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ZoomText Xtra! logo

Welcome to the ZoomText Xtra! test page

On this page I give you the results of testing ZoomText Xtra! from AiSquared.
ZoomText Xtra! includes two levels on this moment. At the end of 1997 AiSquared planned to release the third level.
Level 1 of ZoomText Xtra! includes magnification and is an upgrade of ZoomText 5.2, with a lot of new features.
Level 2 includes level 1 plus screen reading. ZoomText Xtra! level 2 supports a wide range of speech synthesizers or a sound blaster card with text-assist.
ZoomText Xtra! level 2 has an own Text-To-Speech engine for a sound blaster card in Windows 95, so that no aditional hardware is needed.
Level 3 include level 1 and 2 plus scanning and OCR. With level 3 you can scan forms and fill them in on your computer. Level 3 is not available on this moment.
On this page I give you the results of testing the two levels of ZoomText Xtra!. Both levels are tested under Windows 95 with a normal sound blaster card. I hava tested the beta version of ZoomText Xtra!, so it maybe that some problems that are mentioned on this page, are solved in later releases.

INTRODUCTION


ZoomText Xtra! is a screen magnifier for Windows 3.1x and Windows 95 (level 1), and a screen magnifier plus screen reader for Windows 3.1x and Windows 95 (level 2). If you do not have a screen magnifier for MS-DOS already, you can buy ZoomText for MS-DOS, which came in earlier releases of ZoomText.
ZoomText Xtra! support 16, 256 or 16 bit colors in any resolution.
Installing ZoomText on your system is very easy. For the beta release of ZoomText Xtra!, there are four files that you can download.
  • zx1b.exe
    This is ZoomText Xtra! level 1 including screen magnifcation.
  • zx1b_aa.exe
    This is ZoomText Xtra! level 1 including screen magnification and Microsoft Active Accessibility.
  • zx2b.exe
    This is ZoomText Xtra! level 2 including screen magnification and screen reading.
    For running level 2 you need Windows 95 plus a sound blaster card, or Windows 3.1x, Windows 95 with a speech synthesizer or sound blaster card with Text-Assist.
  • zx2b_aa.exe
    This is ZoomText Xtra! level 2 including screen magnification, screen reading and Microsoft Active Accessiblity.

Microsoft Active Accessibility has nothing to do with ZoomText Xtra! itself, but influence the way products that are supporting Active Accessibility behave, like Office 97 and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
To install one of the four versions of ZoomText Xtra! run the .exe file. ZoomText Xtra! will now be installed on your system. The installation program asks you in which directory you want to install ZoomText Xtra!, if you want to start ZoomText Xtra! automatic after starting Windows and if you want a short-cut on your desktop (Windows 95 only). After ZoomText Xtra! is installed on your system and your hardware is tested by ZoomText Xtra!, the program will be start.
The first thing you see after starting ZoomText Xtra! is a two times magnified full screen.
You can increase magnification at this moment by pressing ALT-num+, After the welcome message, the Graphical User Interface of ZoomText is on your screen.
The image below, shows you the ZoomText user interface of ZoomText Xtra! level 2.

ZoomText Xtra! user interface

As you see, the type of magnification is full and the number of magnification is 8. The icons on the user interface are representing tools, that you can activate by clicking on them. You can also activate the tools by selecting the appropriate tool in the tools option in the user interface menu bar, or by pressing a hotkey combination.
To get help about a icon in the user interface, click the icon with the question-mark and after clicking click on the tool you want more information. You can also get help by selecting the help option in the menu bar.

MAGNIFY


ZoomText Xtra! can magnify the contents of the screen from 2 up to 16 times. ZoomText Xtra! supports 16 colors VGA, 256 colors SVGA and 16 bit colors in any resolution.
The quality of the magnification is very good. All text, graphics and video files are magnified well by ZoomText Xtra! You can simply turn magnification on and off in ZoomText Xtra! by pressing ALT+INS (for turning on), or ALT+DEL (for turning off). If you want to activate the ZoomText Xtra! user interface, you simply press ALT+INS if magnification is already on, or ALT+INS two times, if magnification is turned off.
You can also activate the user interface by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+U. To increase magnification you can select another magnification number in the user interface or press the ALT+numpad+. You can decrease the number of magnification by pressing ALT+numpad-, or select another magnification number on the user interface.

FIVE MAGNIFICATION MODES


ZoomText Xtra! offers five magnification modes.
  • Full
    Full magnification means, that all what you see on the screen is magnified.
  • Overlay
    Overlay screen magnification means, that a fixed portion of the real screen is magnified. This overlay window tracks all the activities in Windows. The overlay window is resizable up to a quarter of the real screen.
  • Split screen
    Split screen means, that you can split the real screen in a magnified and an numagnified area. The magnified area can be at the top, left, right or bottom. The magnified area is resizable up to three quarter of the real screen.
  • Lens
    Lens magnification means, that the area around the mouse cursor, or the area where ZoomText Xtra is tracking activities, is magnified. The lens is resizable up to a quarter of the real screen.
  • Secundaries
    ZoomText is the only software, offering secundary magnification windows.
    Secundary windows, can have their own configuration, like tracking and magnification options.
    In comparison to ZoomText 5.x, there are two new secundary windows: line and component, and two secundary windows are removed: Text-entry-window and Zoom-pop-up window.

    FIVE SECUNDARY WINDOWS


    ZoomText Xtra! magnification options


    • Line window
      Line window is a new option in ZoomText Xtra. Line window let you magnify the line where the input caret is, independent or relative from the magnification in your primary magnification.
      As you see in the magnify configutarion box above, line window is always magnified two times more, as the primary magnification. This means that the line window is magnified relative to the primary magnification. It is also possible to give an absolute number of magnification, so that the line window is always magnified to the same number.
    • Component window
      Component window means, that you can magnify the Windows components like menus and controls relative from the promary magnification, or absolute. If your primary magnification is 8 and the component magnification is +2, this means that menus and controls are magnified 10 times. The component window is a new feature in ZoomText Xtra!.
    • 2nd Overlay
      2nd overlay enables a partitial screen zoom window, that behaves like the primary overlay window. The secundary window is resizable and can be moved to different positions on the screen. The 2nd overlay window can magnify relative to the primary overlay window, or you can specify an absoloute magnification number. This feature is usefull, if you want another magnification in a specific area of the screen.
    • Static window
      ZoomText Xtra! let you define two static windows. A static window magnifies a fixed area of the screen and is always shown on the screen. You can use this to keep the status bar always in view.


SIZING WINDOWS


Like ZoomText 5.x, ZoomText Xtra let you size the different windows. Only the primary overlay (full screen magnification), the line window and the component window, can not be sized.
You can resize a window by clicking on the window tool in the user interface of ZoomText Xtra, or pressing the hotkey CTRL+SHIFT+W. After doing this in ZoomText 5.x the magnification turned off. In ZoomText Xtra! the magnification is not turning off, only the mouse becomes smaller. After clicking the windows tool or activating the window tool by pressing the hotkey, you get the border of the window with handles. Dragging the mouse while holding the left mouse button down, in the box, moves the window to another position. Dragging the handles risize the window. You can leave the window tool by pressing the ESCAPE key or pressing the right mouse button. In both cases the changes that you have made are saved. It was better if there was a possibility to cancel changes by pressing ESCAPE and by saving changes by pressing the right mouse button.

TRACKING


Tracking is a very important feature in a screen magnifier. Tracking means that the screen magnifier software informs you, that there is something happening on the screen. If Windows gives a message or asks you a question, you must know this and the magnification must jump to it. If you press the ALT key, cause you want to select something in the main menu of an application, the magnifier must jump to the item in the menu that is selected. If you move the mouse cursor, cause you want to go to another position on the screen, the magnification must follow the mouse cursor so it stays in view. ZoomText Xtra has a very good tracking. Menus, mouse cursor, carets, controls and messages are tracked. ZoomText 5.x had problems in tracking the bitmaps in Windows 95 by selecting a new active task (ALT+TAB). In ZoomText Xtra this problem is solved. Only if there are two rows of bitmaps, the secund row is not centered well. This problem is known by AiSquared and maybe it is solved in the official release of ZoomText Xtra!.

ZoomText Xtra tracking configuration options


As you see above in the ZoomText Xtra tracking configuration box you can configure ZoomText Xtra so, that it tracks on diffirent Windows activities. You get the best result if you let ZoomText track all Windows activities. You can also specify special areas where ZoomText Xtra! has not to track Windows activities. You can also change the tracking delay, that means the time ZoomText Xtra! waits before the magnification respond to the Windows activity.

REVIEWING


While tracking means, that the screen magnifier software informs you about events on the real screen, reviewing, panning or scrolling means, that the end-user looks around on the real screen, to find icons, read text, fill forms etc.
In ZoomText Xtra! there are many new feature regarding reviewing. Complete new is the DocReader feature, that lets you easy read a document, like you do this with a CCTV. In ZoomText Xtra there is a clear distinction in scrolling magnification to look around the real screen, and using DocReader to read documents.
An important way to scroll, is simply move the mouse to another position on the screen. While moving the mouse the magnification is tracking on the mouse cursor, so that it always stays in view. Another way of scrolling is, using the keyboard. In ZoomText Xtra the keyboard scrolling is revised and much better than it was in ZoomText 5.x. You can now scroll using the keyboard by pressing the ALT key and a arrow key for the direction you want to scroll to. Holding the arrow key causes an increase of the scroll speed. Releasing the arrow key and holding the ALT key causes a smooth scrolling of the magnification. To stop the scrolling you must release also the ALT key.
An alternative for scrolling using the keyboard, is using the scroll tool. You can activate the scroll tool, by clicking on it in the ZoomText Xtra user interface, or by pressing the hotkey combination CONTROL+SHIFT+W. To start scrolling after activating the scroll tool, you have to press the ENTER key. You can increase scrolling by moving the mouse to the right, or by pressing on the right arrow key. You can decrease scroll speed, by moving the mouse to the left, or by pressing the left arrow key.
It is impossible to change the direction while scrolling. To change the scroll direction you first need to stop scrolling by pressing the ENTER key and afterwards start the scrolling again to a new direction. It was better if it was possible to change direction while scrolling. A complete and very important new feature in ZoomText Xtra is, that you can scroll while a menu is open. In prior releases of ZoomText pressing the ALT plus right arrow key to read the complete menu text, causes the closing of the menu. Now it is possible to scroll while a menu is opened, without closing of that menu.
ZoomText 5.x had a very good review feature for reading documents. This review feature is disappeared in ZoomText Xtra, and replaced by a much better feature called DocReader.
Because it is important that you can comfortable read a document with a screen magnifier, ZoomText Xtra is now absolute the best screen magnifier with this new feature. From the other screen magnifiers for Windows 3.1x and Windows 95, Only Lunar from Dolphin Systems, has a special feature for reading documents. In Lunar it is called line view. But the DocReader of ZoomText Xtra is more extensive and configurable than the Line View of Lunar.

DocReader


DocReader is a feature in ZoomText Xtra for reading text documents. DocReader is available in level 1 (screen magnification), and level 2 (screen magnification plus speech). DocReader capture the text from the active window and reformat it to the configuration settings of the user. Starting DocReader is very easy. You can do this my clicking on the DocReader tool, or by pressing CONTROL+SHIFT+D. After doing this ZoomText Xtra reformats the text for presenting it in the DocReader. You can start DocReader to read the text by pressing the ENTER key, or by clicking on the start button at the DocReader tool bar. For people who need a high magnification, the icons on the DocReader are too small, so they need to use the hotkeys. You can pause reading by pressing ENTER. In DocReader you can use hotkeys to jump to the next or previous word, line or page. You also can jump to the top and bottom of the document you are reading and you can change the number of magnification by pressing the + or - keys on the numpad.
In DocReader you can configure font size, font type, backgroun color, text color, presentation of the text, panning speed and a number of speech related settings.

Configuring how DocReader displays text


DocReader display configuration box


In the above DocReader display configuration box, you see that ZoomText Xtra let you configure a great number of settings.
  • DISPLAY MODE
    There are three display modes for docreader
    • Normal
      Normal display mode means, that the text is displayed like the normal text. Every word is highlighted at the center of the screen, so that you don't need to move your head or eyes to read the text. There is a bug in the beta release of ZoomText Xtra level 1, because, when you select the normal display mode and start the DocReader nothing is happening. In level 2 with speech for DocReader enabled the normal display mode is working well.
    • Prompter
      Prompter display mode means, that the text scrolls on your screen from the top to the bottom, like at the and of a movie where the actors are mentioned.
    • Ticket
      Ticket display mode means, that the entire document is displayed like a long line of text scrolling to the left at the center of your screen. Every new line in the original document is represented by a special mark in the DocReader presentation.
  • Magnification
    Magnification means the number of magnification you want DocReader to show you the text. This number of magnification is independent from the magnification you use in ZoomText Xtra.
  • Text
    Controls wether text is displayed using scaled TrueType fonts, or by magnifying the original document's bitmapped image.
  • Alignment
    Controls wether the highlighted word is edge or center aligned.
  • Scrolling
    Controls wether words smoothly scroll or jump immediately into view.
  • Smooth-Edged
    Eliminated the jagged appearance of bitmapped text.

In the DocReader display configuration box you see that the display mode ticket is selected, that the magnification is 12, that text is TrueType, that alignment is smooth and scrolling is smooth.
Smooth-Edged is fade out becasue TrueType text is selected.

Configuring text font in DocReader


As you see in the DocReader font configuration box below, you can choose your own font type and font size in DocReader. The possibility to choose your own font, is a very powerful feature. Many low vision people have problems reading a document, because the characters in document are difficult to read.

DocReader font configuration box

Configuring color in DocReader


As you see in the DocReader color configuration box below, you can choose your own text and backgroud colors in DocReader. Many people with low vision, prefer special colors, because it is easier for them to read. In DocReader you can select a wide range of colors for the text and background. In the sample below you see that green text is selected and a black background. You can also select reverse, so that the word that is read by DocReader will be reversed. In the sample you see that the word quick is reversed. If you don't select reverse, you can specify text and background color for highlighting the word that is read or spoken out by DocReader.

DocReader color configuration box

Configuring spacing in DocReader


it is also possible to configure the spacing in DocReader. Spacing controls the amount of extra space between characters and line.
Spacing increments are in pixel units relative to the size of the unmagnified text.

DocReader spacing configuration box

Configuring markers in DocReader


In the DocReader markers configuration box below, you can see that you can configure marker symbols in DocReaders. These settings are only active with prompter and ticket display mode.
Formatting markers indicate where white space and sections of text start or end in the original document.
Section breaks control, where section breaks will occur - at the start or end of each line or each paragraph. This setting also controls how text is wrapped in prompter display mode.


DocReader markers configuration box

You can change magnification in DocReader by pressing the + or - key on the numpad. You can increase the reading speed by pressing > and decrease reading speed by pressing <.
In the beta version of ZoomText Xtra it is impossible to disable speech by pressing a hotkey combination. This is a bug and will be solved in the official release. You then can press ALT+SHIFT+S to enable or disable speech in DocReader. This hotkey is also the hotkey for disable and enable screen reader speech, but later more about this subject.

Colors


Like in ZoomText 5.x, you can adjust the colors in ZoomText Xtra. You can invert all colors, invert only black and white or invert to gray scales. For people who prefer white text to a black background. inverting black and white only is very helpful.
New in ZoomText Xtra is the possibility to adjust the contrast in ZoomText xtra. Increasing the contrast make light colors lighter and dark colors darker. You can activate color filtering by clicking the color tool in the ZoomText Xtra user interface, or by pressing the hotkey CONTROL+SHIFT+F. Note that this hotkey is changed in ZoomText Xtra, the hotkey in previous releases of ZoomText was CONROL+SHIFT+C.

ZoomText Xtra color configuration box

OVERVIEW


Overview is a helpful feature to find where you are on the screen, or to move the magnification to a new position on the screen. The overview feature turns magnification off and shows you an inverted box at the area that was magnified by ZoomText Xtra. The overview feature of ZoomText Xtra is changed a bit. You first have to activate the zoom-in or the zoom-out tool, to activate the overview feature. The Zoom-in/zoom-out tool let you zoom-in or zoom-out at an area on the screen. If you are in the zoom-in or zoom-out mode, you can press the CONTROL key to activate the overview feature. You can then move the mouse while holding the control key, to move the magnification to a new position.
You can exit the zoom-in/zoom-out tool by pressing the ESCAPE key. A problem with the overview feature in ZoomText Xtra is, that you be not always sure that the magnification jumps to the new position, after you exit the zoom-in/zoom-out tool. Sometimes it returns to the old position on the screen, sometimes it jumps to the new position on the screen. It was better if ESCAPE returns to the old position and right mouse click jumps to the new position.

EXTRA FEATURES


ZoomText Xtra offers a wide rage of extra features, that helps you a lot working in Windows.
  • Hotkeys
    For nearly every tool or feature in ZoomText Xtra, there is a hotkey, so that you can quickly access that tool or feature. As you see below all hotkeys can be change to your own preference. Be careful with this, because you can conflict with standard Windows short keys.
    You can change a hotkey by first selecting the feature you want to change the hotkey and after that select the hotkey for that feature. You can always restore the standard hotkey of any feature.
    For all hotkeys that have anything to do with speech, the ALT +SHIFT keys are used. For the other feature the CONTROL + SHIFT keys are used.

    Hotkey configuration box


  • Configuration files
    As in ZoomText 5.x, you can define 9 configuration files in ZoomText Xtra. With configuration files you can configure ZoomText Xtra optimal for a special windows application. After you start that application you can load that configuration file by pressing a hotkey combination.
  • Cursor enhancements
    New in ZoomText Xtra are the cursor enhancements. As you see in the cursor configuration box below, you can select the size of the cursor and the color.
    You can select a ssmall, medium and large cursor. The small cursor size is the same as the normal cursor. The possiblity to select another cursor color, make it much easier to view the cursor pointer on your screen. There are 16 colors available.
    By selecting caret locator, you get an open blinking square around a input caret, if you not move the mouse cursor for a specific time. This is a very nice feature. It is much easier to find the input caret now in a text document or input box.

    Cursor configuration box


  • Edge-smoothing
    Edge-smoothing eliminates the jagged-edged appearance of magnified of text and graphics. This feature makes text easier to read. Smoothing-edged is not available in 16 colors mode.
  • Targets
    As ZoomText 5.x, ZoomText Xtra let you set targets. Targets are spots on the screen that make it possible to jump to, by pressing a hotkey. If you have a status bar, you can set a target there. With one hotkey press the magnification jumps to the status bar. You can set 10 targets on the screen.

SPEECH


The possibilities to use speech in combination with screen magnification is new to AiSquared the makers of ZoomText Xtra. But what I can say about it is, they did a good job. If you want to use speech with the screen magnification, you need to install ZoomText Xtra level 2. Level 2 means that speech is added to the screen magnification. Especialy in combination with DocReader, the speech support makes it very comfortable to read documents.
You can configure many things in ZoomText Xtra level 2 regarding speech. As you see in the speech configuration box below, you can change speech speed, speech pitch and speech volume. It is also possible to select another voice. There are voices of men and women. In the configuration box below, the settings for Screen Reader are given. The DocReader tab offers the same configuration options.

Speech configuration box


I have tested the speech in ZoomText Xtra with the standard Text-To-Speech module which comes with ZoomText Xtra. You can only use this module in Windows 95 with a sound blaster card. If you don't have Windows 95, or a sound blaster card, you need a speech synthesizer.
Yoy can use the Text-To-Speech module for speek any language, but it is an English Text-To-Speech module, using English pronunciation. So, it is impossible to understand if entire documents are spoken if they are not written in the English language.
The quality of the speech is very good. It realy sounds a bit natural and there is intonation if a question mark, point etc. is met.
There are also many configuration options available for the ScreenReader. As you see below you can choose between low, medium and high verbosity. If you select high the ScreenReader tell you want the short cuts are in a menu. If you select low verbosity, ScreenReader don't tell you this.
You can also select what must be spoken out by the ScreenReader. Window titles, controls, menus and message text. While testing I found that the ScreenReader was not always spoken out the message text. I have report this problem to AiSquared.
You can also select settings for caret reading and echo typing. Echo typing means, that if you type characters the ScreenReader speaks out the character. Caret reading means that the ScreenReader reads characters, words or lines when they are selected.
There is also a feature available called speak-it. You find this feature in the tools option at the menu bar of the ZoomText Xtra user interface or you can press ALT+SHIFT+I. After activating this feature, you can click on any word and the ScreenReader speaks that word.
It is also possible to use the speak-it feature, for reading text in a selected block. You can do this by selecting the speak-it feature and marking the area you want speak-it to read. You can mark an area by clicking on the place where you want speak-it to start, hold the left mouse-button and drag the mouse while holding the left mouse button to the point where you want speak-it stop reading.


ScreenReader fonfiguration box

CONCLUSION


AiSquared has done a very good job with ZoomText Xtra. ZoomText Xtra is absolute the best screen magnifier that is at the market on this moment. It has a lot of features, it has high performance and it has a reasonable price.
The ScreenReader that comes in level 2, is of good quality. If you use the built-in Text-To-Speech module, it is important that you have enough memory in your computer. More memory leads to better speech. In the beta version there are some serious bugs. Some text messages are not spoken out by the ScreenReader. In DocReader some text is spoken out two times and some text is not spoken out. I found this problem in Netscape Communicator. The same text was spoken out well in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
With some video display drivers opening a MS-DOS box and returning to Windows causes a dramatic decrease of Performance or a total windows crash.

PRODUCT INFORMATION
Product ZoomText Xtra!
From AiSquared
Address P.O. Box 669
Manchester Center
VT 05255-0669
Phone 802-362-3612
Fax 802-362-1670
E-Mail sales@aisquared.com
Internet http://www.aisquared.com/
System requirements
  • Windows 3.1x or Windows 95
  • 16, 256 or 16 bit color modes in any resolution
System requirements for speech Windows 3.1 Creative Labs SoundBlaster sound card
running the Text Assist
software synthesizer

or SSIL supported synthesizers
System requirements for speech Windows 95 *ANY* Windows sound card

or SSIL supported synthesizers
Price $395 level 1, $595 level 2.
Upgrade level 1 $95, level 2 $195