Skip navigation and goto contents
Home Downloads News Reviews FaceBook Forum Links Accessibility Contact Advertise

Order News by Most Viewed Articles

iZoom Web - The First Web-based Free Screen Magnifier Reviewed

01 August, 2007 by Peter Verhoeven

It seems a new tendency in Assistive Technology, web-based screen reading and magnificaiton. Web-based means, that the screen magnifier or screen reader software comes from a server on the Internet. Nothing has to be installed, nothing is realy changed on the computer, like professional screen magnifiers and screen readers often do. The only thing you have to do launching your screen reader or magnifier is, surf to a web page on the Internet, allow a small program to install or open and there you go!

This year two companies start with a Web-based solution, to let visually impaired access a computer running the Windows operating system. Because it is Web-Based there is no need to install anything and the most important benifit of this Web-based solution is, that you can start it on any computer connected to the internet and you always use the latest version of the software.

The first company with a Web-based screen reader, was Serotek with System Access to Go.

System Acces to Go is a high-quality Web-Based screen reader giving you speech access to all the applications installed on a windows XP or Windows Vista computer you are accessing. System Access to Go only offers speech output support, no screen magnification and no refreshable braille. You will find a review of System Access to Go soon.

The second company with a Web-based solution for the visually impaired is Issist Inc with iZoom Web. IZoom Web gives you access to all Windows 2000, XP and Windows Vista computers connected to the Internet for free!.

Starting iZoom Web is very simple. Surf to http://www.issist.ca. If you do this for the first time your WebBrowser will ask you for permission to install an Activex control. An ActiveX control is a kind of addition to your WebBrowser. Because Iisist Inc is a trustworthy company we allow installation.
The next time you visit the iZoom Web page, iZoom Web will start immediately.

After installation of the activex control, iZoom Web is changing your color depth to 16 bit and 2x full screen magnification with speech support enabled, starts by default. This change of color depth is done because of performance reasons. In 32 bit color depth iZoom Web performs too slow.

Windows 2000 users will notice, that also in 16 bit color depth iZoom Web looks very sluggish. On Windows XP performance seems much better, but performance remains an important issue for improvement.

After iZoom Web is launched, you have access to all applications on the computer you are working on. Web-based does not mean, that the iZoom Web only runs in you WebBrowser. It runs the same way a desktop screen magnifier like ZoomText does. You can start your e-mail program, write a document in Microsoft Word, view a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or browse the Internet.

iZoom Web is in the memory of your computer, so you can also use hotkeys to change magnification or turn magnification on and off.

After iZoom Web is launched, you find the control panel in a web page in your WebBrowser. Keep this web page open. If you want to visit other web sites, open a new browser window.

Most options in the iZoom Web control panel can be accessed anywhere on your computer with hotkeys like increasing magnification with ALT + Up, decreasing magnification with ALT + Down, turn magnification off with ALT + Del and turn magnification on again with ALT + Insert.

It is also possible to use the iZoom Web control panel in your WebBrowser to change preferences.

Zoom Type

Like most professional screen magnifiers, also iZoom Web support different types of screen magnification Full screen, Lens, Line, Docked Lens, Split top, Split bottom, Split left, and Split right. You can use ctrl + shift + w to cycle through these magnification types.

Mouse Type

You can select from different sizes of mouse pointers (normal, large extra large) in colors white, green and blue. You can yuse ctrl + shift + p to toggle between normal mouse and a special mouse pointer. You first have to select a special mouse type, before you can toggle with the hotkey.

For example if you select a large blue mouse pointer, this mouse pointer is difficult to find on a web page with the same blue background. In such a situation ctrl + shift + p changes the mouse color to white and becomes visible again.
If you do not select a special mouse type, pressing ctrl + shift + p does not change your mouse type.

Locator type

You can set a locator type to help you find back the mouse cursor. Pressing ctrl + shift + l should cycle through the different locator types, but it didn't work during testing. Issist confirms that this is a bug and will be solved soon.

Color Scheme

Color schemes like Invert Brightness, Reverse Video, GreyScale, Blue Tint, Remove Blue, Remove Red etc. can help you to better see what is on your screen. This feature works the same as changing the mouse type. You first have to select a color scheme you want to work with and after that you can use the ctrl + shift + c hotkey to toggle between this color scheme and normal scheme. A lot of screen magnifier users prefer using Reverse Video, but sometimes you want to switch back fast to the normal view. Simply select Reverse Video in the iZoom Web control web page and press ctrl + shift + c to toggle between normal and Reverse Video.

Smooth Font

Font smoothing makes it easier to read text. iZoom Web realy has a great font smoothing. The quality of the characters highly improves. Disabling font smoothing on the other side improves performance of magnification. With ctrl + shift + t, you can quickly toggle font smoothing on and off. If you are reading text enabling it, can realy improve readability of text.

Caret

By disabling caret tracking, the input caret will not be tracked anymore. Most of you will prefer caret tracking, so there is no need to disable it. While caret tracking is enabled magnification tracks the input caret while you are entering text. This means that last entered text is always magnified.

Speech

iZoom Web uses the default speech synthesizer on your computer. On Windows XP and Windows Vista computers a Microsoft Speech synthesizer is already installed. Mostly this is "Microsoft Sam" or "Microsoft Mary". On Windows 2000 by default no speech synthesizer is installed. You can download it from the Microsoft web site.

If you are planning to use iZoom Web on your own computer and want a speech synthesizer that sounds much more human I highly recommend Ceptral text-to-speech. You can find US English, UK English, German, Spanish, French and Italian voices. Ceptral text-to-speech is one of the best and only cost $29.95. This text-to-speech voices also work with other screen readers and magnifiers.

If you already installed a screen reader or screen magnifier with speech support and the text-to-speech engine is not proteced by a password, you can also use it with iZoom Web. If you have RealSpeak solo for example it will also work after making it the default on your system. You can make a voice default by selecting Speech in your control panel.

Compared with other screen readers and screen magnifiers with speech, the speech support in iZoom Web is limited. The Windows Start menu is spoken out well, but for example the objects in the iZoom Web control panel web page are not all spoken out. Also in Outlouk 2003 menus and items in folders are not spoken out by iZoom Web if you use the keyboard to access them.

iZoom Web seems to have a kind of mouse echo feature. That means that if you points the mouse to something, it is spoken out. If I press ALT + F in Outlook 2003 to open the File menu, nothing is spoken out. If I move the mouse cursor to the File menu, iZoom Web speaks "File". This mouse echo feature is extremely helpful. If you want to close a document in Microsoft Word without saving it, Microsoft gives a warning in a popup window. Most screen readers automatically will read aloud the Title of the window, the message in the popup window, the buttons available in the window and which button has been selected by default. iZoom Web does not speak anything. If you press the TAB key it speaks the button focus moved to. But if you point your mouse to the message, iZoom read aloud the message.

Pointing your mouse to special text also works on pages in your WebBrowser. If you point your mouse to the beginning of a paragraph the entire paragraph is read aloud to you.

Strange enough this mouse echo feature, works only if there is no text caret. It should be nice it also works while entering text in an e-mail message or Microsoft Word document. It should also be nice if you could iZoom Web let read aloud an entire web page, e-mail message or document.

Tracking

Like iZoom Web not always properly speaks aloud, tracking sometimes is limited. In Windows 2000 I found tracking realy bad. In Windows 2000 the Start menu was not tracked at all. In Windows XP it is tracked, but highlighted items are not positioned well in the magnified view. Sometimes I only see the last three characters of a word. Pressing TAB on my keyboard sometimes results in moving magnification to the selected object, but not always.

Conclusion

Comment from Issist Inc

Ricky Amin from Issist Inc said:

"Reading text within text boxes is a simple fix, we'll get that out shortly. Also, we are working on font smoothing technology such as ZoomText's xFont which will provide crystal clear font at all zoom levels. We feel that will be a big improvement and iZoom Web will be the only free magnifier in the market to offer such a feature."

Links

Issist Inc - the makers of iZoom Web.
iZoom Web - here you can use iZoom Web the free web-based screen magnifier with speech support.

Read News Archive