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Screen Magnifier Magnifying Glass Pro 1.5 Reviewed

24 December, 2007 by Peter Verhoeven

Magnifying Glass Pro is one of the, what I mention, new generation intermediate screen magnifiers. It includes important features for visually impaired like support for full screen magnification and tracking of the input caret. Maybe most unique of Magnifying Glass Pro is the mix of features interesting for good sighted graphic editors and Website designers and features for people having low vision.
Peter Verhoeven of magnifiers.org reviewed.

What Are Intermediate Screen Magnifiers

Two years ago there were two types of screen magnifiers: I mention them professional and simple. Professional screen magnifiers include features like full screen magnification, full tracking and font smoothing. Simple screen magnifiers only magnified an area around the mouse cursor or in a fixed window on the desktop.

Simple screen magnifiers could not magnify full screen, only tracks the mouse cursor and not the input caret and other Windows objects like menus and form elements.
Another important difference was the price. Most professional screen magnifiers are priced about $400, while simple screen magnifiers were free to $50.

Last two years we see a new group of screen magnifiers on the market. They do not include all the nice features of a professional screen magnifier, but they include much more features than the first generation simple screen magnifiers.

I mention this group of screen magnifiers intermediate screen magnifiers. The common feature of intermediate screen magnifiers that distinct them from simple screen magnifiers, is full screen magnification. What distinct them from professional screen magnifiers is the absents of a good magnification of the mouse pointer including changing the shape of the mouse while for example pointing to a hyperlink in your Web Browser. Intermediate screen magnifiers, like simple magnifiers only show a large ugly lapsed mouse. Other important features in a professional screen magnifier, that are not available in an intermediate screen magnifier, are special reading features that scroll text on your monitor and excellent tracking of events and messages in Windows. The only screen magnifier, that have some tracking of Windows events in the group of intermediate screen magnifiers is Desktopzoom.

Another important difference between professional screen magnifiers and an intermediate screen magnifiers is, that intermediate screen magnifiers don't magnify while the user interface is active. That means that people with low vision mostly need assistance of a sighted person to configure an intermediate screen magnifier to meet their needs.

Why Magnifying Glass Pro is an Intermediate Screen Magnifier?

Magnifying Glass Pro from Workers Collection is an intermediate screen magnifier because it supports full screen magnification and it tracks the input caret.

User Interface

Magnifying Glass Pro User-Interface

Before you can use Magnifying Glass Pro, you have to configure the program to your needs. For example for visually impaired it is important to set the default magnification level and select what kind of magnification you like.

Like all intermediate screen magnifiers and simple magnifiers Magnifying Glass Pro does not magnify the main configuration window. The programmers have tried to solve this shortcoming by introducing a "user Interface Size" option. The maximum magnification you can select is 1.8, which is too less for people who need high magnification levels, but maybe enough for those with limited vision loss.

At the left in the main configuration Window you see 8 TABS General, Glass Profiles, Auto-Switcher, Targets, Command Mode, Mouse shaking, Misc and About / Register. Clicking on these TABS opens a related window, where you can change several options.

The General TAB

The first checkbox here is "Run application on Windows startup". If you check this option Magnifying Glass Pro will start automatically if you start your computer.

By checking "Show Glass after application start" Magnifying Glass Pro will start magnification after it has been launched. Enabling these options is a good idea, if you can only use your computer with magnification.

Another important option here is the Hotkey for Show / Hide Glass. By default this is CTRL+G if you selected English as your language.
You can change the hotkey here. By pressing this hotkey after closing the user-interface you can toggle between magnification on and off.

Glass Profiles

Magnifying Glass Pro - Profile Glass Options

For persons with low vision this is the most important window, because here you can configure your preferred magnification settings.

As you can see you can select from different profiles. After Magnifying Glass Pro is launched the "Default" profile is used. If you want specific magnification settings after your computer starts, you have to change the Default profile settings.

The Glass Profiles TAB has 3 horizontal TABS: Basic options, Advanced and Effects. Also after reading the help information it is not clear to me, what all these options mean. Important for those with low vision are: "Zoom Factor" for specifying the level of magnification you want; "Caret Watch" so the input caret, there where you are entering text, is visible and will be tracked and "Show Cursor" to see a magnified mouse.

Magnifying Glass Pro - Glass Profiles Advanced TAB

Now select the Advanced TAB, where you can adjust things like Contrast and Glass Position. Most people with low vision prefer full screen magnification and you can select this option from the Glass Position list. "Magnification Type" instead of "Glass Position" would be a much better term here.

With the Effects TAB you can add all kind of effects to your magnified view like Flip Horizontal, Flip Vertical, Grey Scale, Rotate 90 degrees, Rotate Smooth and Noise. You can add multiple effects to your magnified area. These effects can be of interest to those of you editing graphics, but are not interesting to those of you who want to use the magnifier to access a computer, like people with low vision.

At this time you can click the "Save and Close" button to leave the Magnifying Glass Pro Main Window. You can now press CTRL + G to activate magnification, or select "Show Glass" from the context menu by right clicking the Magnifying Glass Pro Icon in the system tray.

Magnifying Glass Pro In Action

Magnifying Glass Pro magnifying Google search result on Screen 
Magnifiers
Above you see a screenshot of Magnifying Glass Pro, magnifying the Google search results for screen magnifiers in Full screen Glass Position and 6 times Zoom factor. Large mouse is enabled.

By moving the mouse you are magnifying other areas of your applications, that are on your desktop. If you want to read for example an E-Mail message you must move the mouse from left to right to read a line of text. If you are at the end of the line, you must move the mouse back to the left, until you reach the left side of your desktop and start again moving your mouse from left to right. Professional screen magnifiers like ZoomText and Lunar have features to do this automatically and they also support hotkeys to scroll or jump the magnification, instead of using the mouse.

There is no screen magnifier in the group of intermediate and simple, that support good reading features to let low vision easy read a document, web page or E-Mail message.

The large mouse in Magnifying Glass Pro, like you see in the image above, is one of the better I saw in the group of simple and intermediate screen magnifiers. If you increase or decrease magnification, the size of the mouse also changes relatively. But you see also, that I point to a hyperlink, but that the shape of the mouse does not change in a hand with the finger pointing to the hyperlink. No screen magnifier in the group of intermediate or simple can do this. All professional screen magnifiers are able to do this.

A major shortcoming in Magnifying Glass Pro is the absents of a way to change the level of magnification. The only way to this is, through the Magnifying Glass Pro Main Window, or by activating the Command Mode. But in both cases magnification is turned off. Nearly all screen magnifiers in the group of intermediate and simple and all professional screen magnifiers support changing magnification level by a simple hotkey combination or by using the Mouse Wheel. DesktopZoom is also an intermediate screen magnifier and has an excellent way to change the magnification level, simply use the wheel on your mouse.

Remarkable is the excellent performance of Magnifying Glass Pro. Moving the mouse results in a smooth changing of the magnified area. Magnifying Glass Pro has the best performance in the group of intermediate screen magnifiers and performs also better than some professional screen magnifiers in full-screen magnification mode.

Tracking

Another important feature in a screen magnifier should be Tracking. Tracking means that the portion of the screen is enlarged, that is of importance for the user. Simple screen magnifiers, Except the Microsoft magnifier, only track the mouse cursor. If you move the mouse the area around the mouse cursor is magnified. But what if you are typing a message in your favorite E-Mail program. You are not interested in the area around the mouse cursor, but in the area around the input caret. If you press the ALT key on your keyboard in an application with a menu bar, focus will jump to the first menu, often the File menu. If you press cursor down after pressing the ALT key the first menu item in the first menu will be highlighted. All professional screen magnifiers will track this event, by jumping the magnification to the area where the focus is. In the group of intermediate screen magnifiers only DesktopZoom supports tracking. In the group of simple screen magnifiers only Microsoft Magnifier supports advanced tracking. But because this magnifier does not support full-screen magnification, it belongs to the group of simple screen magnifiers and is not very suitable for people with low vision.

Magnifying Glass Pro tracks the mouse cursor and input caret. Input caret tracking is also the best I saw in the group of intermediate screen magnifiers. It is a pity, that, Magnifying Glass Pro does not track other events like focus, form elements, messages etc.. Hope we can welcome these features in one of the next releases.

Command Mode

Magnifying Glass Pro - Command Mode Windows

I already told you, that there are two ways to change options in Magnifying Glass Pro. That is through the Main Window and through the command mode, as you see above in the screenshot.

For people with low vision both options are not very suitable. All screen magnifiers in the group of intermediate and simple can not magnify there own user-interface. It sounds a bit strange, but an important characteristic of a Professional screen magnifier is, that it can magnify its own user-interface.

It should be able to activate command mode in Magnifying Glass Pro by pressing a hotkey. But I could not find any key combination that works. Pressing the hotkey combination I configured in the Main Menu, results in turning magnification off and showing the Command Mode Window for less a second. Than it vanished and the magnifier was activated again. I had more success by right clicking the Magnifying Glass Pro Icon in the system tray and select the Command Mode menu option from there. Most people with low vision have problems with symbols, because they are text orientated. Personal I don't understand the meaning of the Icons you see in the above screenshot. They maybe very nice for sighted people using this screen magnifier, but not for people with low vision.

While in Command Mode, you can also change the magnification level by using the mouse wheel, but you didn't get direct feedback because everything stays unmagnified. For people with low vision it is a guess to use the mouse wheel here.

I recommend Workers Collection to work on this issue and solve this in one of next releases. Best solution for people with low vision is, introducing hotkeys that work while magnification is on. Some important hotkeys are changing the magnification level, cycling through magnification types and cycling through contrast mode.

Targets

Magnify Glass Pro - Main Window Targets

Magnifying Glass Pro introduces a concept that is unique in intermediate and simple screen magnifiers, but that you also see in some professional screen magnifiers. Targets can be applications, windows in applications or objects in applications. Events can be the mouse or the caret. You can specify the magnification and related effects at any target by using profiles. For example you have a default full-screen magnification of two times, but want higher magnification in Internet Explorer. You can add a target to Internet Explorer telling the application to magnify for example three times instead of two. Maybe you want less magnification again if you move the mouse to the menu bar in Internet Explorer. You again add a target for Internet Explorer menu bar to magnify again two times.
You can also think about Notepad. After opening it in the default two times full-screen mode, you want a fixed window instead of a full-screen and want for example four times magnification instead of two while you are entering text. You can add a target to Notepad that only if you use input caret, magnification type will be changed to fixed window and magnification level will be increased to four.

Again it is a pity that this feature is difficult or impossible two configure by people with low vision without any help, but for sighted people or people with limit vision loss this is really a great feature!

Auto-switch

Magnifying Glass Pro Main Window - Auto Switcher

By enabling Auto-switch Magnifying Glass Pro will automatically change its profile if it finds an Application, Window or Object for which you added a target. As you can see in the screenshot you can also use a hotkey to enable Auto-switch.

Mouse Shaking

Magnifying Glass Pro Main Window - Mouse Shaking Options

It is nice to see, that new companies are working on new ideas implementing in screen magnification software. One of this is Mouse Shaking. The idea is that the user has his hand on the mouse and not on the keyboard. If you use Magnifying Glass Pro to show a PowerPoint presentation to you audience this will be the case. By defining an action to what must happen if you shake the mouse, you can for example switch between magnification on and off without releasing the mouse.
Mouse shaking is an alternative to hotkeys and it is a good idea to introduce the concept.

Misc

Magnifying Glass Pro Main Window - Misc options

After clicking the Misc TAB on the Main Window, you can specify a hotkey to copy the magnified image to your clipboard. Strange enough I do not know any professional screen magnifier let you doing this. I use this feature once in this review, while I showing you Magnifying Glass Pro in action.

Conclusion

Magnifying Glass Pro is an intermediate screen magnifier, because it supports full-screen magnification.
It tracks the mouse cursor an input caret, but not other objects like focus, form elements, messages, hyperlinks etc.
The performance in full-screen, is the best I saw in intermediate screen magnifiers and also better than in some professional screen magnifiers.
Also the "big mouse" is the best I saw in intermediate screen magnifiers, but it misses the animation and shape changing we see in professional screen magnifiers and in a unmagnified environment.

Magnifying Glass Pro looks much like a screen magnifier, that first was made with sighed people in mind. For a lot of actions you need the mouse, and the support to do things with hotkeys is limited.

Recommendations

Magnifying Glass pro can become a great solution for people with low vision if the following recommendation become implemented in the program.

Response From Workers Collection

Below is the first response of Workers Collection on the review of Magnifying Glass Pro.

"Frankly, first version of MGPro had a lot of innovations but was really not comfortable for visual impaired people. After receiving feedbacks, we made approaches for people with really bad sight -- "Interface Size" option, "Full Screen" mode, big cursor, etc. These functions appeared in last version only.

Yes, I admit -- our Magnifying Glass Pro is more suitable for people with "not good sight" rather than for visual impaired people.

I really appreciate your advices about how our MGPro is not comfortable for people with real sight problem. In future versions we will include more and more features for such people. This is our path. But also we will make comfort for people such as web-designers, multi-monitors systems, PC-to-TV connections, teachers in big class-room and so on. Our MGPro have wide range of applications.

We have a lot of innovations in our heads, have a product, and now we listen to our users and try to apply our innovations to product. So, I repeat again, real visual impaired people already in our near future plans."

More Information

Magnifying Glass Pro costs $24.95, but you can download a free 30 day trial.
Web site of Workers Collection : www.workerscollection.com
Magnifying Glass Pro Quick Tour" with video clips page
Magnifying Glass Pro Awards and Recognition" page
Magnifying Glass Pro Unique Features" page
Magnifying Glass Pro Poor eyesight" version of MGPro site

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