Monday, August 27, 2012

Writing and Reading Support Built-in to Common Word Processing Programs

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

Chances are, if you’ve ever used a computer you have used a word processing program. Composing an email, editing a document, formatting a newsletter, and posting a blog are all examples of word processing. Word processing offers users the ability to create documents, change the typeface, increase or decrease the font size, and otherwise manipulate, save, and print text.
Some word processing programs are more feature rich than others. While WordPad and Notepad do the job just fine, they offer little literacy support in the way of correctional cues, prediction, or feedback. Common writing support tools include Spellchecker and AutoCorrect. Spellchecker flags words in a document that are not spelled correctly by placing a red squiggly or dotted line under the misspelled word. Users can access the electronic dictionary and select the corrected word. For students who have difficulty writing, Spellchecker will easily distinguish misspelled words and offer corrections which could aid the student with their writing confidence. This feature has become ubiquitous not only in commercially available word processing programs such as Microsoft Word and Pages, but also in free word processing tools such as OpenOffice Writer and online processors like Adobe Buzzword. Firefox, Chrome, and Safari web browsers also include Spellchecker in fields where you can enter text. There is a free Spellchecker plug-in available for Internet Explorer as well.
AutoCorrect, also known as flexible or phonetic spelling, automatically corrects common spelling errors and improper capitalization, as well as, inserts common symbols or special characters thus by saving time for the writer. This function has become quite common among smart phone users composing SMS messages. There can be a disadvantage though, as some auto corrections result in completely incorrect text replacement. In fact, there are websites devoted to what has become known as “AutoCorrect fail.” For students who need writing support, AutoCorrect in conjunction with word processing programs should be used judiciously and with supervision as the corrections are undetectable visually and happen “in line” meaning once the user has pressed the space bar or enter key, the correction has already taken place without notification. As discussed in Reading with Text-To-Speech, TTS offers students audio feedback for their composed or received documents. The most current version of Microsoft Office 2010 offers a Text-To-Speech feature called “Speak.” To enable Speak, you will need to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Contact our AT Specialists for more information about built in accessibility of Microsoft products. 

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