What is Google TalkBack?

 

Google’s TalkBack service is a great way for the vision-impaired to use all of Android’s features

Most of us take being able to see everything on our high-resolution Androids for granted. We peep at pixels, discuss the merits of display technology to death, and even tend to turn our nose up at devices that don’t have the ultra-high-res “true” HD screens some of today’s flagships offer. But that’s not the case for the large segment of us who have impaired vision.

Folks who have a hard time seeing the overload of information that a modern smartphone has to offer will need some assistance, and Google provides a really comprehensive set of tools in TalkBack. TalkBack is an Accessibility Service that helps vision-impaired users interact with, and enjoy, their devices. It uses spoken word, vibration and other audible feedback to let you know what’s on your screen, what you’re touching, and what you can do with it.

TalkBack

TalkBack was installed on your device when you bought it as part of Google’s Android application suite, and it is routinely updated with improvements and new features through Google Play. If you don’t need assistance because you’re not able to see everything on the screen clearly, you’ve probably never looked at it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it wasn’t designed for those of us who can see everything and the setup and options can be confusing when you see what you want to do and hear how it all works at the same time.

How it works is that you use your finger to “explore” what is on the screen, and when you come across any element that can be acted on, or any block of text that can be read back to you, TalkBack kicks in. For text (including things like the time and notifications) the screen reader service tells you exactly what it written — including things like “colon p” for emoticons, and all the characters in a web address for example. For elements that you act on, TalkBack tells you what you’ve touched, and lets you act with a double tap or move to the next element without triggering anything. It’s pretty well thought out, and if you can follow the audible prompts you can do anything on an Android — even if you can’t see the screen. All you need to do is set it up.

Having said that, the whole setup routine and setting the various options is covered very well in the tutorial the first time you initiate the service. You’ll find it under “Accessibility” in your device settings, and on recent versions of Android all you need to do to enable it is slide a toggle to the on position. You’re then walked through all the ways TalkBack can help, as well as how to use gestures and dive into the settings of the service itself.

TalkBack Settings

And there are settings galore. The settings for spoken feedback — reading what you see on your screen — include options you would expect like speech volume and reading out caller ID information, as well as settings for using a different pitch when telling you what you’re typing, and a setting to allow shaking the phone start and stop screen reading. Google has really done a fine job figuring out what we might need here, and has thrown it all in. When something is this important — some of us couldn’t use a phone or tablet without some assistive technology — we’re glad to see all the options.

When it comes to other feedback, you can turn vibration on and off, set things so you’re given an audible tone when you’ve highlighted a selectable item, and control the volume of other audio — like a call or music — so you’re better able to hear TalkBack when it needs to tell you something.

You’re also able to completely customize the exploration by touch features. You can enable custom labels (which are read aloud) and gestures, change from the default double tap to activate and double finger scroll for lists and other screen items, and most importantly, activate the tutorial at any time.

TalkBack

TalkBack isn’t something you’ll want to use unless you need it. Frankly, it’s darn near impossible to use when you can see what it is telling you you’re seeing, and you can’t help but tap and try to do things before it is ready. But folks who need to rely on this sort of tech will be more attuned to following audible cues, and this is a great way to help those of us who need some help to get that help. If you have the need, or know someone who does, be sure to give Talk Back a look and see if it can make someone’s Android experience a little better.

 

As Posted on http://www.androidcentral.com/what-google-talk-back by Jerry Hildenbrand

Google Chrome extensions

Extensions are small software programs that can modify and enhance the functionality of the Chrome browser. You write them using web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Extensions allow you to add functionality to Chrome without diving deeply into native code. You can create new extensions for Chrome with those core technologies that you’re already familiar with from web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If you’ve ever built a web page, you should feel right at home with extensions pretty quickly.

 

Getting Started

The very first thing we’ll need to create is a manifest file named manifest.json. The manifest is nothing more than a JSON-formatted table of contents, containing properties like your extension’s name and description, its version number, and so on. At a high level, we’ll use it to declare to Chrome what the extension is going to do, and what permissions it requires in order to do those things.

Manifest

 

{
  "manifest_version": 1,

  "name": "Name of Your Extension",
  "description": "About your Extension",
  "version": "1.0",

  "permissions": [
    "https://google.com/"
  ],
  "browser_action": {
    "default_icon": "icon.png",
    "default_popup": "popup.html"
  }
}

 

Resources

You probably noticed that manifest.json pointed at two resource files when defining the browser action: icon.png and popup.html. Both resources must exist inside the extension package.

  • icon.png will be displayed next to the Omnibox, waiting for user interaction.
  • popup.html will be rendered inside the popup window that’s created in response to a user’s click on the browser action. It’s a standard HTML file, just like you’re used to from web development, giving you more or less free reign over what the popup displays.
  • popup.js – popup.html requires an additional JavaScript file in order to do the work.

You should now have four files in your working directory: icon.png, manifest.json, popup.html, popup.js. The next step is to load those files into Chrome.

 

Load the extension

Extensions that you download from the Chrome Web Store are packaged up as .crx files, which is great for distribution, but not so great for development. Recognizing this, Chrome gives you a quick way of loading up your working directory for testing. Let’s do that now.

  1. Visit chrome://extensions in your browser (or open up the Chrome menu by clicking the icon to the far right of the Omnibox: The menu’s icon is three horizontal bars.. and select Extensions under the Tools menu to get to the same place).
  2. Ensure that the Developer mode checkbox in the top right-hand corner is checked.
  3. Click Load unpacked extension… to pop up a file-selection dialog.
  4. Navigate to the directory in which your extension files live, and select it.

If the extension is valid, it’ll be loaded up and active right away! If it’s invalid, an error message will be displayed at the top of the page. Correct the error, and try again.

 

Samples