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TalkBack Crash Course



TalkBack is Google's screen reader for Android devices. Understanding accessibility issues without experiencing them is difficult. Take 5 minutes to read this article, download the cheatsheet, and then go to your app with your fingers and ears.

What is a screen reader?

What it sounds like: It reads what is on the screen.

It conveys the interaction with the screen

When a screen reader is active, the screen touches it. It seems like a space to explain what you are pointing at. It also provides a gesture language to tell you how to interact with the thing you last pointed out. There are also motions to control the device in general, such as triggering the Back button.

It tells you what you touch

You can touch anywhere on the screen, listen to what the screen reader says, and if you have touched a button or anything else you can communicate with, ask the screen reader to click it for you at to double click.

It maintains a current focus

Imagine you have entered an email. Now you have to click the Send button. It can take a long time to find the button just by examining the screen and listening to what is at each touch point.

So that is an alternative. The screen reader keeps an item in the focus. Touching the screen places the focus on the affected item. But from there you can "look around" that point by swiping left and right. This seems like using Tab and Shift-Tab to navigate a form in your browser.

This term "focus" also lets you act on the current focus: Click a button, start editing in a text box or press a slider. Unlike the normal touch proofs used to do these things, TalkBack's movements are addressed to the screen as a whole. You can double-click anywhere on the screen to click a focused button.

Getting Started with TalkBack

How do I turn it on?

  • Open the "Settings" program.
  • Select "Availability" from
  • Select "TalkBack" from the "Services" section.
  • Change it to "On".

To make things easier in the future, you may want to configure a shortcut shortcut.

How do I turn it off?

Return to Settings and turn off TalkBack there.

To make TalkBack easier to turn on and off, you can enable suspension and resume shortcut in

How do I use TalkBack?

TalkBack is completely controlled by a finger.

Objects with two or more fingers will not be handled by TalkBack. They will be sent directly to the underlying view. Two or more fingers will "crawl the veil" so you can pinch to zoom or scroll the same as ever.

How do I look around?

  • Forward: Swipe right with a finger everywhere on the screen to move the focus forward.

    Back: Swipe left with a finger anywhere on the screen to move the focus back.

How do I examine what is on the screen when touched?

Press, listen. Press somewhere else, listen again. You can also tap and drag to explore the screen faster.

How is this useful?

  • Jump to known place: If you know which widget to interact with, is somewhere in the middle of the screen, this can get you close to it and you can swipe the focus from there.
  • Hack around busted availability: Not all test their apps using TalkBack. Being able to aim the focus "by hand" can break you out of a focus loop or let you focus on something you might not otherwise tip.
  • Skimming : Touch-and-drag can be faster than pushing the focus around with separate swipes.

How do I write?

Google keyboard supports a variation of exploration:

  • Push your finger around until you hear the letter you want. [1
    9659015] Lift your finger. This writes the letter.

This combines the "find" and "asset" certificates to speed up writing.

Some third-party keyboards follow Google's example.
Others do not – sometimes, of their choice; Other times, apparently out of ignorance.

How do I interact with the focus?

  • Click: Double-click anywhere on the screen with a finger.
  • Long Click: Double-click and hold anywhere on the screen with a finger.

How do I navigate on a long website?

Maybe you're wondering what is spinning up and down now. This allows you to fine-tune which left and right swipes do by changing the navigation settings . Instead of moving item to element, they can navigate in a more specific list of things, such as "all headers" or "all links".

  • Next navigation setting: Swipe down
  • Previous navigation setting: Swipe up

Swipes are also how to scroll:

  • Scroll forward: Swipe right and left [19659015] Scroll backwards: Swipe left and right

And they give

Focus first item on the screen: Swipe up and down

  • Focus last item on the screen : Swipe down and up
  • As a bonus, you can use the local context menu (more on this below) to ask TalkBack to read all the links in a block of text without having to mark through the list itself.

    What about hardware buttons?

    For this you will use angle movements. These go one direction, then 90 degrees in another direction.

    These also allow you to trigger other system-level actions, such as displaying notifications.

    Gesture Cheatsheets

    Basic D-Pad: Moves

    Simple swipes affect focus.
    Swipe left and right to move the focus between items.
    Swipe up and down to change what item to focus on.
    For example, you may just want to focus on headlines or links.
    (If you've used iOS VoiceOver, this is a bit like some of the Rotor options.)

    Back-and-Forth: Jump

    Quickly and quickly back to where you started in a continuous motion jumps either focus or scrolls the screen.
    (Although a slider is focused, its thumb scrolls rather than the screen.)

    Swipe up and back to focus the first item on the screen.
    Swipe down and back to focus the last item on the screen.
    If you know that the item you want to focus is near the top or bottom of the screen, these movements can help you focus the object faster.
    You can also build muscle memory for the controls in an app relative to these anchor points.

    Swipe left and right to scroll up or to move a slider to the left.
    Swipe left and right to scroll down or to move a slider to the right.
    You can also use two fingers to roll as always, because two fingers touch
    is ignored by TalkBack.

    Angle: System Buttons

    Actions such as Back, Home and Overview once had hardware buttons.
    They still occupy a privileged place in the UI.
    TalkBack also gives them pride: they have their own dedicated movements.

    Angle certificates corresponding to the hardware buttons involve sweeping to the left:

    • Home: Swipe up then left
    • ] Back: Swipe down to the left
    • Overview: ] Swipe left and up

    Angle movements that involve sweeping to the right are more peculiar to TalkBack:

    • Message tray: ] Swipe right and down
      • This lets you pull the tray down without worrying about the feeling of the top of the physical screen.
    • Local context menu: Swipe up right
      • The contents of this menu are partly dependent on the current focus.
      • For example, if you have focused an unmarked image, you'll see an option to give it a custom label.
      • But they also provide another way to change the type of object focused.
        If you change the target element with the menu, it may be quicker than repeating single or multiple welds.
    • Global context menu: Swipe down and right
      • If you want to tell TalkBack to read some of the content, or read about something, or even copy the last thing you read to the clipboard, this menu is for you.
      • It also has convenient shortcuts to TalkBack Settings (where you can, among other things, change motion behavior) and an alternative to Dim Screen.

    Try this at home!

    • Configure Your Own Immediate Untreated Actions
    • Use the local context menu to set a custom label for an imperceptible widget
    • Use the global context menu to "Dim Screen". This will answer the entire screen so you have to lean on TalkBack to interact with your device.
    • Use the Google Accessibility Scanner app on your app's homepage. What problems does it find?
    • Explore the hot keys available with a hardware keyboard.

    Other Aids

    TalkBack is not the only help technology available on Android. Here are several other unique ways people can interact with your app:

    • BrailleBack: as TalkBack, but for Braille displays
    • Change access: can be a switch or two as in a sip-puff straw device
    • Voice Access: Handsfree Control

    For The More Curious: How does TalkBack work?

    It navigates in a virtual tree with accessibility nodes. Fortunately, the SDK classes are building these hubs in most cases. The tweaking tree can enhance the experience, though. And if you build a custom view or abuse a warehouse one, you need to work a little to make it available.

    TalkBack transmitter performClick () and performLongClick ()

    as needed.

    For more, dig in the documentation android.view.accessibility and follow the links from there.

    For even more, Google has published TalkBack and Switch Access source code. Included is a test plug that performs the functionality of both. Playing with this test tip would be a great way to see what these tools can do.


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