Monday, May 17, 2010

Using Android Market Eyes-Free

The Android Market is a treasure-trove of applications --- many of which work out of the box with Android's Access API, and as a result, the freely available screenreaders on the platform. Working with Market can be initially daunting, given the large collection applications; additionally, there are a couple of spots in the workflow that need access improvements. While we get those fixes pushed, here is a step-by-step overview of using Android Market with TalkBack, including the work-arounds for moving over some of the afore-mentioned hurdles.

Android Market: A Brief Overview

Rather than giving a detailed explanation of all of Android Market's user interface, I'll sketch my day-to-day mode of using Market --- personally, I find task-oriented help guides far more usable.

Task: Find Application
  • I typically launch Android Market from within the Applications list in the Eyes-Free shell. On my Droid, I typically do this with the keyboard already opened since I know I'll be typing very soon.
  • I press the Search capacitive button on the bottomright of the display to bring up the search tool. Note that Market can sometime take a few seconds to launch depending on your network --- TalkBack should announce Market when it's ready.
  • Type a search query --- as an example, try audio books
  • Use the D-Pad arrow keys (up/down) to navigate the list of results. TalkBack speaks each entry as you move through the list.
  • Find one you like; for this example, we'll use one of my favorite Market applications --- AudioBooks from project Librivox.
  • Press the Enter key on the keyboard to open this application
  • This takes you to a screen that lists a short description, and comments from various users on the application. The install button is on the bottom of this screen.
  • And here comes the sticking point in the Market UI that we're working on fixing; when you cursor through this list, you dont always get to the install button.But no fear, you can still install the application!
  • While we work on creating and pushing the fix for the above, I typically install applications by tapping the screen where the install button appears. The bad news is that Ipresently do this by dead reckoning; the good news is that the install button always appears at a consistent spot. The easiest way to learn to do this is to have someone put your finger on the button the first time, and then learn its position relative to the pull-out keyboard. While we know that this is not an ideal eyes-free experience, this little trick opens up a treasure-trove of applications.
  • Tap the install button, and you come to the permissions screen. Cursor to the OK button, and press Enter Depending on the layout of that screen, you may once again need to use dead-reckoning. At this point, I routinely click those on-screen buttons, rather than wasting time attempting to cursor to the button.
  • And voila, the AudioBooks application should download and install!
Task: Browse Market

In addition to searching, you can also browse the Market for available applications, use the cursor keys on the D-Pad for browsing. Once selected, installing an application follows the same workflow as above.

And The Best Is Yet To Come

Once installed, you can try out the application by pulling down the status bar. Look for the next posting in this series for details on using application AudioBooks --- it is one of my all time Market favorites.

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