Category Archives: Development

Can you hear me, Mother?

We’re trialling ReadSpeaker’s funky text-to-voice technology on Textised pages where the main content can be identified, like the BBC News Page.

Why not give it a go and let us know what you think?




I’ve been making some changes to the way that Textise manages subscribers. Subscriptions are available to web masters who want to use Textise to power Text Only/Accessibility links on their pages. The rules for subscriptions are pretty simple, as laid out on the For Web Developers page:

Commercial use

Textise is free for personal use. For commercial purposes (including, but not restricted to, the creation of text-only links that use Textise or calls to the web service for commercial web sites), please contact me using the Contact Us page.

My intention isn’t to charge all sites for this facility. For example, one current site using Textise is the Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health and I’m very happy for them to continue using the tool for free.

I was recently contacted by the official web site for the State Of Oregon, requesting a subscription for a few of their domains, and I’m pleased to say that their new, Textise-driven text-only links should go live on 23 July 2013. The web master of the sites also requested some small changes to the way their text-only pages render, with which I was happy to comply. These changes are:

  • The request for PayPal donations at the bottom of a text-only page is now removed for subscribing sites.
  • The message “This page has been Textised!” is changed to  “This text only page was specially created by Textise for <domain name>” for subscribing sites.

These changes will apply to all subscribers from now on. In the future I intend making further changes that will benefit subscribers, for example the facility to convert a Textised page into a PDF.

If you run a web site and would like to use Textise to create maintenance-free Text Only/Accessibility links on your pages (or you already use Textise in this way and haven’t got round to subscribing), please get in touch via the  Contact Us page.

Textise WP7 app – ‘Testing in progress’

I’ve gone and done it now, haven’t I? I’ve submitted my app to the Windows Marketplace where it’s being tested. Or possibly not, this being a Sunday, although I suppose it’s possible that the little Microsoft testing elves are cruelly made to work 7 day weeks. Here’s hoping!

I had such fun, reading through the lists of prerequisites and dos and don’ts and not likelies*. Had to make three logo images, all in different sizes (not that hard, I’ll grant you) plus screenshot PNGs showing the WP7 emulator screen (but not phone chrome) at 100% (created using the W7 snipping tool), plus write full description and featured app text (as if that might happen!), etc., etc. Must ensure that app title in the manifest is the same as in the submission, must close my eyes and count to 3 before hitting submit…

But now it’s all done and the waiting begins. I’ll let you know.

One thing I’ve added to the app was a “skip to content” feature. This (optional) option scans the incoming web page for a link to an internal bookmark that reads “skip to content” or “jump to primary content” or something like that. The app then grabs the target of the link (something like “#maincontent”) and navigates there automatically. This method only works on sites that have taken the trouble to include “skip” links but it works brilliantly for the BBC site, Independent and Guardian (although not the Guardian front page due to an error at their end – and never sorted out by The Red Prince** when he was Mr Tester Man!).

I’ve also added the “skip” feature to the main web site. I don’t know if you’re going to like it and, at the moment, it’s not optional (unlike the WP7 version). I think it’s much better but please let me know if it really messes with your Textise experience.

In the meantime, I’ve also been having the most enormous fun with HTML encoding. To start with, the new app was displaying all sorts of weird characters so I had to do some explicit conversions of quotation marks and the like to their HTML equivalents. Then, Textise user @drizo72 got in touch to ask me why this Greek web site wouldn’t convert properly. The answer is, I don’t know at the moment. One thing I do know is that I’ve made it slightly worse by putting a new rule in to change weird characters into pound signs (so looked better): now the whole page looks like an economist’s breakdown. It’s a bit of a weird site anyway (far too many redirects and nonsense for my liking) but it does concern me that Textise isn’t coping at all well with non-Latin code sets. More forum trawling for me, then…

(Postscript: Guess what, the snipping tool made correctly-sized images but left a bit of my Windows toolbar on the bottom. I only realised this when I added the screenshots to this post! I’ve fixed them now but, of course, the messed-up versions have already gone off to Microsoft. *sigh*)

* No, I don’t know if you spell it like that but it’s not a proper word anyway so there.

**He knows who he is.

Textise WP7 app – nearly done

Worked quite a lot on the app yesterday and today (yes, working – for you! – on a Bank Holiday Weekend).

Most of what I wanted to do for the first release is now done and it looks sort of like this..

That’s a terrible picture, isn’t it? It was taken using the webcam on my new Samsung R540 laptop, which is fabulous for the money but won’t help me win any photography competitions.

Anyway, the app has Textise and Search buttons (just like the web site), a recent history list and font size selector. All in all I’m pretty pleased with it and it helped me learn a lot about WP7 programming. Expect it to hit the Marketplace sometime soon (-ish)!

Textise WP7 App – now in development

I’ve started work on a Textise app for Windows Phone 7. I’m a big fan of the WP7 (in spite of some slow updates) so I’m quite excited about writing my first app.

You can see how far I’ve got in the screenshot. I originally wanted to use a white background to maintain consistency with the way Textise looks on the Web but I’ve read that too much white can eat up battery life so decided to go with the standard WP7 black. (Black, it’s all BLACK! BLACK! BLACK!) Downside is that I’ve probably got to create a reverse logo.

Like the web version, Textise on the WP7 will have a front page (Home) where you can type/paste in a URL or search term. Bing will be the (only) search engine because it’s the WP7 standard and Google have blocked Textise

I’m hoping to get most of it finished this weekend, after which I’ll start on the long, long road to the WP7 Marketplace. I’ve already registered, paid, verified myself (had to send a signed kidney to a company called Geolocate) and unlocked my phone.

I still need to have a think about whether to charge, how much to charge, whether to offer a trial, whether to produce a free “lite” version and a paid “full” version (with, say, bookmarks), whether to go with adverts. Quite tricky.

If this goes well, I’ll consider doing an iPhone app.

In other news, you can say “bye bye” to the Hello Bar. They reduced the functionality so I’d pay them. I didn’t. No great loss, I think.

Ta ta for now!

New Page For Web Developers

The new page, For Web Developers, is now fully updated. An important new feature is the “notextise” class, which allows developers to control what gets converted to text on their site and what gets ignored. This means that they can offer a neatly formatted, text-only view of their pages without all the untidy navigation links that often clutter up the page.

This is also useful for “printer-friendly” links.

I’ve also created a test page for the “notextise” class: have a look.

In other news, I recently fixed a few things:

  • Rogue styles and classes in tags (for example, in anchor tags) are now zapped.
  • Fixed a problem with an initial “>” in text-only output.
  • Info from the web service is now returned as an HTML comment.

Introducing the Textise Bookmarklet

Charged any good windmills lately?Want to know the great thing about Firefox? It’s that you can write add-ons for it without messing about with Greasemonkey or something. So, when I wanted to offer users the ability to toggle in and out of text-only mode, I wrote a Firefox add-on. Thing is, whenever I was using another browser (I’m known to occasionally dabble with Chrome/Rockmelt and Safari), I’d get frustrated about how difficult it was to go into Textise. If you’ve had to do it, you’ll know what I mean: copy the URL of the page you want to view text-only, go to the Textise home page, paste in the URL, hit “Textise”. Just so hard!

So I got to thinking (happens after a couple of beers) and the idea of bookmarklets occurred to me. And you know what, this was very, very stupid because, back in 2009, one of you (jlemoine to be precise) had suggested this very thing on the Feedback and Suggestions page. Oh well, I caught up in the end.

The happy ending here is that I’ve written the bookmarklet and you can go get it on the new Bookmarklet page. What’s more, it contains exactly the same code as the Firefox add-on. Doesn’t look so nice (the add-on can can have a nice image in FF) and doesn’t have right-click menu functionality but it works on all the browsers I’ve tried and should be really useful if you like to flick in and out of text-only mode.

Let me know how you get on with it.