Tuesday, December 6

KeySoft 7 Features and Thoughts

Greetings. The following was taken from the message that's making the rounds on the email list, concerning the upcoming release of KeySoft 7 for the BrailleNote line of products. If you own this product, then contact your dealer or HumanWare for more information on upgrading and so forth. I have only listed the features that will be in version 7, which is supposed to be out sometime next month. Here they are:

Key Base, Available on All Models

With KeyBase, you've got it sorted! This new application, available from
KeySoft's Main Menu, is a powerful database manager allowing easy creation
of your own databases. KeyBase ships with many useful databases to assist
you in cataloging your music collection, keeping track of home inventory,
entering recipes, logging ham radio contacts and so much more. But the step
by step wizard-style interface of KeyBase makes it a snap to create your own
databases too. Simply tell KeyBase the names of your fields and the type of
data you want to store in that field. Be specific right down to the kind of
Braille you want to be entered into a field if you wish. Want to share your
database with others? Then you can even customize the messages users read
when they press the help key when entering data into each field.

KeyBase allows easy importing and exporting to and from many applications
including Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and many on-line banking

KeyPlus Just Got Smarter with Fractions, Available on All Models

Work with fractions in the updated KeyPlus Scientific Calculator. As well as
performing standard mathematical operations, you can convert fractions to
decimals and vice versa, convert fractions to and from percentages, convert
a fraction to its lowest terms, and much more.

Let the Games Begin, available on all models

One of the most frequent questions asked of HumanWare about the BrailleNote
family has always been, "can you play games on this?" Now, the answer is a
resounding yes, as interactive fiction comes to KeySoft. Interactive
fiction, also known as text adventures, will take you into mysterious worlds
where you can look at your environment, move around, collect objects, talk
to all kinds of strange creatures and sometimes find yourself trapped. There
are hundreds of compatible interactive fiction games available for download
on the Internet, ranging from educational titles for kids right through to
epic fantasy for the serious gamer, and you can play them right on your
BrailleNote or VoiceNote.
Easily switch in and out of games when you need to check e-mail or make a
note, play music in the background while you solve the latest mystery, or
save games for later resumption.

Braille Input for JAWS for Windows, available on all models

Window-eyes users have for some time been able to control their Windows PC
from their BrailleNote in Braille terminal mode. Now, that feature is
available for JAWS for Windows users as well. Compose e-mail, write a
Microsoft Word document or work with your spreadsheets on your PC, all from
your BrailleNote's keyboard.

More Configurable E-mail, available on all models

Some Internet service providers are now using non-standard POP and SMTP
server ports as an attempt to increase security. While most users will not
need to be concerned with this, those customers on Internet providers
adopting this approach can now specify any port for both POP and SMTP

More Bluetooth Support, available on BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower, and
BrailleNote PK

The integrated Bluetooth support in BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower and
BrailleNote PK just got even more useful! In KeySoft 7 you can,

* Use your device as a remote synthesizer for your PC with no wires
attached. Take your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower or BrailleNote PK up to
10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC and still hear what your screen reader
is saying.

* Use your device as a wireless Braille display. With BrailleNote
mPower and PK operating as a wireless Braille display, coupled with the
keyboard input functionality, you have complete control over your PC as far
as 10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC. Take the BrailleNote outside on a
sunny day and keep on working on your PC using the keyboard input
functionality. Control a PowerPoint presentation in front of your audience,
even when the PC is tucked away in an inconvenient place. The possibilities
are limitless!

* Drive a wireless visual display. Want to give a presentation using
data on your BrailleNote? Are you a teacher who wants to be able to check a
student's work with no wires or fuss? The extension of the visual display
function to include Bluetooth makes all this possible. Use a range of
devices for the visual display function including Palm Pilots and Windows

Voice Recorder for BrailleNote PK

The popular voice recorder for BrailleNote mPower arrives on BrailleNote PK
in KeySoft 7. Just press the handy record button on the front of your
BrailleNote PK, and make recordings using the built-in microphone.

Eloquence Speech for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower

HumanWare's BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower becomes the first device of its
kind to offer you a choice of speech synthesizer. Use the highly responsive
and accurate KeyNote Gold speech that has been one of KeySoft's strongest
features, or switch to the familiar Eloquence speech that is now widely
available on access technology products. When Eloquence is active, you may
also choose to have hyperlinks voiced in a different Eloquence voice when
using KeyWeb, making the web really come to life.

Fm Radio for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower

That's right, your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower is now an FM radio too!
Scan the FM band for your stations and save them as presets. Read the
frequency on the Braille display or the station name if you've saved that
information. Listen to the FM radio while you work on other tasks. Control
the volume of the FM radio separately from the volume of the speech. Even
use the recorder to record FM radio stations.

There you go. For the most part, I think that HumanWare is sticking to their model of only using proprietary software, or software that they make for the BrailleNote and related products. They do appear to be stepping out with regards to the interactive fiction genre. However, compared with the PAC Mate, that's not the same as playing a mainstream game like Jawbreaker, which comes preinstalled on the PAC Mate. Though interactive fiction is better than putting people in a proprietary game environment.

Over all though, I think that HumanWare is still playing catch up with the PAC Mate and Freedom Scientific. FS doesn't have a built in FM radio, but this is one of the things that I think should be optional. Sure, if it were on my PM, then I'd likely use it, but its not something I'm going to run out and get on a note taker either. HumanWare is closing the gap as far as Bluetooth access though, and FS might need to address this issue at some point. Though fixing the lack of built in Bluetooth on the PM might very well require some sort of hardware upgrade, or an upgrade to a newer Windows Mobile framework for the PM. However, at some point FS will need to upgrade the Windows Mobile component anyway in order to stay competitive and to continue to work with other devices.

It would be unfair for me to pass any sort of judgment on the new version of KeySoft if I did not see it, but based on these features, it looks like HumanWare is still running to catch up with the PAC Mate. I don't see anything on this list that makes me say, "Wow, they're really stepping up to the plate with that one." Perhaps in KeySoft 7.5 or 8 they will. Then again, Freedom Scientific will likely have things in PM version 4.0 that will raise the bar that much higher. And so goes the note taker saga.

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