Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tip: Scrolling by speech

I’ve gotten several questions lately about scrolling by speech, which is key to comfortable hands-free operation. Utter Command gives you several ways to scroll by speech. The best way depends on the situation.

To quickly look something over, use the speech command that allows you to see successive screens with a pause between changes. For example, “3 Screen Down Wait” moves down a screen, then after a default wait of two seconds moves down another screen, then two seconds later moves down a third screen. If you want a longer wait, add a specific number of seconds, e.g. “3 Screen Down Wait 5” (UC Lesson 7.23). 

To directly control the scroll bar by speech, place the mouse pointer on the scroll bar using a command like “99 by 10” and use the vertical drag command to move the scroll bar to a given point. For example “Drag By 50” moves the scroll bar to the middle. Then, if you then want to go three quarters of the way down say “Drag By 75”. You can also control the scroll bar incrementally, for instance, “Drag 3 Down” (UC Lesson 4.2, 4.5).

In some programs, including some versions of Word, the cursor moves to the page you scrolled to when you use an arrow command like “5 Down”. And in some programs, like Firefox, you can say a link number to move the cursor. In these cases you can leave the arrow parked on the scroll bar, edit the text, than say another drag command to move the scrollbar without having to move the mouse to the scrollbar again. In some programs, including WordPad, you have to move the cursor to the new page by clicking. In this case, keep the right ruler open on your screen so you can easily click back to the scroll bar when you’re ready to scroll again.

– If you use this method a lot, try naming a mouse click to move the arrow to the scroll bar at the home position (UC Lesson 10.24).

– You can also use this method to control horizontal scrollbars — use the “Drag 1-100 By” command.

– If you’re a ZoomText user, you can use this method even when the scrollbar is not showing on the screen.

Tell me what you think about scrolling by speech – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

Highlighting and hot water

Have you ever used a faucet that had a hot water knob on the right side instead of the left?

Even if it’s well labeled, chances are you’ll turn the wrong handle a good percentage of the time. This is because controlling the faucet is something you usually do without thinking and your habit is to turn with your left hand when you want hot, not your right.

Consistency allows for habit, which saves time. Do a consistent navigation task a few times and after that you don’t have to think about it. It’s become habit, which means you can use more of your brain to think. The system backfires, however, when you unconsciously expect consistency, use habit, and are caught by surprise.

I often talk about the importance of consistent keyboard shortcuts across programs, because I use keyboard shortcut navigation more than mouse/toolbar navigation.

But consistency is just as important in toolbars.

The default order for many common groups of items is consistent across programs. For instance, Bold, Italic and Underline are commonly shown in that order. Left Justify, Center and Right Justify are commonly shown in that order. Style, Font and Size are commonly shown in that order. There’s a glaring problem, however, when it comes to the highlight and text color icons.

Microsoft Office toolbars put the highlight on the left and the text color icon on the right, while Google Docs and OpenOffice defaults put the highlight button on the right and the text color icon on the left.

The inconsistency makes it impossible to form a habit that’s useful across programs. If you get used to one way you’ll inevitably pick the wrong button when you’re in the program you’re not used to. If you regularly use a mix of inconsistent programs you’re likely to get things wrong fairly often.

In a world where people use multiple programs, inconsistent default order in groups of icons puts a larger-than-necessary cognitive load on folks. Worse, it makes habit a liability rather than an advantage.

It would be good for people if we had a standard order for related icons like Highlight and Text Color just as we have a standard order for faucet controls. The exact order matters much, much less than consistency across programs. Software is complicated enough already — we need to give people all the easy breaks we can.