Using Reading Zones in Zoomtext
While Zoomtext is generally known for its magnification abilities, the Magnification and Reader flavour has a number of speech tools that even low level mag users should explore. Features such as DocReader, AppReader and SpeakIt are always popular but one feature not quite so commonly spoken about is reading zones.
To better understand this feature you need to take onboard one of the more potentially frustrating aspects of magnification (any magnification software I might add, not just Zoomtext) which is that you can often spend a large amount of time "chasing the screen." What I mean by this is that, depending on how the information is laid out when magnified, you may have to be continually moving and adjusting and refocusing the main magnified window to keep making sense of the information area you are in.
Now, this is an unavoidable impact of screen mag for sure, but it's fair to say that after a few hours this does get pretty tiring. Therefore anything that can help to reduce the effect in certain circumstances has got to be worth exploring. This is where reading zones comes in, with this you can section off a piece of screen and then choose to have the content of that section either displayed or spoken (or both) using a keystroke. The point being of course, that you don't necessarily need to move away from where you are working now to read this other info, therefore minimising the screen movement to some extent.
In this walkthrough, I'm going to demonstrate how you can set up a reading zone to read the content of the Excel formula bar. This is great when you are in a formula heavy worksheet as you can read the formula bar without having to continually refocus the zoom window all the time.
Creating a New Reading Zone to Speak the Content in the Excel Formula Bar
Note that for this walkthrough I am using Excel 2010 and Zoomtext V10.1:
- Open MS Excel and maximise the program window if it isn't already.
- Use the keystroke of ALT CONTROL Z to launch the new reading zone function directly. (If this doesn't work, go to the Zoomtext Reader toolbar and click Zones then New.)
- With the Reading Zone tool active you should have two small overlapping rectangles following your mouse pointer around the screen. If so, move to the top left corner of the formula bar area in Excel and drag the rectangular outline along the formula bar to the bottom right corner. Don't worry about getting this exact - it's okay to have a bit of the borders around the formula bar in your selection for example. However, try to avoid including text in your zone that doesn't have anything to do with the actual content you want to hear!
- With the right area selected under the rectangle, let go of the mouse button. The main Settings... reading zones dialog box will open. In here you can adjust the following:
- Zone Name: For our example here, type "Formula".
- Zone is relative to: Leave this set to "Top-left".
- Zone Actions: Choose the "Speak text in zone" radio button.
- Hotkey: Make a note of the specific trigger keystroke for the zone you have created.
It's time to test the new zone out! Either create some test data in a new Excel workbook or open an existing workbook and trigger the speaking of the zone content using the appropriate keystroke - which will be ALT CONTROL 1 by default if this is the only zone you've ever created. When you use the trigger keystroke, the content of the reading zone should be spoken back to you.
If your reading zone is working fine and you find it useful then remember to save your application settings in the File menu. If you do not do this, Zoomtext won't store your zone information and it will be lost when you next unload the software or shut your PC down.
Note: You can have ten reading zones set up per application, with default keystrokes running from ALT CONTROL 1 to ALT CONTROL 0.
Editing Existing Reading Zones
Hopefully, the above example demonstrates the potential use of reading zones and has given you a bit of an incentive to experiment. Excel is actually a very good candidate for working with reading zones because it has distinct areas that can be mapped quite easily. Here's another couple of areas in Excel that you might want to consider wrapping up in a reading zone:
- Status Bar: You can set a reading zone to speak the outputs of the SUM, AVERAGE, COUNT and other functions that are displayed in the status bar when selecting a range of cells.
- Name Box: The name box sits to the left of the formula bar and displays any name assigned to a specific range of cells. Being able to read this might be useful if you are in a complex worksheet that uses a lot of different named ranges.
When you have a few reading zones in place for a specific application you can adjust each of them as necessary via the zones edit mode. Try it out:
- Move into the application that contains the zones you want to edit.
- Use the keystroke of ALT CONTROL E to move into a reading zone edit mode. Alternatively, you can click on the Zones button on the Reader toolbar and choose Edit.
- The screen will darken and the numbered zones you have set for the current application will be displayed on screen. Using your mouse, click on the particular zone you need to edit.
- With the specific reading zone in focus and active, familiar white drag handles will appear on each side of the zone rectangle. Use these drag handles to click and drag, changing the dimensions of the zone as required.
- To delete a reading zone entirely rather than edit, select the relevant zone while in edit mode and tap the DELETE key to remove it.
- When you have finished editing and/or deleting, RIGHT CLICK with the mouse to exit the current mode.
- To cancel edit mode without making any changes use the ESCAPE key.
Okay, that's it for now. Happy experimenting with reading zones and until next time, have fun!