2002 Conference Proceedings

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CHOOSING A SCREEN MAGNIFIER: ZOOMTEXT XTRA 7.06 VERSUS MAGIC 8.0

Kevin Dusling
American Foundation For the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, New York 10001
Phone: 212 502-7638
Fax: 212 502-7773
kevind@afb.net 

Mark Uslan
American Foundation For the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, New York 10001
Phone: 212 502-7638
Fax: 212 502-7773
muslan@afb.net

At present, there are three products to choose from: ZoomText Xtra (version 7.06) from

AI Squared, MAGic (version 8.0) from Freedom Scientific, and Lunar Plus (version 4.5) from Dolphin Computer Access. All three products have screen reader capability. In this evaluation, we review ZoomText Xtra 7.06 and MAGic 8.0. The CSUN presentation will also include a review of LunarPlus 4.5. ZoomText Xtra 7.06 costs $395 without the screen reader and $595 with it built in. MAGic costs $295 without the screen reader and $545 with it built in. However, while both products support Windows 95, 98, and ME, ZoomText Xtra also supports Windows 2000 and Windows NT.

Firing Them Up and Trying Them Out-

Both screen magnifiers were installed on a laptop PC and a desktop PC. The laptop was running Windows 98, and the desktop was running Windows 98 and Windows 2000 with NT. All the features were tested in the Microsoft Office Suite and Internet Explorer 5.0. We compared the utility of 10 features and functions offered, how well each feature and function worked, and how easy they were to use. We also noted any instances of problems, such as bugs and crashing.

Documentation-

Both manuals are well organized, in font size 18, and come with a quick reference guide. Installation was equally easy for both screen magnifiers. One additional source of help that ZoomText Xtra offers is a tutorial that runs on the computer. It is easier to follow and learn from than the manual because of speech output, large text, and animated graphics.

Magnification-

Both products offer magnification up to 16 times and have four different types of "primary magnification windows" that can be repositioned and resized. ZoomText Xtra also offers magnification in five "secondary magnification windows" that can be placed over the "primary magnification window." In MAGic, the borders of the "primary magnification window" can be adjusted in thickness and color. MAGic offers vertical "stretching" of the screen. ZoomText Xtra offers both vertical and horizontal "stretching" of the screen.

Finding Your Place-

Both ZoomText Xtra and MAGic have "locator" features to help you see where you are in the document. ZoomText Xtra has four types of "locators" that can be set to blink, but these "locators" do not function in "full screen view." MAGic has three "locators" that do not blink, but they do function in "full screen view."

Panning-

In ZoomText Xtra, you can use "panning" to move the magnified view in any direction automatically. The default "hot keys" for "panning" are the Alt key followed by the arrow key. While "panning," you must hold the Alt key down; once you release it, "panning" stops. Hitting the arrow key in the current direction increases the speed.

In MAGic, the screen can be automatically "panned" in any direction, and the speed can be adjusted. Once the "hot key" to begin "panning" is pressed, "panning" resumes until another "hot key" to stop it is pressed or until the bottom of the screen is reached. MAGic also has a "panning" option called line jump. When the right side of the screen is reached by the magnified view, the view is redirected to the left side of the screen, where "panning" then continues to the right again. The magnified view is also shifted down on every pass to give the effect of reading a document. The distance that the document shifts down, as well as the delay in transition from the right side of the screen to the left, can be controlled.

Keeping Track-

Both MAGic and ZoomText Xtra offer "tracking" of the mouse, caret, menus, windows, and controls. In ZoomText Xtra, the delay period before any new activity is tracked can be adjusted. A boundary that allows "tracking" to take place only within a certain area of the screen can also be set up.

Mouse Features-

Both MAGic and ZoomText Xtra allow 16 different colors for the mouse; the "inverse" of mouse foreground and background; and adjustment in the size of the mouse, including extra large. In MAGic, the mouse can be set as a cross hair or a bull's eye, and all features are also available in the "unmagnified view."

Color and Contrast-

In both products, it is possible to use the "inverse" contrast function in the "primary magnification window" and the "unmagnified view." In MAGic, you can also specify to "inverse" only the "primary magnification window" or only the "unmagnified view."

ZoomText Xtra lets you invert only black and white or only the shades of gray that are present on the screen. Colors can also be converted to their equivalent shade of gray. ZoomText Xtra also allows for adjusting the contrast from low to high. These additional features work only if your display is set to 256 colors.

Smooth and Easy-

MAGic's "smoothing" feature is easy to use. It just needs to be turned on to smooth every color.

ZoomText Xtra has two settings for "smoothing." One is for "smoothing" black text on a white background. The other is for "smoothing" custom colors. To use the latter setting, you must pick the color of the text you want to "smooth" with the Smoothing Colors Tool.

Screen Reading-

Both ZoomText Xtra and MAGic's screen readers have many voices whose pitch and speed can be set. There are "verbosity" settings to control how much is spoken and controls to read as you type or use the mouse to read a letter, word, or line at a time. For reading documents, there are many different options, such as reading the entire current window or document, reading the current line of a document, or simply saying the contents of the clipboard. "Hot keys" can be used to access these functions.

ZoomText Xtra has a module called DocReader, which takes a text document and displays it in a new magnified view that acts as a prompter or ticker reader of all the text. DocReader formats the text to fit on the one-line ticker or multiple line prompter without cutting off any words. It automatically scrolls the application's page down as it gets to the end of a line. Many settings can be adjusted in DocReader, such as the speed of the text being read, the spacing in between characters, highlighting of the text, and all of the screen reader options like volume and pitch.

ZoomText Xtra also has a Speak-It tool. When this tool is selected for use, the mouse arrow changes into a new arrow graphic that has arcs drawn around it, and when you click on a word, it is read out loud. Also if a section of text is highlighted, the screen reader will read the selected text.

MAGic does not have similar advanced modules, but it is easy to use. It was able to read web pages by using it's "hot keys," whereas to read text off a web page with ZoomText, one would need to use ZoomText Xtra's Speak-It Tool or DocReader. MAGic has additional built-in features, including the capability of "panning" automatically to view all the text on a line. It can also be set up to highlight by inverting or underlining the current text being read.

Perks-

MAGic has created a function that affects Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Word, and Excel. In Word, spelling errors can be displayed in one simple dialog box. In Excel, a dialog box can be displayed that shows all the cells with their data. A cell can be selected from the list, and the "focus" is changed to that cell. In Internet Explorer, you can reformat the current web page so that images are removed and the page is rearranged to make for easier reading.

ZoomText Xtra allows you to set up to 10 targets, which are user-designated regions of the screen. When the hit target "hot key" is pressed, the magnified view jumps to the target. For example, to check the time of day periodically, a target can be placed over the time display located in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. When the hit target "hot key" is pressed, the magnified view shows that area of the screen. There are also talking targets that read all the text in the window.

The Bottom Line-

Both ZoomText Xtra and MAGic are stable products--in over 10 hours of testing in Office 2000 and Internet Explorer, we did not experience even one instance of crashing or erratic behavior. They also do what they say they do. ZoomText Xtra did particularly well in Documentation, Magnification, "Tracking," and Color and Contrast. It also supports Windows NT and Windows 2000. MAGic did particularly well in "Panning," Mouse Features, Enhancing Images, and cost. Both products did well in Finding Your Place, Screen Reading, and Perks. When you have two good products that do the same thing but in different ways, it bears keeping in mind the simple refrain, "try before you buy." If you need to choose between the two, get to know both and see which one better meets your needs.


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