Category Archives: textise

Case Study: Web to WAV

reading_triggerApril, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, uses Textise to help her read newsletter articles without getting a migraine. Here’s her story…

“I started getting migraine headaches a few years ago from reading so I had to give up 99% of my book reading. I really love to read newsletters, though, and it would take me forever to catch up because I could only read a little per day. So I was trying to find a software for my computer to read things to me and I found your Textise app. I combine that with Zabaware TTS Reader for Windows. 
 
“I click on an article in my newsletters, then right click to Textise it. I then copy the text to the Zabaware software and convert it to a WAV file so that I can listen to it while I’m doing other things. I also have a talking book machine from the WI Talking Book and Braille library. It lets you listen to daisy, WAVs, and MP3s. 
 
“I can  listen to them on my tablet, computer, or Talking Book player.
 
“Textise has helped me reduce my migraines a lot and allowed me to keep up with my reading. Thanks!”
It’s great to hear of the creative ways our users find for Textise. If you have a great story about how you use Textise, let us know via the Contact Page.
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How do you use Textise?

Please let me knVoting imageow what your main use of Textise is by completing the poll below. No prizes, I’m afraid, just the satisfaction of helping me understand how best to take Textise forward. If your main use isn’t listed, or you’d like to expand on it, feel free to add a comment to this post. Thanks!

How to use Textise

Easy ways to use TextiseThere are various methods you can use to easily access Textise, either from the home page or by using browser short-cuts.

Here are your options…

From the Home Page

This is the way Textise started out and it’s still a useful way of using the tool. Just navigate to http://www.textise.net and you’ll see an input box marked “URL or search term”. As the label suggests, this allows you to either type in a URL or input a word or phrase you’d like to search for. If you’re searching, the drop-down underneath allows you to specify which search engine to use. Hit “Textise” or “Search” and you’ll be taken to a text only page showing either the page you specified or the search results.

Note 1: If the string you enter doesn’t contain any full stops (aka periods, aka dots), the program will assume you’re searching (since a URL always contains at least one full stop), in which case it won’t matter which button you press.

Note 2: For URLs, the program will add missing information. For example, you can type in “bbc.co.uk” and Textise will understand that you mean http://www.bbc.co.uk.

Note 3: If you type in a URL and click “Search”, the program will search for the URL using the currently selected search engine.

Firefox Add-on

For Firefox users, I’ve created an add-on that makes it easy to flip in and out of text only mode. The add-on can be accessed from the the right-click menu or from the Tools menu. Click once to enter text only mode, click again to return to the original page.

You can find more details on the Firefox Page or on the Mozilla site.

Note 4: The Mozilla site currently shows a rating of 3 out of 5 for the add-on. This is unfortunately the result of problems I had with Firefox 3.6: the structure of add-ons was changed for this version and this broke my original code. In the end, I had to re-write it from scratch. The latest incarnation has survived all of Firefox’s recent rapid version changes.

Bookmarklet

The bookmarklet provides almost exactly the same functionality as the Firefox add-on but works with all the major browsers (including Firefox). The major difference is that the bookmarklet can be configured to sit in a browser’s bookmarks/favourites bar, making it very easy to click in and out of text only mode. The underlying code is exactly the same.

You can find the bookmarklet on the Bookmarklet Page.

Note 5: For most browsers, it’s possible to simply drag the bookmarklet from the Bookmarklet Page into your bookmarks/favourites bar.

Textise Bookmarklet for iPad

Lorenzo Orlando Caum (@lorenzocaum) has published a brilliant tutorial on setting up the Textise bookmarklet on an iPad. I use this myself and can thoroughly recommend it.

Textise 3.0

Searching For A Heart Of GoldI’m pleased to say that I’ve now published a new version of Textise. Let’s call it version 3.0. This version sports a brand new hairstyle and an enquiring mind.

Seek And Ye Shall Find

First up, you now have the option of displaying a search box on some sites. This option is not switched on by default because, to be honest, it breaks the “text only” model, but you can enable it on the Options Page. When enabled, you’ll find a search box on selected sites, right at the top of the page. The feature doesn’t work with every site in existence containing a search form because the job of disentangling the myriad ways in which forms are submitted is too much for my brain. Instead, I’ve added  search boxes to popular sites whose search functions are easily replicated. As of writing, these are:

addons.mozilla
about.com
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
ask.com
baidu.com
bbc.co.uk
bing.com
cdwow.com
dictionary.cambridge.org
ebay.com
ebay.co.uk
google.co.uk
google.com
imdb.com
twitter.com
metacritic.com
reddit.com
sogou.com
taobao.com
wikipedia.org
yahoo.com
yandex.ru
youtube

I’ll be adding others as I find (and test) them. If you have suggestions for other sites, just write to me via the Contact Page.

Now that pages can contain search boxes, I’ve also decided to reduce the number of search engines available from the home page. These are now Bing, Google and Yahoo only.

Skip to content

Regular users of Textise will know that it skips over the nasty navigation section of a page, directly to the main content – but only sometimes! This limitation is imposed by the page itself: if Textise can find an internal bookmark and a “Skip to content”-type link that points to it, it uses it. Otherwise you’re stuck with ten screens of unpleasantness to scroll through.

So it’s a useful feature, although not previously optional. Now, however, you’ll find that you can disable it on the Options Page. It’s still enabled by default. One reason you might want to disable it is that the new search boxes appear at the top of the page, not at the start of the content, and you may not want to skip straight past them.

*** Stop Press ***
Another option is now available: Strip navigation. This option will remove all content up to the main content, assuming Textise can identify it. It requires you to also have “Skip to main content” selected. Doesn’t, unfortunately, work with PDF conversions. I’ll have a think about that.

PDF

I’ve wanted to add the option to convert Textise’s text only output to PDF format for a while now but just couldn’t find an easy-to-use, cost-effective (free) solution.

So I’m pleased to report that pdfcrowd has come to the rescue, offering a fantastic free service that requires the addition of a single line of HTML code. Genius. Try the “Convert this page to a PDF” option next time you convert a page to text. Very useful if you want to save your text only output to read later.

ALEXA

There’s lots of anti-Alexa emotion on the ‘Net and there are some valid doubts expressed about its accuracy/relevance/usefulness. However, when Textise’s Alexa rank tumbles (which is a good thing) like it has been recently, I’m happy to go along with it.

Today’s rankings for Textise (I’m writing this on 21/02/2014) are 355,852 globally, 16,486 in the UK. These are pretty good numbers when you consider that there are over 650 million web sites in the world, over 10 million of them in the UK (with a “.uk” address).

Update 22/02/2014: Ha! The Alexa scores have now gone up! Told you it was rubbish. 🙂

Privacy

The use of cookies on web sites is becoming a big topic so I’ve finally got round to adding a Privacy Policy page where you can see how Textise uses them. In a sentence, Textise uses cookies to store your preferences and to provide anonymous analytical data (using Google Analytics). The analytical data is really useful because it allows me to see which sites are being converted to text and where users are located.

You’ll notice a pop-up nag box on the site now, asking you to accept the use of cookies. I’m afraid this also appears on the text only output but I have to make sure that all users see it and not everyone visits the home page (lots of people use the Firefox add-on or the bookmarklet and never need to go there – I know this because of the analytical data I get!).

Rest assured though, you need only click the acceptance button once and it’ll disappear from the whole site, forever (as long as you don’t delete your cookies!).

FIXES

Both the site and the web service have been spruced up a bit.

I noticed that the Mail Online site was causing Textise to crash out for no obvious reason. It’s a pretty nasty site, with long, long pages of links to the usual salacious celebrity stories and bigotry wrapped up as journalism. As you can tell, I love the Daily Mail but I didn’t let my personal feelings get in the way. It turned out that the problem was caused by the presence of unusual (and unnecessary) hexadecimal characters in the HTML of the pages, which I promptly zapped. All good now (apart from the wretched rag itself).

Some Chinese sites were also causing problems, this time by including “on” events in image tags (for example, onerror=”…javascript…”). This made an absolute mockery of my image processing code. Also now fixed.

I’ve also modified various other bits of code, sometimes in a spirit of tidiness, other times to very slightly improve performance. Actually, performance has improved dramatically anyway since the recent move to Hosting UK but you know what that (UK) supermarket ad says. No? Oh well.

If you have any comments or suggestions for Textise, please get in touch via the Contact Page or add a comment on the Feedback & Suggestions Page.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks #2

A few more ways to make your text only output look funky/clear/interesting…

Easy on the eye

Black Tahoma font, 18pt, on a silver background. Like Sunday morning.

Easy on the eye

Exercise book

Proper old skool, this one. It uses the “Lined paper” background texture and the MV Boli font in blue. Add smudges and doodles to taste.

exercise book

Column

You can make text easier to read by restricting its width on the page: reducing eye/head movement is important in reducing eye strain. Use the “Text width” option to set a comfortable size. You can optionally add a border on the right-hand side, dotted or solid (it’s dotted in this example).

column

Manuscript

This is fun – you can make any web page look like something out the Lord Of The Rings or the Dark Ages. Just select “Manuscript” from the background texture drop-down and Maroon MV Boli.

manuscript

After writing this post I’ve been inspired to have a look for some more textures – and I might have a look at using Google fonts too. Keep an eye out!

Tips ‘n’ Tricks #1

Textise is a lot more configurable than people often realise. Using the Options page, you can choose how you’d like you text only output to look, from font colour to the way that links are formatted. The Options page can accessed from the Textise home page or any “Textised” page.

Textise Options page

Below are a few ideas and suggestions – just click the thumbnails to see bigger versions.

Vanilla

This is the way that the text only output is formatted by default. Font is Tahoma 14, links are in bold, underlined when hovered over.

Default settings

Underlined links

In this mode, links on the page are shown underlined instead of bold. To achieve this, just change “Link appearance” to “Underlined”.

Underlined links

No links

To get that true “text” feel, all links can be shown as plain text by selecting “Plain text” in the “Link style” section. Note that, in this mode, the links are no longer clickable: they really are “text only”.

No links mode

The other choices in the “Link style” section are “Textised” and “Original”. “Textised” means that links will lead to the text only version of a target page; “Original” means that links navigate to the “real” page.

Computer console

Finally for today, here’s a fun config: the full geek look, complete with Console font and lime text on a black background.

Computer console

More tricks ‘n’ tips soon!

Subscriptions

Convert-your-Blog-Visitors-to-Subscribers

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.