Apr 1 2014

10 Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

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If you’re used to working on a PC or Mac, you’ll be quite familiar with mouse controls to navigate around the applications. However, for those in the know there are a large number of keyboard shortcuts that in many cases are easier and quicker than the mouse equivalent – you may already know some of them. Here are ten of the best:

1. Close browser
If your boss walks up while you’re on Facebook (even though you really ought to be studying, right), or your other half comes in the room while you’re buying them a gift, close your browser instantly with this shortcut:

PC: Alt + F4
Mac: Apple key + Q

2. Show desktop
If you have several windows open on your computer and you want to see the desktop, just press:
PC: Windows key + D
Mac: F11

3. Add a bookmark
Create a shortcut to your new favourite website by bookmarking the page with the following quick trick:
PC: Ctrl + D
Mac: Apple key + D

4. Permanently delete
When you know you want to lose a file forever instead of clogging up the recycle bin, just tap:
PC: Shift + Delete

5. Change zoom level
Whether you’re working on the web or in a word processing program, zoom in or out with this command:
PC: Ctrl + scroll mouse wheel, or Ctrl + plus or minus sign.
Mac: Apple key + plus sign; Apple key + minus sign

6. Reopen previous tab in browser
If you have ever accidentally closed the browser tab you were looking at and had to spend time backtracking to find it again, this shortcut will restore that page to you almost instantly:
PC: Ctrl + Shift + T
Mac: Apple key + Z

7. Go to a previous location in browser
This clever shortcut lets you quickly return to the webpage you were looking at before your current one:
PC: Alt + ←
Mac: Apple key + [

8. Select the address bar
When you want to quickly type a new URL into your browser, the shortcut below will select the address bar for you, so you can start typing without moving your mouse:
PC: Ctrl + L, or F6
Mac: Apple key + L

9. Spelling/Grammar check
No more excuses: Perfect spelling and grammar is just one keystroke away:
PC or Mac: F7

10. Add “http://www” to your browser’s address bar
A quick route to your desired webpage is to just type in the name of the webpage you want (for example, type “Google”), then press the following keys to add the “http://www.” to the beginning and “.com” to the end.
PC: Ctrl + Enter
Mac: Apple key + Enter

Posted by: Posted on by Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen Tagged with: , ,

Jul 31 2013

AudioNote – Notepad and Voice Recorder for iPhone and iPad

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AudioNote is a fantastic note taking app. AudioNote combines the functionality of note-taking and voice recording apps to create a powerful tool that will save you time while improving the quality of your notes.

By synchronizing notes and audio, AudioNote automatically indexes your meetings, lectures, classes and interviews. Your text and drawings highlight during playback, helping you to remember the context in which they were taken. You can tap notes to search in the audio, taking you instantly to what you want to hear.

The official description from the app store shows how you can synchronise notes and audio with each key point being linked to the moment when the lecturer talks about that subject, and because it works on a tablet or phone there is no need to wait for a laptop to boot up.

Bookmarks can be created throughout the audio recording to highlight important points for easy referencing.  It allows you to take pictures and insert them into your notes and AudioNotes can be exported to Evernote, saved and organised there. A yellow background can be used instead of white for those with visual stress/sensitivity.

Many a student or academic has suffered for their flawed note taking. You accidentally get a name or a year wrong. You botch the transcription of a quote because you can’t type fast enough. You completely misunderstand the gist of a meeting, class, or speech because you cannot read your own handwriting.

A spate of products endeavors to make sure that never happens. There are applications for your laptop, like OneNote. There are Web-based and smartphone products, like Evernote. There are awesome, newfangled tools, like the Livescribe pen, which lets you write like normal on a piece of paper but records audio and transfers your notes to your computer. And the most recent wave of sleek tools aims to make your iPad or your iPhone as good as your computer or a pencil for jotting things down in the boardroom or classroom.

AudioNote lets you create, title, and organize notes. It lets you record audio. It lets you add drawings, so that you can sketch as well as type. It lets you email your notes, so that you can expand on them, edit them, or share them when you are done.

It also offers one awesome technical advance: syncing your notes to your audio recordings. Imagine you were halfway through a lecture or seminar, using one of the programs to record it and to type out ideas. A colleague elaborates on a particular theme about, for example, John Maynard Keynes. You write, “Keynes. economist. book title” Later, when you open up the note, you can just click on those words to hear that exact part of the conversation.

That means no more searching for a specific passage in a lecture. It means never again fudging a quote you cannot get down. And, for students, if not for budding academics, it makes writing notes much easier. Rather than spelling something out, you need only write enough to remind yourself of it. Phrases like “explanation of 2010 economic strategy in Bundestag under Angela Merkel” and “funny quote about colleague” and “this guy is such a bore” become useful shorthand rather than useless glyphs.

The AudioNote screen looks like a real notepad. Whenever you press Enter and start a new line, it adds a tiny timestamp. It also has some useful text formatting, like a handy highlighter function. It has much to recommend it and offers a vast leap over traditional methods of note taking— at least for those of us with woeful handwriting and the need to get down lots of quotes!

It costs £2.99 and is available from the iTunes store.

This YouTube video is a good introduction to AudioNote

Copyright © 2013 Luminant Software, Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted by: Posted on by Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen

May 3 2013

Amazon updates iOS Kindle Reading App for Blind and Visually Impaired Users

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Amazon updates iOS Kindle Reading App for Blind and Visually Impaired Users.

kindleiosAmazon on Wednesday updated its Kindle for iOS reading app with new accessibility features that will help blind and visually impaired users navigate their Kindle library as well as read and interact with books. The new features are available on the iOS app today, and will be making their way to other platforms in the future, Amazon said.

The update includes a new read-aloud feature for more than 1.8 million titles in the Kindle Store. The feature utilises Apple’s VoiceOver technology, which enables users to interact with their device when they can’t see the screen. To activate, enable VoiceOver in the device settings menu.

“We’re excited to introduce these new features to our Kindle for iOS app, making it easier than ever for our blind and visually impaired customers to access the vast selection of over 1.8 million books in the Kindle Store on their iPhone or iPad,” Dorothy Nicholls, vice president of Amazon Kindle, said in a statement.

Blind and visually impaired users should also now be able to more easily navigate within their library, sort their collection by author or title, search within books, and skip to a specific page in a book. The update also makes some other popular Kindle features more accessible for the visually impaired, including sharing on Facebook and Twitter, highlighting, bookmarking, and X-Ray, which helps readers learn more about certain characters, places, and phrases via Shelfari and Wikipedia. It also integrates iOS accessibility features like zoom and peripheral Braille displays.

“I found the functionalities to my liking and above my initial expectations,” Kevin Daniel, senior director of strategic recruiting for the non-profit Lighthouse for the Blind, said in the Amazon announcement. “Frankly, due to continued vision loss and vision changes, I hadn’t read very much at all. Now, I’ve read more books in the past few weeks than in the last five years.”

To turn the page with VoiceOver on, use three fingers left to go next page, and right to back one page.

Personally, one limitation I’ve found so far (with both Kindle and iBooks) is that you’re stuck with the single default iOS voice, which is great for GPS navigation, but not good enough to listen to for a long time. Having to listen to Moby Dick read out loud by Siri could be considered annoying after some time!

The updated app is available for download in the App Store now.

Posted by: Posted on by Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Apr 17 2013

iWordQ App Review

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iWordQ from Quillsoft Limited is an easy-to-use application to assist struggling writers and readers. With similar features as the desktop version, iWordQ offers word prediction with usage examples, abbreviation-expansion,  high quality male and female speech feedback, and speech recognition, available for for iPad 3, 4, and mini.
With an enhanced Reading Mode, text is shown in a more visually pleasing manner to improve readability. This is used for proofreading, reading to learn, silent reading, reading aloud, and casual reading/listening. A novel text chunking method (patent-pending) can be selected to enhance comprehension and readability of text to allow you to focus on one text chunk at a time.


In Writing Mode, predicted words are displayed as you type. Simply tap a predicted word as you type. Usage examples are provided to help distinguish words that sound like other words (homophones), and close sounding words (including homonyms). Even if you are creative in your spelling, iWordQ will still predict. As you move the text cursor, predictions are shown accurately.

With Speech Feedback, you have the ability to touch and hold a predicted word to hear it spoken with high quality text-to-speech. Words typed or selected from the prediction list will be read out loud. As you complete each sentence, by adding punctuation, the sentence will be read back to you when you tap ‘space’. Selected text can also be read out loud with word-by-word highlighting. Double-tap a word to select that word; drag to extend selection. Double-tap to select a paragraph. Select the speech button to display a speech review control and advance forward and backward options to listen again by sentences or words.

Abbreviation / Expansion:
Use your own customised abbreviation-expansions, also known as text-macros, to simplify your writing. Abbreviations are also shown in the prediction list. Expansions can include punctuation and multiple paragraphs.

Text documents are saved automatically, and can be retrieved from the File menu. Dropbox support is included for sharing documents across systems. Documents may also be shared across several other connections, including e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Message, the Pasteboard, and opening in other supported apps.

Reading Mode:
The iPad onscreen keyboard is hidden and your current sentence from the Writing Mode is shown in black text with the surrounding text in grey to focus attention on the current sentence. Select any other sentence by tapping it.

A very useful proofreading option is available so you can listen for mistakes while sentences are spoken, by simply tapping an individual word to hear it spoken. This is useful to hear whether a word sounds correct. It may be spelled incorrectly, may be in the wrong form, or it may simply be the wrong word.
Touch and swipe across more than one word to highlight a group of words that will be spoken out when you lift your finger. This is useful to hear whether word combinations are correct.

Reading to learn:
Use the (patent pending) Text Chunking feature to focus on chunks of text or sections (rather than individual words), and add breathing space to comprehend your text before moving on. This is intended to mimic a good public speaker. When you tap within a sentence, a segment about that point will be highlighted and spoken. When playing a sentence, a pause is inserted after each text chunk to allow you to catch up before listening to the next one.

Reading out loud:
You can use iWordQ like a Teleprompter and read out loud at the same pace as if spoken by iWordQ or read out loud at your own pace. Sentences (and text chunks) will be highlighted as you move through the text.You can also read silently in the same way by turning off Speech Feedback and follow the highlighted sentences.

iWordQ can be purchased from the iTunes App Store. The UK version costs £17.49. More information can be found here:

Posted by: Posted on by Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen Tagged with: ,

Mar 6 2013

Amber Miro 30 July 1965 – 6 March 2012

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 - for Amber,
for the sake of whose difference I would gladly forsake all the sameness in the world….

image of amber miro I met Amber when I was interviewed for the job of Support Specialist – Assistive Technologies at London School of Economics in 2010. The day involved a brief exam in general IT, an interview, where James Hargrave, my line manager Adam Gale, and the head of Disability and Well-being Service, Nicola Martin were present; and the delivery of a Keynote presentation, the theme being ‘Over the next 5 years, what should universities aim to achieve by way of IT provision and support for students and staff with disabilities?’ As part of my presentation, I commented that I was, and remain, concerned, that many students and staff with disabilities are under-supported when trying to access learning materials with the appropriate software potentially available to them, either by poor and inaccessible web design or otherwise. One of Amber’s immediate replies asked if the LSE website was one such site. This definitely caught me off guard, but I had to be honest, and reply that like other Higher Education Institutions at that time, and other organisations, much time and work needed to be invested.

Suffice to say, I was offered the position on the day of the interview, which I accepted, and started on 01 March, 2010 – three years ago this week.

I already knew that Amber was very well regarded and had been at LSE for many years and was at that time one of the three Executive Directors of the then IT Services, and she was really helpful to me in getting settled in. I was very soon asked to visit the first iansyst conference at the University of Cambridge, and shortly after, the next UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) conference.

After this, Amber and I met to catch up, and we agreed that an audit of IT Services for students and staff with disabilities would be appropriate, with a view to benchmarking against similar Higher Education Institutions. This really encouraged me, knowing that I had an ally with a very similar outlook on how to potentially approach the problems faced within this sector, and how to work towards hopefully resolving some of them, with knowledge collection and sharing.

So, in the time I had the good fortune I worked with Amber at LSE, she was one of my senior bosses. We worked closely together and shared some difficult times. Typically we would get coffee from Pret and sometimes lunch. Amber always having a soya cappuccino with sweetener.  We shared a love for decent coffee, gadgets and a good few drinks when the opportunity presented itself as it frequently did at UCISA conferences. Later we both became avid social media users, particularly of Twitter.

My abiding memory of Amber is of her wearing her red coat and clutching her iPhone. That and (in a typical Amber paradox) a fountain pen!

Typically smiling, Amber always had time for people and a genuine interest in their lives. We shared a connection with Bath, my previous home town prior to my relocation to London. What will always make me smile was Amber’s unwavering ability to remember details, and the way she treated her colleagues as human beings, and not mere cogs in the machine, and as a consequence was extremely well regarded.

Amber combined this human touch with a strong competitive streak and a determination that you would not, perhaps, guess just by looking at her. I think it was the combination of these two things that enabled her to get things done. She would have an idea, talk about it, convince people and it would actually happen.

To add here that I obviously succeeded in getting the job I applied for is something I will honour and cherish for all time. Amber shared my passion for equality of access to learning resources, whatever the barrier, and actively encouraged anything that would reduce those obstacles, and for this, I applaud her.

On the day of Amber’s funeral, in the small Suffolk village of Thrandeston, where those closest to her went to “honour, cherish and bury” Amber, and then celebrate her life in a nearby pub in a way that Amber would, I am sure, approve of.  And whilst she leaves a huge hole in the lives of us all I feel privileged to have called Amber a friend and my life was better for knowing her. I know I am not alone. Whilst I was not able to be there myself, Amber was certainly with me in my thoughts that day.

At LSE and amongst the wider higher education community and amongst her friends and family I know there are many people feeling the same and that says it all.

If you would like to donate to Cancer Research in memory of Amber, you can do so here
Visit the virtual scrapbook in memory of Amber at http://www.ambermiro.org

Amber Miro was Assistant Director of IT Services at the London School of Economics and a member of the UCISA Executive. You can read the UCISA announcement of Amber’s death.

Posted by: Posted on by Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen Tagged with: , , , ,