexia. Given the words this committee used, one has to question their intention as well as their capability (NB I could not see their academic credentials to ensure they knew how to carry out research). Were they trying to do something useful, or stop funding of 4000 specialist teachers and other funding opportunities? Sadly they cannot see the irony of their own methods, which is that they carefully chose who to interview and what to cite. This clearly creates a bias in the approach. Yet they criticise the research into dyslexia! You cannot have it both ways.

The Committee’s Conclusions and Recommendations says “The Rose Report’s definition of dyslexia is exceedingly broad and says that dyslexia is a continuum with no clear cut-off points. The definition is so broad and blurred at the edges that it is difficult to see how it could be useful in any diagnostic sense.” My view is that instead of prolonging the arguement around cut-off criteria (which are always a funding-related issue), why don’t they put some funding into assistive technology that could then be distributed free to everybody irrespective of the label, and thereby save a huge amount of money?

Science and Technology Committee Report

Saturday, 19 December 2009

19. A suite to suit your language - Lupo Pensuite

Lupo Pensuite (I am not sure why the name!) is a set of programs all in one suite. It includes 7-Zip, Audacity, CCleaner, eMule, FileZilla, Firefox, Foxit Reader, GIMP, IrfanView, Notepad++, Opera, Pidgin, Thunderbird, ĀµTorrent, VLC and many more. Of course not all are for the dyslexic user. But having them as portable version that can be accessed from a USB that travels with you is a good idea. And you can add your own portable software too. Of great importance is that they are available in 28 languages. (Arabic, Brazilian (Port.), Catalan, Chinese (Simpl.), Chinese (Trad.), Czech, Danish, Deutsch, Dutch, Finnish, French, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish, Spanish, Turkish, Ukrainian), with an invitation to contribute more.

Lupo PenSuite

Friday, 18 December 2009

18. Reassign the progam to open a file with Coffee

Do you ever get annoyed because a setting in Windows means every file of a certain type gets opened by one program? Here is a little tool that lets you reassign what program opens what. This means you can open a file using what you have on your USB memory stick, for example.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

17. Meetings made easy with MeeBee

Too busy to find a good way to organise a meeting? Then you may want to try this one.


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

16. Draw anytime - with Draw Anytime!

This website could be called just another drawing package/concept map. But it would be better to describe is as good for certain tasks, such as:
  • Draw Flowcharts, Process diagrams, Organizational charts and more.
  • Share your diagram with others or link to your webpage.
  • Export your diagram as an image file (jpg, png etc).
It requires no software to download. It works with the Flash player in your browser.

Draw Anywhere

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

15. Concept mapping in Business

Just over a month ago I highlighted a concept mapping blog run by Chuck Frey. Today I just wanted to highlight one of their articles, on producing concept maps at work, which he calls "How to manage a complex writing project using mind mapping software". The article is clearly writen, and although some would people prefer to see it as a YouTube entry, this is short enough to be very useful.

Concept mapping article

Monday, 14 December 2009

14. Website to watch - Teachnology

Although I reviewed this over a year ago (11 November 2008), it is worth highlighting again. With now over 8000 worksheets and 30,000 lesson plans, there should be something for all. But the secret, as with all things reviewed here, is to take the best parts of it and adapt to your own particular needs. So that just because Hot Subjects included a Phonics section (and UK reader should not that this is an American site), it does not mean there is something for you. But perhaps there is an inspiration.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

13. In brief

I discovered some time ago about the synthesis or summarisizing of information, and how you could reduce the amount of words you need to read (or access through text-to-speech) by clicking a button in Word. I thought that this function has been lost in 2007. However, if you look deep enough, you will find it. I am grateful to Diane Huggins for the following:

1. Click the Office button and choose Word Options.
2. Click Customize.
3. Using the Choose Commands From drop-down list, choose Commands Not In the Ribbon.
4. In the list of available commands, locate and select AutoSummary Tools.
5. Click the Add button. The command is copied to the right side of the dialog box.
6. Click OK.

Source of information

Saturday, 12 December 2009

12. Etherpad evolution

Apparently Etherpad, the superfast online collaborative text tool, has been acquired by Google. It seems that there was a danger of it closing.But rumour had it that is will continue to function (thanks to Jane Hart for info, plus the Etherpad blog). However, this does not appear to be the case when I checked last night. All I can say is that I hope it comes back.

(No point proving a link I know does not work. But you can try EtherPad in Google for the latest new.)

News Source (Jane Hart - 6 December 2009)

Friday, 11 December 2009

11. Innovations in accessibility - with YouTube

I was recently told about this exciting development which provides a hint at the way ahead! (Thanks Anna.) Basically, YouTube will used speech recognition software to match your transcription of a video to the video itself. So you end up with auto captioning. This means you have a chance to read the text as it is spoken. This may provide a creative way to develop reading and reading comprehension skills in the future, as well as other skills. And then of course you could translate it too!!!

YouTube Caption

Thursday, 10 December 2009

10. Password storage - with portable Keepass

I first reviewed Keypass back in August 2008, and I would say I have used it (almost - but then let's not talk about me, computers and holidays!) every day since then. To me it is by far the best way to store all my passwords. Version 1.17 of the portable version has just come out. The "portable version" means you can keep it on your USB memory, and access the information from any website. As one of the recent reviewers say, "Been using this program since early 2007 and don't know how I could do without. Truly a grand piece of art!"

Portable Keepass

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

09. Boarding passes - always with you

On my last overseas trip I was send an electronic boarding pass to my phone (a Blackberry). This seemed a great idea, as I would never loose it. (They don't actually send the Boarding Pass, they send the web link, and hope you have an internet connection at the point of entry.) There is only one problem with this particular version - it does not say my seat place! So I still had to take the paper version anyway.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

08. Text to speech widget from Yahoo

This is a simple little desktop widget from yahoo. The widget sits on your desktop, you copy and paste words into it, and the widget speaks it for you.


Monday, 7 December 2009

07. Organising from the USB with PStart

If you are now carrying your programs on a USB stick so that you can plug in anywhere, you may want to consider this little tool. It is described on the website as "a simple tray tool to start user defined applications. Designed to run portable applications (like portable Firefox & Thunderbird), you can start anything runnable from USB key devices or removable disks." And of course it can sit on the USB drive.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

06. Seek and you will find, with Google (blog) Search

At the start of next year I shall reorganise this blog so that you can find what you are looking for more easily. At the moment, if you wanted to find what I has said about concept mapping, you would need to go back through nearly 500 entries. But there is a quicker way. At the top left there is a white box. Just put in your key words, and hit the "magnifier". (Ok, so it is a circle with a short line coming out of it!) And then that will list all the entries I have made that refer to concept mapping. So why would I change the system? Because it is not always possible to find the right keywords.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

05. Dictionary and thesaurus from Wordweb

According to their own website "WordWeb is a comprehensive one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows. It can be used to look up words from almost any program, showing definitions, synonyms and related words. It includes pronunciations and usage examples, and has helpful spelling and sounds-like links." Beware that the sound files are about 84Meg.


Friday, 4 December 2009

04. Onscreen ruler and visual help

Every now and again I come across what I consider to be a really cool piece of software, which I am sure does more than maybe the author intended. Today is one such entry.

Onscreen Ruler is a simple onscreen ruler (!) which is designed to allow you to measure the size of something on the screen, in pixels, millimetres or whatever. But you can change the colours and the degree of transparency (through right clicking), and the length (through dragging from the right). This means it is a very easy onscreen ruler to use when trying to follow text on screen. And I could even have more than one at once!

A guide to shortcuts can be found at

Onscreen Ruler

Thursday, 3 December 2009

03. Full screen ahead

Sometime I get really upset with myself for not knowing something so simple. I am sure many readers already know this already, but for those few who do not ....

If you find yourself on a website where you really need more of the site visible, and less of the browser, try hitting F11. (This works in Firefox and Internet Explorer.) This should fill the screen, and maximise the area available. (Hit F11 again to get out of it.) I find this very useful when working on a netbook. I am just annoyed with myself for not knowing it before! (Thanks Marek.)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

02. Online presentations with Preezo

This is, in effect, making Powerpoint presentations online. Good, clean effective. Give you anytime access and the chance for collaboration.


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

01. November Review

Today sees the last of my monthly review, with the one on January 1st being for the year, and then I will try the new format which will allow people to find answers more quickly. All they will have to do is search the past month instead of the past 500 entries.

08. Online assessment

03. Tablet PC from Archos
09. Apple mouse
18. Just put your lips together and blow - Key finder
23. Shopping for Livescribe

Memory and organisation
10. Stickies update
16. Timelines made easy - Tom's Planner
28. Tracking business notes with Timetonote

Visual presentations
20. Mind mapping software update - Inspiration 9
07. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for free

14. Blogwatch - concept mapping

06. SEN Teacher

Screen recording, sharing and backup
05. Recording calls with Cogi
13. Back- for free with Save2FTPup
21. Recording phone calls with Recordiapro
30. Remote control from tightvn

04. Study skills project - DESSDYS
15. Discovery 1
29. Dys2 - the return of Edysgate

17. Text-to-Speech with Talking Clipboard

User preferences
11. Zooming using QZoom
25. Mini magnifier from Optelec

02. DysFest
12. Spellchecking with Tinyspell
19. Download Microsoft Office 10 Beta
22. Window 7 - from experience
24. Talking avatars from Voki
26. Keyboard for the iPhone
27. Make a tiny (memorable) URL with TinyURL