A new round of beta testing for Android's TalkBack screen reader has begun as the first beta of TalkBack 6.1 has been posted.
This version includes several features that will work on Android 5 and above and some additional options for Android O users. Among the highlights is support for additional navigation levels in native apps. Previously, you could navigate by controls, links, or headings in web pages in Chrome but not in native apps which also include these features. Assuming an app developer has coded these correctly, you can now choose these as a navigation mode in addition to others such as characters or words.
A new option in the Global Context Menu brings up a language dialog which will let you quickly switch text-to-speech languages on the fly. This can also be assigned to a gesture if you wish and accessed from a Bluetooth keyboard.
Android O users also gain some additional features including a way to change some TalkBack settings on the fly such as speech rate and verbosity.
An audio demo of two of the new features of TalkBack 6.1 beta has been posted to Inclusive Android.
To join the TalkBack public beta and receive new versions as they are posted, you first need to join the Eyes-free mailing list though you can elect to not receive messages via Email. Then, Select this link to join the beta. For now, The usual caveats about beta software apply. Here's the complete list of features from the announcement.
What's new in TalkBack 6.1
Source: Google Groups
New: Languages dialog -- allows users to select from of the installed TTS languages.
Available from the Global Context menu
Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+ALT+L
Assignable to a gesture from the Talkback Settings -> Gestures dialog
To use: install the languages of interest first, Global Context Menu -> text-to-speech settings -> Google TTS -> Settings -> Install Voice Data
Should also work with third-party TTS engines
New: additional navigation settings for native apps
to use: swipe up and down to choose the setting, then left and right to navigate by that setting. The settings are:
Controls -- navigates between buttons and edit fields
links -- navigates between links, e.g. web links, phone numbers, email addresses, etc
Headings -- navigates between section headings
These navigation settings will only work if app developers provide correct information
New: Editing controls are now assignable to a gesture in TalkBack Settings -> Gestures
New (for Android O and later): Setting Selector -- allows users to change TalkBack settings on the fly
Setting Selector requires Android O and a fingerprint sensor to work
Setting Selector is off by default
To turn on, go to TalkBack Settings > Selector > toggle the switch to on
Once the Selector is on , swipe up and down on a fingerprint sensor to switch between pre-defined TalkBack settings, swipe up and down on the screen to change the value for the setting
Current settings: speech rate, verbosity, navigation and audio-ducking (they can be toggled in the Selector settings screen of TalkBack Settings).
New (for Android O and later): Speak Passwords is now a TalkBack setting. Please note, the passwords will only be spoken when they are shown on the screen by the app. Otherwise, only typed characters will be spoken. For Android N and earlier the behavior remains unchanged.
Fix: navigating with the TAB key should now correctly focus on the last element in the window and speak it
Fix: TalkBack will not speak during the phone call unless the user touches the screen
Fix: Pressing volume keys during continuous reading will not interrupt speech
Fix: browsing in Chrome and web views should be smoother
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.