GWKB1053 : How to Create Drawings with Window-Eyes and PowerPoint

Product: Window-Eyes
Author: Joe Renzi
Date Added: 12/05/2006
Last Modified: 12/05/2006

What a Winning Combination.

With Braille embossers able to print graphics, blind people are entering the "Graphics Age". Technical fields are becoming increasingly more visual and graphical. It is possible for blind people to obtain Braille graphics through various means but almost impossible for blind persons to produce a graphic by themselves without the assistance of a willing sighted colleague. Even the simplest diagram composed of connected basic geometric objects is almost impossible to draw. Until recently, Object scale, position, and consistency were factors beyond my control. Even a simple stick figure drawing which could convey so much information was out of the question until now! As the old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words".

With the advent of GW Micro's PowerPoint support found in Window-eyes 6.0 and Microsoft's PowerPoint office product it is now possible to construct simple high quality drawings without assistance. GW Micro's ability to read important object information along with Microsoft's wonderful keyboard interface makes this a reality.

Presented below is the procedure for drawing the most basic state diagram. This diagram represents two states of a single flip-flop and a single input of two values. Actually, just one input value is depicted. Don't worry if you don't understand what I am talking about. For the layman this is just two circles hanging out with a single arrowheaded line connecting them. Whoo! Good that we cleared that up ayh! You may find a better way. I certainly hope so because this one is tedious. However, the important point is that it is doable.

Procedure for drawing and connecting objects, a state diagram.

Note: These steps may vary depending on the version of PowerPoint you're using.

Open PowerPoint and get a new slide. Delete the subtitle and title on the slide just because I don't know how to use them.
Alt-u - selects the auto shapes menu from the toolbar.
Arrow down to basic shapes and press enter.
Arrow down to oval and press either enter to place the oval where the mouse pointer is or control-enter to place it in the center of the screen.
I always recommend placing the oval at the center of the screen and moving it because the mouse only announces text and not shape graphics. Knowing that your object starts out in a known position is a good frame of reference. Also, sometimes I could not find the object with tab or shift tab after pressing enter because it is difficult to always know where the mouse is. I suspect that if the mouse is in the wrong place then maybe nothing happens until the mouse is positioned correctly. So! Pressing enter seems like a bad idea unless you are sighted.

If you are lucky enough to have an oval created by pressing enter or you press control-enter, the oval is still selected. You can move it around the screen with the four arrow keys. Window-eyes will announce its position to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Once you have positioned the first oval press enter to edit it. When you press enter you will be able to type a label inside the shape. The amount of text depends on the size of the shape. Too much text and the label will spill outside the shape. You would then have to resize the shape using the format menu. Pressing enter places a return at the end of the textline inside your label. This is probably not what you want since most labels will be a single line. Press ESCAPE to get out of edit mode. The edited shape will still be selected. Pressing ESCAPE once again will return you to the slide, deselecting this shape and rendering the four keyboard arrow keys useless.

Now follow the above to place another shape of your choosing on the slide. It is good to label all shapes so you can find them later with the mouse. You will have to do this if you want to connect them.

Connecting Shapes

In order to connect two shapes:

Press escape twice so that no object is selected. Pressing the keyboard arrow keys produces no positional messages confirming this fact. Press insert-numpad-plus to route the mouse to custom control. Then you can find the text inside labeled shapes with the mouse keys: numpad-four and numpad-five. If you don't press insert-numpad-plus first then the mouse keys will only find the help like text and the question search box. Press insert numpad-plus anytime you lose the ability to find a shape with the mouse.

Once the mouse speaks the correct text label, the shape's nodes will be highlighted.

Press alt-u and select the type of connector you want to use from the autoshapes menu. In my case this is a straight arrow. Press Enter NOT CONTROL-ENTER and the connector will be placed on the shape's node closest to the mouse pointer. If you press control-enter then the connector will be placed at the center of the screen doing nobody any good. Press left-click, numpad-slash, to snap and connect the connector to the object. Now, simply use the Window-Eyes numpad mouse keys to find the other object. It is important to place the mouse on or in, overlap, the shape. All it has to really do is touch. Press the left click again and the other end of the connector will snap into position and connect to this second shapes node. The other end of the connector moved by moving the mouse. If you place another connector connecting the same two objects along an identical path, the PowerPoint browser will distinguish them as different. However, they will emboss or print as exactly one line and you will not be able to distinguish them tactally. If this happens you can reroute the connector as long as you have not tabbed to another object. If you inadvertently tabbed away, just tab back to the connector you want to change. Reroute the connector as follows:

Press shift-f10 or alt-r and arrow up the context menu or drawing toolbar until you find reroute connector. Press enter and this connector will snap to two different node positions. When you reprint these two connectors will show up as different lines. Performing this reroute procedure again will not change the connector to be rerouted. I think this reroute procedure causes the connector to move to an alternate pair of nodes, the closest ones without changing the connector's shape. It seems that this reroute procedure is only performed once.

Press ESCAPE once to deselect all objects. Now, label the connector you just used so you can distinguish it from new ones.

Labeling a Connector

The procedure for labeling a connector is different from that used to label an auto shape. In fact, pressing enter on a highlighted connector will do nothing. When you tab/shift tab to an object or connector they are highlighted. Tab to the unlabeled connector and press alt-o for format. Arrow up to autoshapes. Press enter and right arrow to the "web" property tab. Press tab and type your label. Remember! Property sheets have an "OK" button so tab to it and press it with the enter key.

The single drawback to connector labels is that they only show up in the PowerPoint browser onscreen. They will not be printed or embossed. Nevertheless, it is important to label them just the same so that the labels will distinguish the connectors when you tab/shift-tab around the diagram. Hopefully, there is a work around to this unfortunate shortcoming. If anyone knows of a way to make these important connector labels appear in print I would enjoy hearing from you. Connectors will not show up when you mouse around so it is really important to tab/shift-tab around to make them speak.

Window-Eyes and its mouse only read text and the text or textual information associated with graphics. Actual connection nodes will not show up. This is why it is so important that every autoshape or connector be labeled. I labeled these ovals: #00, #01, #02, etc. When I find a connection point with the mouse it makes a difference whether I place the mouse on the leftmost, middle, or rightmost character in the label. I place the mouse on the leftmost character of the label of the first object to be connected and then connect the first end point by applying the above procedure. When I find the second label for the connector on a different object I make sure I place the mouse on its leftmost character before connecting the second endpoint by performing another single left click. When I add another connector to a pair of connected objects I place the mouse on the rightmost character of the first object label and the rightmost character on the second object label. The final single left click will produce a connector line which is furthest right. The idea here is really very simple. Use the characters in your text label to position the connector. Using the furthest left characters places the connector furthest left. Using the middle characters places the connector in the middle and so on. I restate this because it is so important. It should be obvious that a single object will have several connectors emanating from it.

You can repeat this tedious but logical process over and over again.

Save your work and emboss it on your favorite graphics printer. I know the Tiger Pro works but I don't know about anything else.

Regarding the Tiger, you can select all by typing control-a. Press alt-o to go to the format menu. Then arrow to the font dialog box and set the font's name to Braille Tiger US, it's style to regular, and its size to 36 point. Exit out of the dialog and when you print your drawing your labels will be in Braille. Other Tiger fonts will also produce great Braille. However, that one happens to be my favorite for a number of reasons.

There are some other keys worth mentioning. You can press the Window-Eyes hotkey control-shift-s. You will hear the summary or status about any object selected with either tab or shift-tab. This key announces position, size, and whether or not the object is connected. Finally, pressing delete when on a selected object deletes this object.

In conclusion, though my experience with PowerPoint is limited, I would like to pass on some observations for the What Its Worth column. I found the arrow head difficult to feel at the end of the arrowed connector. I first selected the connector with the tab key. Then I went to format with alt-o and used the colors and lines tab to change the begin arrow style to no arrow, the end arrow style to stealth arrow and the size of the arrowhead to nine. It didn't help much because it was still hard to feel. There are plenty of shape options to play with so I'm sure there's a better one. You can also select a shape and go to the format menu with alt-o and select the colors and lines tab. Tab over to the color fill drop down menu and select no fill. Press enter to confirm the selection and check the box in this dialog's property tab which says to use this as a default for all new objects. This will make the object easier to feel. Remember to say "OK" to save these changes.

It might help if you set PowerPoint's object defaults to the "best possible" setting to produce the best "first run" as you may need successive runs to get the diagram just the way you want. This is just a first look at what can be done and I am sure you will improve the process. I would appreciate knowing a way to clear all the onscreen help text unless you want it.

If you have to move an object with the arrows to make room for a new one, the connected objects move with it. This preserves meaning and eliminates the tedium of making reconnections. Even though connector labels don't show up on printouts, they are retained when the diagram is reopened for viewing in the PowerPoint browser. You and a sighted colleague can still benefit from their onscreen information. Maybe Microsoft will fix this informational loss on paper in the foreseeable future.

GW Micro thanks Joe Renzi for supplying this knowledgebase article.

Sample PowerPoint Drawing Presentation