Thursday, January 29

Keysoft 8 features announced

Greetings. Since this week is the conference for ATIA, or Assistive Technology Industry Association, many of the AT companies are or will be making announcements about new products and/or product updates/upgrades. HumanWare is no exception with the following announcement about the forthcoming Keysoft 8.0, which according to the release, should be out in March. I'm guessing here, but a release around the time of the next major AT yearly conference of CSUN wouldn't surprise me in the least. At any rate, here is the press release and the list of new features that will be included in Keysoft 8. My comments appear after the release.


Unveiling KeySoft 8.0

Longueuil, January 29, 2009 - HumanWare is pleased to announce KeySoft
version 8.0, the latest upgrade to the KeySoft software suite. Version
will be available for mPower and PK platforms in March. KeySoft 8.0
one count of a Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA).

What's new in KeySoft 8.0?

Experience new ways to communicate in real time and enrich your book
experience with this new KeySoft version. Are you interested in learning
more about GPS navigation? You now have the opportunity to try for a
of 90 days the acclaimed Sendero GPS. Version 8.0 is packed with a wide
range of features to enhance the way you work and learn.

1.1           KeyChat
Communicate in real time with colleagues, friends and family using state
the art instant messaging (IM) services. Designed using the newest open
instant messaging standards, KeyChat can communicate through Google
iChat and other chatting services. Google Talk is an innovative and free
service. It offers an efficient, clutter-free, and easy way to chat.
Talk smoothly integrates with the popular Gmail system, allowing you to
in real time with your email contacts as well. Read and write messages
your preferred grade of Braille, manage conversations and follow chat
history with familiar KeySoft commands. Receive an Audio or Braille
when a message arrives. Add new friends or select from your KeyList
contacts, or simply go online and enjoy!

1.2           Reading books
KeySoft 8.0 will support books. offers a wide
book collection for general and specialized audiences, including the
best sellers. Teachers and parents can also join their new Audible Kids
service to access fun and educational content for school age kids or get
tips and ideas on how to help children get the most out of their
experience. Fully integrated into KeyBook, you can listen to Audible
and customize various settings such as narration speed and audio tone.
bookmarks, create text notes, and jump to any place in the book. To
Audible books, you will need to become a member of the Audible service
use the Audible manager to authorize your BrailleNote to play the
Audible books. HumanWare customers can enjoy the complete Audible
for a free 14 day period

1.3           Direct access to the new Bookshare site
The existing support for unpacking electronic books from
enhanced to include the new .zip or bks2 formats adopted by Bookshare.
KeySoft provides everything necessary to wirelessly access the
web site, download the text, Braille or DAISY electronic book and unpack
read the book, without having to use a PC.

1.4           Support for NIMAS books
KeySoft will now play NIMAS books. NIMAS books are text files with a
structure that is similar to that of DAISY books. KeyBook's rich
used with DAISY files is also available for NIMAS files. NIMAS books are
instantly translated into your preferred Braille grade. Choose to read
Braille or let Eloquence speech read to you. Move through DAISY elements
use the familiar KeySoft sentence and paragraph navigation commands.
(National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) is the format
educational textbooks in the United States. NIMAS guides the production
electronic distribution of digital versions of textbooks and other
instructional materials so they can be more easily converted into
formats. For more information, please visit:

1.5           Get a taste of GPS
KeySoft version 8.0 represents a great opportunity to get familiar with
It includes the latest version of Sendero GPS and users can take
of a 90-day free trial period to browse their preferred map or navigate
outdoors. After this trial period, users can continue to enjoy their
at a preferred price. Users are required to download the desired maps
the Sendero site. For real time navigation, you will need a GPS

1.6           More printers available to students
Students and teachers can now select from a wide range of Hewlett
printers. Most new models from the Deskjet, Officejet, Laser jet and
Photosmart product lines are supported. Printers supported via the
generic printing engine must have a USB port. This functionality is only
available to mPower users.
The new printing engine can create images of documents in JPEG format.
JPEG files are compatible formats, users can transfer documents to the
PC or
to non-BrailleNote users without losing the rich formatting available in

1.7           Eloquence speech is now supported in the PK
Use the highly responsive and accurate KeyNote Gold speech that has been
of KeySoft's strongest features or switch to the familiar Eloquence
that is now widely available on access technology products.

1.8           French Version
KeySoft 8.0 will be released simultaneously in English and French. The
functions are available on both versions.
Recent mPower & PK Purchases
Customers that have purchased a new mPower or PK units after January 1st
2009 are eligible to receive a free KeySoft 8 upgrade.

KeySoft 8.0 is not supported by the Classic models of the BrailleNote
VoiceNote. As previously stated, KeySoft 7.5 was the last release for
Classic devices.


My comments: First off, it's good to see some potentially "wow" features on the feature list. As I've stated previously here in relation to versions of Keysoft or any technology for that matter, I'm always looking for that "wow" factor, or the feature that they add that after the first or secodn read, makes me go, "Wow, they're really stepping out with that one." Except with Keysoft, it's not so much that they're stepping out, but rather that they're catching up. At any rate, it's good to see the KeyChat feature finally get implemented. Discussion of a feature like KeyChat has been going on for years, as far back as around 2003. I used a BrailleNote (now classic) model for about 18 months from the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2004. Anyway, toward the end of my BN time, suggestions started coming in for a chat/instant messaging program item like MSN Messenger. So it's good to see them add support for it. The fact that Google Talk seems to be the main one might have some significance, since the "standard view" of the Gmail interface leaves a little to be desired as far as accessibility goes. I've heard of some blind people that have successfully gotten it to work, but most blind folk I know are using their Gmail in the "Basic HTML" interface.

Being a techie, or perhaps some may say "geek" by trade and choice, I'm always interested in the new gadgets, devices and new features that the AT companies add to their lineups. That I know, no one has dipped into the Google Talk realm yet. I'm open to being corrected if someone knows of anything though. However, it looks like Keysoft 8 is stepping out here, but time will tell. On the PAC Mate side of things, they've got MSN Messenger, and kind of a built in voice chat client with the voice clips feature on the Omni. So at least between the two major note takers, this KeyChat really isn't "new." I do give them points for creativity with Google Talk support though.

NIMAS: True, no current note taking device is supporting NIMAS, other than perhaps accessible reading/MP3 players like the Victor Reader Stream. Actually this looks more like a carry over of a feature from the stream to the BN line, than it does a "new feature." Same with Audible, however it is neat, and about time, that Audible will be supported on the BN.

Most everything else looks like fixes and enhancements to already existing software. The trial of their GPS package sounds good, but again, it's only a trial. If they included a full feature GPS produt on each new BrailleNote model, that would be stepping out. I suppose it could be said that not everyone wants a GPS on their note taker. However, considering that I also don't want a radio on my note taker, but that I get one anyway with the current BrailleNote, this really isn't a clenching point.

Bottom line: KeyChat appears to be the only potentially "wow" feature, at least in my humble opinion, in Keysoft 8.0. However, like anything, competition helps the market grow. Hopefully these enhancements/new features from HumanWare will spur the other note taker companies, mainly Freedom Scientific with the PAC Mate and GW Micro with the Braille Sense lines, to step up in their own rights. Time will tell.

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