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Welcome to the Lunarplus review page
On this page you find the results of the review of Lunarplus, made by The Screen Magnifiers homepage.
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Lunarplus is a professional screen magnifier with extensive speech support
for Windows. There are different versions for Windows 95/98/ME and Windows
Lunarplus can best be seen as the second level of a three level product range including:
So, if you want information about Lunar, without the speech support that comes with Lunarplus, you can also read this review. The magnification options and features included in Lunarplus are the same as they are available in Lunarplus. Only the speech options mentioned in this review are not available in Lunar.
Lunar, Lunarplus and supernova are products from Dolphin Computer Access.
For this review I used an evaluation version of Lunarplus 4.5.
Lunarplus is shipped on a CD-ROM and installing it on your computer is very simple.
After the CD-ROM is inserted in your CD-ROM drive the Lunarplus setup program
starts automatically including speech support.
The setup program installs three different programs on your Computer:
You must install all these three programs to run Lunarplus.
The image above shows the old Lunarplus User-Interface. In comparison with some most other
professional screen magnifiers, the old style User-Interface of Lunarplus is a
As you see above the settings that you can do in this window have nothing to do with magnification, but with overview. Overview is a feature, that shows you what area of the screen was magnified, before you activated the overview feature.
Another example of this complexity are the Speech Output Settings button and the System Setup button. In both windows you can select different languages. If you change the language in the System Setup window also the settings in the Speech Output Settings window will be changed to the language you selected in the System Setup window.
If you press the Help button in the Speech Output Settings window above, you get the following help:
In this dialog box you can customize the global speech settings such as Volume, Speed and Language.
Every dialog box in LunarPlus has a help button. Pressing this Help button opens a window that describes the dialog box, but does not describe the individual options, that you can select on that dialog box.
Dolphin Computer Access added a complete new user-interface to version 4.5 products to access the magnification options much easier.
On the image above you see the new LunarPlus User-Interface for quickly changing the most important magnification options, without the need to learn hotkeys. You can change the level of magnification, the magnification mode, turn color changer and image smoothing on and off.
Concluding I can say, that the LunarPlus User-Interface
is too complex and that the help facility is too poor.
The most important button in the LunarPlus user-interface is the LunarPlus Settings button. Pressing this button opens a new window with options, that you need more often.
In the screen dump of the LunarPlus Settings Window, as you see above, you
find the most important configuration options. In my opinion it was better if
these options were available in the first user-interface window.
The image above shows the LunarPlus magnification dialog window.
LunarPlus can magnify any Windows application from 2 to 32 times, in any
display resolution and up to 32-bit color depth.
One of the most important features of a professional screen magnifier is full screen magnification. Full screen magnification means, that all what you see on the monitor is magnified. It is like you zoom in with a video camera on the monitor.
LunarPlus offers the following magnification modes:
As already discussed above, in full screen magnification mode everything that you see on the monitor is magnified. Because the magnified view is only a small portion of the view without magnification a professional screen magnifier needs to include features, that let the user of a screen magnifier scroll or jump to other locations of the screen. We will discuss this later in this review, if we speak about viewing and tracking.
Full screen magnification mode is most useful for people who need a high magnification level.
Split Screen mode means that the top, left, right or bottom area of the
computer monitor is magnified and that the other area of the image on the
monitor is not magnified.
In Window magnification mode a fixed area of the monitor image is magnified, while the other areas are unmagnified.
In Lens magnification mode the area around the mouse cursor is magnified. If the user moves the mouse to another location on the monitor the magnified view moves with the mouse pointer.
In Auto Lens magnification mode a horizontal area from the left border of the monitor to the right border of the monitor around the mouse pointer is magnified. The magnified view moves to bottom or top if the mouse pointer is moved to the bottom or to the top.
As you can see at the Magnification dialog box, there are some more settings, that the user can do. The most important one is Font Smoothing. If Font Smoothing is enabled the hooked magnified characters will be rounded, so they are better to read. This is option is extremely helpful for those who use a high magnification.
Another checkbox is labeled Margin Release. If this checkbox is checked the user of LunarPlus sees a black area if the mouse pointer reaches the border of the screen.
The LunarPlus Color Dialog box above, show the color options you can set in LunarPlus. LunarPlus provides a lot of color setting, very useful for people having problems to see the default colors on the screen, like color blinds.
The importance for a sight impaired computer user to change colors is growing, because the wide variety of color combination on web pages on the Internet. Some of these web pages have such a bad contrast, or include color combination that can not be distinct by color blind, that the possibility to change colors is of essential importance.
LunarPlus let the user change grightness, contrast, color and adjust color. It
is also possible to invert colors.
If the Preview these color settings while in this screen option is selected, you see the effect while dragging the horizontal bars. It is always possible to return to the default color settings, by pressing the Set Defaults button.
A very important feature of a professional screen
magnifier is tracking.
All screen magnifier utilities, also those in the area of freeware and shareware, track the mouse cursor. The major difference between professional screen magnifiers like Lunar / LunarPlus and simple magnification utilities, that you can find on this web site, are that a professional screen magnifier features full interactive screen magnification and that a professional screen magnifier features an advanced tracking system.
An advanced tracking system includes, tracking on Windows menus, controls, input carets, error messages etc. For example if Windows shows an error message or warning on the screen, the magnified view must jump to that message so that the sight impaired screen magnifier user can read it. If the user of a screen magnifier presses ALT + F to open the file menu, the professional screen magnifier must jump to the highlighted item of the File menu. If a screen magnifier can not track on these events, the user must move the magnified view to the left top of the screen (in this example) and click on the File menu.
By making good tracking possible, makers of professional screen magnifiers are highly dependend on programming standards. For example the makers of the Internet browser Netscape 6, seems to have never been heard about standards. Their is no screen magnifier, that tracks on menus and buttons in Netscape 6.
On this moment there is also no professional screen magnifier, that tracks on events in Java applets or applications. SUN has developed and released the so called Java Accessibility Classes to make it possible for accessibility features like screen magnifiers and screen readers to access these programs. Access here means track on events and provide speech and braille support. Will this concept work, then programmers must compile their programs with the SUN Java Accessibility Classes and accessibility features must also support these classes.
At the image above you see the LunarPlus tracking dialog box, where the events, where LunarPlus will track on in windows, can be select or deselect.
The quality of the tracking in ZoomText is very good. It tracks on mouse
cursor, carets (also in telnet emulation programs), controls, lists etc.
Note that like all other screen magnifiers at this moment. LunarPlus doesn't track events in Java appications and Java applets and also does not track in the growing number of programs, that does not use windows standards like Netscape 6.
In this chapter we will discuss more in detail, how you can
use LunarPlus for viewing and reading.
By viewing I mean: looking what is on the normal unmagnified screen, or searching for something that is on the unmagnified screen. If a screen is magnified by a screen magnifier, the user of that magnifier only sees a small area of the original screen. For example: if a user is in a dialog box he or she knows, that there also will be an OK and Cancel button, but these buttons are not in the magnified view if a high magnification level is used. To find these buttons the user of the magnifier must use the different features of the screen magnifier to find these buttons. As we already discussed. One way of finding these buttons is pressing the TAB key. LunarPlus will also track on buttons.
With reading I mean reading small pieces of text or entire documents. LunarPlus includes several features to read text on the screen
As we already discussed, all screen magnifiers track on the mouse.
So you will not be suprised, that with LunarPlus you can use the mouse to read
documents and to view the contents of the screen. Voving the mouse cursor also
moves the magnified view to a new location on the screen. Moving the magnified
view with the mouse is very smooth in LunarPlus. There is no flickkering of the
monitor as other magnifier often do.
Viewing the screen with the mouse in combination with tracking is a good way to view the screen for a special button, control and or icon and it is also a good way for a quick look on a web page, but for reading larger pieces of text, in my opinion it is better to use other features. Reading a document with moving the mouse means, that the user needs to move the mouse gently from left to right, move back to the left and find the beginning of the new line and again gently move the mouse to the right to read the line of text. This not only causes very slow reading, but can also cause physical problem like pain in hands, shoulder etc.
In the paragraphs below we will see, that LunarPlus includes features to read documents without using the mouse.
The possibility to use the keyboard to read documents is VERY important. As we already discussed above using the mouse for reading large documents is slow and can cause physical problems and therefore it is important, that screen magnifiers include alternative ways to read documents. One of these alternative is using the keyboard to move the magnified view over the original screen. this is also called manual scrolling.
In version 3 of Lunar the manual scroll feature was removed, but
I'm happy it is back in these version of Lunar, LunarPlus and SuperNova.
The scrolling itself is very smooth and the features works good to read text documents. You can use the keys on the numpad to jump to the borders of the screen. If you want to read an entire document by using the manual scroll feature, you wil start at the beginning of a line of text press the right control key + right arrow key, hold the right control key and press the right arrow key until you have enough speed. At the end of the line of text you can press right control + 4 on the numpad to jump to the beginning of the line. Press right control + arrow down to move magnification to the next line of text and again start reading teh line of text as described above.
If you don't like the right control key to scrool, no problem. All hotkeys in LunarPlus can be changed by the user.
As we saw in the previous paragraph about the manual scroll feature in LunarPlus, reading documents by using the keyboard works well, but the user must press many keys during reading.
LunarPlus has a nice feature to read documents. This feature is called Line view. Line view reformats the original rows in a document to one long line of text and presents the document as one long scrolling line on the screen. The user can define background and text colors, define font size and font style and select some marker options for the end of a sentence or paragraph.
At the image above you can see how I costomised Line View for my personal needs. A white line of text is scrolling on my screen from left to right on a black background in 20 times magnification. I selected the for sight impaired good readable Arial font and make it bold.
There are two options to start Line View. By pressing left shift + numpad . Line View shows the text of the active document on the screen. Pressing left shift + numpad * let Line View read the entire active window, including the menu bar.
Line View is a very good feature and only ZoomText Xtra includes a same feature in DocReader. What I miss in Line View is the possibility to read entire documents. With ZoomText Xtra DocReader feature you can read an entire document from a user specified starting position to the end of the document, or until the user stops reading.
Line View include no automatic paging. At the bottom of the screen Line View
stops. The user must escape Line View, press page down and restart Line View to
read the next screen.
Another important diffirence between LunarPlus and ZoomText is, that ZoomText not only presents the reformatted text in the DocReader feature, but also read the text of the document aloud in DocReader. LunarPlus has a feature to read text documents aloud, that we will discuss in the next paragraph, but it does not integrate Line View and read aloud features.
During my review Line View sometimes starts at the end of the screen after it was activated by pressing left shift + numpad . in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5. This problem can be solved by switching to another application and switching back to the web page by pressing ALT + TAB.
The difference between Lunar and LunarPlus, is the speech support in LunarPlus and the possibility to listen to documents and web pages, that are read to you aloud by LunarPlus.
With LunarPlus you can simply listen to documents read aloud to you by pressing the numpad + key. You can adjust the speed by pressing hotkeys on your keyboard. You can stop reading anytime by pressing the escape key.
The quality of the document read aloud feature is reasonable, but does not work always properly. The help says, that if the numpad + key is pressed, LunarPlus will read the document from top to bottom. This is not true. If you press the numpad + key in a text editor like Windows Notepad or in a word processing probram like Microsoft Word 2000, LunarPlus will start to read at the position of the input caret. In my opinion a reading feature, that speaks text aloud, should work like that.
The help description for the document read feature is right in some programs, that do not have an input caret like if you read an e-mail message in Eudora 4. If you open a message in Eudora 4 and press numpad +, LunarPlus starts to read the e-mail message from top to bottom. Also the escape key to terminate reading most times does not work. If you are reading e-mail message in Eudora the only way to stop reading aloud the message seems to be pressing the Nute key left control.
If you want LunarPlus read aloud a web page in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5,
the numpad + key seems not to work at all. After a document is loaded in Internet
Explorer, LunarPlus starts reading aloud the document automatically. You can
stop reading by pressing the left control key, but what if you want to read the
Dolphin Computer Access advices me to hide the statusbar in the View menu. After doing this the Document Read worked well in Internet Explorer.
LunarPlus has a special feature to read spreadsheets. LunarPlus can not speak aloud tables on web pages column by column. On the Internet a lot of web pages include tables for layout reasons. For example in the left column there is a navigation menu and in the right column is the document text. The user is interested in reading aloud the document text. So wants to read the right column. LunarPlus reads tables row by row and not column by column.
Concluding we can say, that:
Since version 4.5 LunarPlus highlights words, that are spoken out by the speech synthesizer. The magnified view tracks on these highlighted words. This makes it for low vision people much easier to read the text. They are no longer only depnended on the text that is spoken out, but also can read the words, that are spoken out.
Concluding we can say that:
As already discussed in previous paragraphs, the difference between Lunar and LunarPlus is, that Lunar is a professional screen magnifier and that LunarPlus adds speech support to this professional screen magnifier.
LunarPlus uses the software speech synthesizer Orpheus. Orpheus support a large number of languages including UK English, US English, Dutch, French, Italian, Swedish, German and Spanish. The quality of the speech synthesizer is not very good. With this I mean, that sometimes it is difficult to understand what the speech synthesizer wants to say to you. But after some training it is not a real problem.
If you don't like the quality of the speech synthesizer, you can use another one with LunarPlus. On the web site of Microsoft you can download free speech synthesizers in different languages, that have a better quality than Orpheus.
To select another speech synthesizer in LunarPlus:
Now you have change the default speech synthesizer from Orpheus to your prefered synthersizer.
There are some important things to keep in mind if you change the synthesizer:
Changing the speech synthesizer does not effect what is spoken out by the LunarPlus screen reader.
In the image above, you see the speech options that can be set in
If you are in a wordprocessor like Microsoft Office, LunarPlus speaks out
characters if you move the input caret over the typed text with the left
and right arrow keys. If you move the caret with the up and down keys to the
previous or next line of text, LunarPlus speaks out the entire line of
Speech support is also important to read aloud Windows events, like messages that are shown, menu items that are highlighted, controls that have the Focus etc. The speech support for these events in LunarPlus is very good and better than in most other screen magnifiers with speech support. For example a lot of low vision user use Eudora as their e-mail client. LunarPlus speaks out the selected message in a mailbox. If you press arrow up or down LunarPlus speaks out the highlighted text. Also in Microsoft Explorer the highlighted folders and programs are spoken out. In ZoomText Xtra highlighted messages in Eudora are not spoken out. ZoomText Xtra speaks out the Windows Explorer highlighted folders and programs correct, but in often highlighted items like in a pick list are not spoken out at all.
LunarPlus does not speak out the text of tooltips, or small popup windows. If you move the mouse cursor over an image in ZoomText Xtra the text of the popup window is spoken out. LunarPlus does not speak out this text. This alternative text to images is important for sight impaired people in accessing the Internet and in my opinion, not speaking out the text of the ALT attibute on images on the Internet is an important shortcoming in LunarPlus. They promised to solve this in a future release.
Concluding we can say, that LunarPlus has a very good speech support, but that we miss speaking out the ALT attribute on images on the Internet and text on tooltips like on icons in the Windows system tray.
One of the unique geatures in LunarPlus is the possibility to define application depending settings. In ZoomText Xtra you can define your own configuration files, but you have to load them yourself as you need them. In LunarPlus you can define an application depending setting without loading configuration files. LunarPlus tracks your applications and specific windows in the application and changes the settings automatacallly if you defined a specific application before.
At the image of the LunarPlus Application settings window above you see 4 large buttons. To create an application depending setting you must first create a new settings file by pressing the Create or Choose Settings file button. Below this button you see what the current settings file is and what the target application is.
At the example image above, you see that the current application settings file is Default Application and the target application is the Clip.exe. To make changes for only the clip.exe application you must create a new settings file, because all application by default use the Default Application settings file. So if you are changing this Default Application file, the changes you make effect all programs using this general settings file.
After pressing the Create or Choose Settings file button you get a dialog box as you see below.
To create a new settings file you must check the Create a new Settings file... buton and press the OK button. As you see at the image above there is also a use an existing setting file radio button. If you select this button, you can select the settings file you create before from a drop down list.
After pressing the OK button, you get a dialog window as you see at the image above. The name for the new settings file is been suggested by LunarPlus and there is no need to change this. You can now choose between creating a new empty settings file, or copying the settings of an existing settings file to the new one. At the example image above the create a new empty settings file radio button is selected. After pressing OK the settings file will be created and be the current settings file.
You can now press the General Settings... button to change the settings of the entire application, or press the Situation Settings... button to create settings file for specific events in the current application.
If you press the General Settings... button you get a dialog box with 5 large buttons. The first button is labeled Magnification... If you press this button you can change the magnification settings for only the current application like magnification level and type of magnification (full screen, split screen, Window, Lens or auto lens).
The second button is labeled Document Read... and allows you to change the level of punctuation.
The third button is labeled Line View and allow you to change the Line View settings for use in the current application.
Pressing the Situation Settings... button in the Application Settings dialog box, opens a new dialog box with 5 large button as you see below.
Below the Create or Choose a Situation...
button at the image above, you can read that the current situation of the
current application is none. This means if you press the Speech, Color or
Tracking buttons and change settings in the dialog boxes there, you change the
settings in the entire current application. If you want to change the settings
only for special windows in the current application, you must first open that
window in the application, after that create a new situation and change the
settings for that situation.
The most important thing to know by creating application and situation depending settings is, what the current application and the current situation are. LunarPlus automatically saves changes of settings if you exit LunarPlus. It aslo automatically saves changes is the settings to the current application settings file and the current situation settings file. This means that you can also change the current application settings by using hot keys. For example if you create an application depending settings file for Microsoft Word and set magnification to 10, while your default magnification is 8. Everytime you start Microsoft Word or switch to Microsoft Word, the magnification will increase to 10. But if you decrease the magnification level to 8 in Microsoft Word and quit the program, the next time you start Microsoft Word the number of magnification will be 8 and not 10, because LunarPlus automatically saves application settings files and if you launch a program, where you created a application settings file for, that application settings file becomes the current application file after you start the program or activate it.
Concluding we can say, that the possibility to create application and situation depended settings in LunarPlus is unique and very powerful.
In this paragraph we shall discuss some extra features included in LunarPlus.
With Lunar, LunarPlus and SuperNova a large range of diffirent mouse pointers are shipped. Other professional screen magnifiers like MAGic and ZoomText include extra mouse pointer features in their User-Interface, but with LunarPlus you must select another mouse pointer like you always do this in Windows.
Above you see a screen dump of LunarPlus mouse pointers in the Normal
The mouse pointer you select is not only used in LunarPlus, but also if LunarPlus is not running.
Dolphin Links Navigator
New in LunarPlus 4.5 is the Dolphin Link Navigator for Internet Explorer.
In the screen dump image above you see the Dolphin Link Navigator at work for the Dolphin Computer Access main page. Dolphin Link Navigator is a plugin for Internet Explorer and after installing the plugin, you find the Links Navigator in the Tools menu.
The Dolphin Links Navigator show all links, that are on the loaded page. You can sort the links by tab order, A to Z, Z to A order and by most recently visited link. By clicking on a link Internet Explorer will load that page.
The Link Navigator can be very helpful to find a specific link on the page.
Concluding we can say that strong point in LunarPlus are:
The minor points of LunarPlus are: