Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BrailleNote: An overview of keySoft from Windows Mobile perspective

With the basics of braille characters out of the way, let's talk about what KeySoft looks like and how BrailleNote users input commands.

First, let's discuss how BN commands work. BrailleNote uses the nine keys (DOTS 1 through 6, plus SPACE, BACKSPACE and ENTER) for using commands. For most of the time, one can press the braille letter or a symbol along with spacebar - same as pressing Alt along with a letter or a symbol. For instance, the command for getting help at a prompt is SPACE with H (DOTS 1-2-5), almost like pressing Alt+H for Help menu for most programs. Similarly, BACKSPACE and ENTER can be used alongside other braille characters for perfoming tasks. For instance, we press ENTER with T (DOTS 2-3-4-5) for time and press BACKSPACE with C (DOTS 1-4) to delete current sentence. Sometimes, both BACKSPACE and ENTER along with braille letters are used when switching to different programs in KeySoft or using various formatting options.

The above paragraph applies to units with braille style keyboard. However, the QWERTY style version of BN does exist, which has almost similar command rules as braille keyboards. The Alt key on the QWERTY (refered to as QT) is the READ key, which is the left most key on the third row (where CAPS LOCK is usually placed). The CONTROL key is at its usual location - the bottom left, while the FN key is to the left of the spacebar.

With the basic command structure out of the way, let's go into what KeySoft would look like from windows Mobile perspective. Windows Mobile was chosen among other operating systems such as Linux and Symbian for its similarity with keySoft and the fact that both share the same underlying operating system - Windows CE.

The starting point for keySoft is main menu, which is sort of a combination between Today/Home screen and Start menu. Here one can browse a list of programs and select which one to use, as well as providing reminders on accessing Options Menu and a shortcut to view device information such as firmware version and serial number. We'll come back to Options Menu in just a sec. For sake of this tutorial, I'll work with Word processor.

Once we select a program from Main Menu, a submenu type menu is displayed. This is actually the application menu for that program. When we select Word Processor, for example, BrailleNote goes toKeyWord menu, from which we can select to create a document, open an existing one or print a file. For most of the time, keySoft will enter this type of menu once a program is selected from main Menu. The exceptions are Internet (whereupon KeySoft will prompt for an address), calculator and such.

Just like Windows Mobile, a task menu does exist. However, one cannot stop all programs from this task menu - the KeySoft's Task menu is used to switch to different tasks. To stop all tasks, one must return to Main Menu (SPACE with DOTS 1-2-3-4-5-6 or MENU key on QT). Not all tasks will be closed - Media Player and Internet Explorer type browser will still run in the background.

Speaking of exiting tasks, one can use the exit command to close a task. Under Windows Mobile, tapping (or clicking) on close button would minimize the current window only, not terminate the program at hand. Under BrailleNote, once the exit comamnd is performed (SPACE with E (DOTS 1-5) or ESC key), the current program will be closed i.e. terminated. In most situations the application menu for a particular program will be displayed, or the user will be returned to the Main menu.

Next: Interacting with prompts.

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