Loader is a Dream

One of the most treasured apps to run on an iPhone or iPad for a Blind or Partially Sighted person is the marvellous Voice Dream Reader application. The recent update to the app has now included a valuable Loader function.

Voice Dream Reader, for the uninitiated, will convert into a talking book any document such as ePub, PDf, Word and a multitude of other text formats. It uses all the high quality inbuilt human sounding voices that Apple now supply, plus you can cheaply purchase high quality alternative voices in the unlikely event the free offerings are not sufficient for your needs. Although not specifically designed for Blind or Partially Sighted people the app developer has been at pains to ensure that the app is completely accessible to a blind person using Appleís inbuilt Voiceover Screen Reader. The developer is sensitive to a range of reading needs. For example he has included a highlight feature which will highlight each word of a book visually on screen as the text is read aloud. This can help people with other reading difficulties, including those with dyslexia.

All the features you would expect in a book player are here, including the ability to place bookmarks, automatically resume from last playback, variable speed of narration, and comprehensive book navigation features.

What this means is that even sighted people may find this app useful. You can listen to your copy of Pride and Prejudice whilst you are doing the housework or washing up, or even whilst driving to work.

The app has developed in power over the years and now offers an all in one reading solution, including the ability to listen to actual recorded audio books as well as its original conversion of text into audio. In theory you could even use the app now as a music Player.

There are really only 2 limitations to using the app, neither of which are the developers fault. . The first is you cannot read purchased iBooks or Kindle Books as neither Apple nor Amazon will allow other apps access to their copy protected material. Despite this there are thousands of alternative accessible non copy protected book options out there so the app remains useful.

The second problem is that in previous years Apple have made transferring material onto their portable devices like iPads and iPhones cumbersome, especially for those of us who have had to struggle with the arcane areas of iTunes and File Transfer. The developer has tried to help by extending options to copy material off the web, use DropBox and import through Mail Attachments.
Now, however, Apple has provided new iCloud features which make all this much easier. Voice Dream has quickly seized this opportunity to revolutionise the experience of importing books.

Welcome to the new brilliant Loader facility in Voice Dream. To use this feature you either need to have iCloud for Windows installed or a Mac with iCloud Drive setup. You should also make sure you have the latest update to Voice Dream.

On a Windows PC, if you have not already done so, you will need to install iCloud Manager for Windows. You can download this from

ON A Mac things should work by default but you can check by going to system preferences and making Shure that iCloud Drive is turned on.

Back on the PC; accept the invitation to create a free iCloud Drive. You can upgrade to a paid for bigger file storage later if you wish, but the free space supplied should be fine for our purposes.
Once iCloud Drive is setup life becomes easy.

On the Mac just press command shift Drive to reveal iCloud Drive in Finder.
On Windows you will find iCloud Drive under your name in your normal user folder on your C Drive. You may also find a Shortcut to your iCloud Drive on your Desktop.

Finally you need to make a onetime change in Voice Dream Reader settings on your iPhone, iPad or iPod. Go into settings and check the box which says iCloud Sync.

Now if you want to add content from either your PC or Mac into Voice Dream just go to your iCloud Drive, find the Reader folder, and inside that you will
Find the Loader folder. I have set up a shortcut to this on my Desktop.

Into this Loader folder just copy any documents, eBooks or audio books that you want to read in Voice Dream.

You can put as many files in there as you like, in theory up to the capacity of your device.

Now open Voice Dream Reader on your phone or iPad and after a short while you will find your eBooks or Audio Books loaded ready for reading in your library. This is all automatic. You do not have to manually sync or restart Voice Dream. I have just copied an Audio book into the Loader Folder, went to my iPhone, where Voice Dream was already running, and after a minute my book was automatically shown in my library with the tag new attached.

This is how all Apple Programs should work and should sound the death knell for iTunes type data transfer. It is a bit like using the automatically add to iTunes folder for your music transfers.

The only note of caution is that, like the automatically add to iTunes folder, no files remain in the Loader Folder after an import. This means if you want to preserve a copy of your material on your Mac or PC you should copy files into the folder rather than move material there.

This feature does however mean that you can track the progress of your files from your PC or Mac. As soon as the folder is empty you know that files have been imported into Voice Dream.

Well done to both Apple for making this possible and Voice Dream for taking advantage.

David Griffith
David Griffith









Back to the Future

newer and more powerful is not always better in the technology world.


Like many other Blind people I am fascinated at what the latest technology can provide to increase my independence. There is no doubt that the experience and opportunities for Blind and Partially Sighted users of computers, smart phones and the latest range of voice activated gadgets are immense compared to what was available 20 years ago.

However progress is not linear in all areas. This weekend my main Windows 10 Desktop broke down and is off with an engineer.

This means that I am typing this on my old Windows 7 laptop. this machine normally see comparatively little use, mainly taken out for holidays etc.

Although the laptop is not as powerful as my desktop, going back to it has been a pleasure. Much has been made of the advance of Windows 10 and I had sort of gone along with that.

However this weekend using my Jaws Screenreader at least, I have found that there is so much better that works on Windows 7 compared to the version 10 I was using only last Week.

For those unfamiliar with a Screenreader, this is speech technology which enables blind and partially sighted people to use computers without sight. Whilst I normally have a monitor attached to my Desktop machine, I never turned it on, instead using a keyboard and headphones to drive my PC.

I still have an old copy of Jaws 16 on this laptop but, although I invest £100 a year in upgrading to each latest and greatest version, I am not taking this copy up to 18.

This is because I have found this older version is working so nicely.

For example , an older version of iTunes is working absolutely fine. The interface is snappy. Jaws can cursor up and down the hundreds of the list of Artist column with no problems. In contrast On Windows 10 with Jaws 18 I can only review up to 5 artist names before Jaws starts simply saying “list” repeatedly. This is not very helpful.

As another example I sometimes use the Thunderbird email program . In the time warp of my old laptop I am able to read emails with no difficulty in normal view. Under Windows 10 I can only read emails in the much more inconvenient tabbed view. In this same time warp Thunderbird is again enabling Jaws to identify spelling mistakes as I type, a feature I cannot get to work under windows 10 for love nor money.

A couple of further examples complete the point.

I use the Amazon Audible service for some Talking Books. On this laptop audible works smoothly , recognising my Talking Book Playing devices. Under Windows 10 the experience is very different. Devices are not recognised and I receive repeated annoying requests to re-activate both the main Audible software and my Talking Book devices. this re-activation window is impossible to complete with a screenreader running, even if you have sight, so is effectively inaccessible unless you turn off your access software. Time to call a long suffering sighted relative for even more help.

Finally Although there are not so many features in Windows 7 as in Windows 10 the older Operating System has worked well with Jaws, consistently announcing important notification messages

In Windows 10 I hear not messages but anonymous unexplained notification sound. this forces me to investigate the clunky Notification Centre which is poorly interpreted by Jaws 18. On Windows 7 Jaws 16 reads important announcements clearly , rather than my hearing unhelpful tones. This seems so much slicker and helpful.

This whole experience has reminded me that even in the world of technology, not all that is newer is necessarily better. If I am to read print books I need to scan them. Even now, despite trying newer technology, The best and most accurate scanning technology I possess consists of an ancient XP Acer Netbook which most people would laugh at today, allied to a 10 year old document Scanner I purchased before taking a Masters Course in 2006. People are even more surprised to find that I use the free scanning tools available in the even older Office 2003. I still find this setup outperforms more expensive solutions costing over £2,000. For example my EyePal Camera scanner cost £1,600 and the specialist Kurzweil Scanning software came in at £665. I dread the day my old XP setup will die as it will be impossible to replicate.

So all that is shiny is not necessarily more. The search for new features can reduce basic functionality. Technology companies like Freedom Scientific (who produce Jaws), should be striving to keep good basic functionality, enabling a smooth every day experience. Unfortunately this is not their strategy, rather they are focussed on adding enticing new features every year to retain and extend their customer base. They clearly feel it is difficult to justify the steep upgrade hike of £100 to £150 a year if all they offer is continued good functionality. After this weekend I think I would trade some of the bells and whistles for good continued functionality.

Like many Blind People I will still be on the look out for possible technological opportunities which whilst not necessarily life transforming, will offer perhaps a marginal edge in coping better with sight impairment.

However this laptop at least will remain an upgrade free area.

David Griffith
18:17 06/11/2016