Ever since the initial release of the Skype™ client in mid 2003, people from all around the world have used it to initiate high-quality voice and text conversations, send and receive files, and stay in touch with one another. The visually impaired community, likewise, has used Skype since then to facilitate equal communication with each other and their sighted counterparts.
However, as the service has grown, so too has the program. For years, screen reader users have kept up with Skype's ever-morphing interface either with custom patches, scripts, or apps. While largely successful, such utilities must be constantly maintained as any new version of Skype can, and often will, cause previously working scripts or apps to stop functioning properly.
In mid 2011, Skype announced its SkypeKit developer program. This service allows program developers to directly access nearly all Skype services without the additional need of traversing its user interface. Developers, therefore, can create their own interface to Skype and seamlessly integrate it into their own products. And, because the underlying Skype services are much less likely to change on a whim, GW Micro decided to take advantage of this service and create a simple, elegant, fully accessible interface to Skype which is designed with the visually impaired community in mind.
GWConnect is an application that is plugged into Skype. Having full control of the user interface also means that unlike the official Skype client, GWConnect's interface will not dramatically change from version to version. When you learn how to use GWConnect today, you can be confident that your knowledge will continue to apply in the future as new versions are released.
- GWConnect will always make the Skype service available to blind and visually impaired computer users regardless of new versions of Skype that are released.
- GWConnect is a demonstration of the power of interfacing with Window-Eyes.
- All blind and visually impaired users who are running Windows can use GWConnect at no cost. Even those consumers not running Window-Eyes can still download and use GWConnect. Note that non-Window-Eyes users will receive periodic advertisements every half hour. To run GWConnect ad-free, visit the GWConnect catalog page to purchase an activation license. Note that aside from running with ads, the free version has no other restrictions.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some frequently asked questions and answers regarding
GWConnect. If you continue to have questions or require assistance after
reading this section, please use the information in the "Contact
Information" section to reach a GW Micro support specialist.
Do I have to install the official Skype client to use GWConnect?
No. The GWConnect setup contains everything required to interact with the
Skype service. You may, however, install the official Skype client and switch
between the two programs at your own discretion.
Do I have to be a Window-Eyes user to run GWConnect?
No. GWConnect will work with all recent versions of Windows screen readers
and magnifiers. GWConnect is written to allow all blind and visually impaired
people, regardless of screen reader preference, to have an easy, accessible
How much does GWConnect cost?
GWConnect costs nothing. It is available for free at http://www.gwmicro.com/apps/GWConnect.
If you are not a Window-Eyes user, however, you may purchase an ad-free
experience by visiting the GWConnect catalog page at http://www.gwmicro.com/catalog/gw_connect.
Can I sign up for the Skype service with GWConnect?
Yes. To sign up for Skype, simply open the "Sign In" window from
under the Skype menu and click the "Sign up for Skype" button. You
will be taken to the account sign up web page at Skype.com where you can create
a new account. When your account has been successfully created, enter your new
Skype username and password into the sign in window, click "Sign In,"
and you can begin using Skype immediately.
Why does my password disappear when I open the sign in window?
The part of GWConnect responsible for handling communication between the
GWConnect user interface and the Skype service handles all password storage and
management. As such, GWConnect itself never stores your password for any
reason. Thus, if you have GWConnect set to automatically sign in to your
account and you have instructed it to remember your password, the program will
do so until you manually sign out.
Whenever I talk to someone, the rest of my Windows audio gets turned down.
How do I fix this?
Windows Vista and Windows 7 include a feature where the operating system
automatically ducks any background audio whenever services such as GWConnect
are used. This has the unfortunate consequence of also turning down your
software speech synthesizer. To disable this:
- Press the Windows key to open the Start Menu.
- Enter "sound," and press the Down Arrow until
you reach the Control Panel applet.
- Press Control-Tab until you reach the
- Your keyboard focus lands in a group of radio buttons.
Press the Down Arrow until you reach "Do Nothing."
- Press Alt-A to activate the "Apply" button.
- Press Enter to close the dialog.
Now, when you make or receive Skype calls, your Windows
audio settings will be left alone.
Why can't I send or receive video calls?
While the Windows Skype runtime includes some video support, the needed
infrastructure was not made available in time for GWConnect 2.0. GWConnect will
be updated to support video calling in a future update.
Can I run GWConnect and the official Skype client at the same time?
Yes. If you are running GWConnect 1.03 or newer, you may sign in to both Skype
and GWConnect with the same account on the same computer with no conflicts. If
you are running older versions of GWConnect, however, you must sign in to
separate accounts for each program to prevent a database I/O error. In either
instance, no conflict will occur if you sign in to your account on multiple
Take care, however, that you have no overlapping global hotkey definitions
between both programs. Otherwise, whichever program loads first will receive
access to the commands. For instance, if you have Skype and GWConnect set to
pick up incoming calls with the Alt-Page Up hotkey, and you load Skype after
GWConnect, then GWConnect will use the command because it was loaded first.
Additionally, there may be unpredictable behavior if both programs attempt to
access the same audio hardware simultaneously. If possible, use separate
hotkeys and audio devices for each program to minimize any potential resource
Will I be able to use third-party plugins (such as call recorders) with
No. Third-party plugins which utilize the Skype desktop API are currently
not compatible with custom Skype clients-- including GWConnect. On the other
hand, programs which create virtual audio devices for the sake of capturing
audio such as Total Recorder from www.TotalRecorder.com
have been reported to enable call recording in GWConnect.
Do others on my contact list have to also run GWConnect before I can call
No. Your contacts may use any Skype client which supports voice calls and/or
text chatting such as GWConnect, the official Skype client for Windows, or even
Skype for other operating systems such as Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Linux. In
the end, GWConnect is simply an accessible front-end to the same Skype service
used by millions of people around the globe every day.
Why does GWConnect keep changing my preferred audio input device to my
sound card's microphone?
If you have a sound card such as an SB Live Value or SB Audigy and use
Windows XP, GWConnect will only be able to access the generic input driver
exposed through Windows. As a consequence, you cannot directly configure the
hardware input (microphone, line in, stereo mix, etc.) from within GWConnect's
options window. If this happens, the Skype runtime will always select the
microphone despite what you may have set in the Windows Volume Control. While
Skype is aware of this issue, there is presently no way to disable this
behavior. If possible, use a different sound card with GWConnect which exposes
individual hardware inputs and outputs.
I sometimes receive a "Connect Error" message when I try to send
a voicemail. What can I do?
This is a Skype Kit issue which is still under investigation. An update will
be made available once Skype identifies and corrects the problem.
GWConnect technical support is available exclusively through the GW-Apps
mailing list. Here you can interact with other GWConnect users and GW Micro
staff should you have any problems, suggestions, or questions. To subscribe to
GW-Apps, visit http://www.gwmicro.com/lists.
GW Micro offers no telephone-based support for GWConnect.
Skype™ is a trademark of Skype Technologies S.A.