GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, MAC vs Windows Computers and iPhone, May 14, 2018

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting May 14, 2018


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held May 14at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

17 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.


May Topics –MAC vs. Windows Computers and iPhone


MAC vs. Windows PC Discussion

There are several things to keep in mind when you are in the market for a new computer. The following are some considerations:


  • What do your friends and/or family use?  These are the people you will turn to for assistance. Are they a Mac or PC user?


  • What are you going to use the computer for? Most employers use Windows PC and Microsoft Office.


  • Microsoft Office works well on a MAC, too.


  • BrailleNote Touch works with both PC and MAC.


  • A MAC computer is more expensive than a PC. However, voiceover is built in and if you use a screen reader you do not need the expense of paying for JAWS.


  • On the other hand, you can get the NVDA screen reader (by a small donation) and it works with Windows.


  • If you are buying a new computer for a specific purpose, e.g. work or school, make sure you have enough time to become proficient with it before you need to use it for that purpose.


  • The built-in magnification on Windows is very good and in some respects is better than the magnifying program ZoomText.


  • One caution with MAC is that the operating system is colour-based and if you have some vision this can be overwhelming.


Russell’s MAC Experience

  • In 2009 Russell bought an iMac. At first, he was frustrated with all the interacting one had to do on the Mac, but after a while, it became second nature.
  • One concern Russell did have with the Mac is that Voiceover, the built-in screen reader on the Mac, did not let the user know when text was formatted in a heading style. This has recently change though, and in High Sierra, the latest Mac OS, and the latest version of Pages, the Apple equivalent of Microsoft Word, VoiceOver does now announce when text is formatted in a heading style.
  • Websites are easy to browse on the Mac with either Safari or Chrome. You can navigate by headings, links, visited links, etc. There is also a “Quick Nav” setting that allows single-letter navigation, so you can navigate a website by headings by pressing just the letter “H”, just as you can do on the Windows side using Jaws or NVDA.
  • Russell said he considers the Mac to be as accessible to a blind person as is Windows but did warn that there was no accessible database program for the Mac so, if a user had need of a database program, the Mac might not be the way to go.
  • Another factor that might prevent someone from purchasing a Mac is that a Mac computer usually costs quite a bit more than a Windows machine. This might be offset a little by the durability of a Mac. Russell purchased his iMac in 2009 and used it for 8 years without much of a noticeable slowdown till the last year.
  • Russell advised that if a blind person was looking to purchase a new computer, they shouldn’t be afraid to purchase a Mac because of accessibility concerns. The main thing is to think about what you will be doing with the computer, how much you are willing to spend, and then go out and try both platforms to see which you like better. If you are currently a Windows user, and plan to move to a Mac, there is quite a steep learning curve, so don’t purchase a Mac a week before beginning University or college courses.


Laptop versus Desktop


Some things for you to ponder as you decide about buying a laptop or a desktop:


  • What will you be using your computer for? If you will be using it mainly for email and web browsing, then a laptop will do. If you will be using your computer constantly, especially in one location, then you should probably get a desktop.


  • How much do you want to spend? A desktop priced around $300. – $400. will be about the equivalent of a $1000. laptop.


  • The keyboard on a laptop is smaller and may not have a built-in number pad which is necessary for navigating the screen with JAWS.


  • It is good to have some separation between the groups of function keys, so you don’t press the wrong ones.


  • It is also good to have space around the cursor cross keys, so you can quickly find them.


  • If you elect to buy a laptop you can still buy a full-sized keyboard and a large monitor to connect to your laptop.


  • When you buy a computer the F1-F12 function keys are often pre-set to special laptop functions.  This is not good for non-mouse users because many Windows functions require the F1-F12 keys (e.g. Alt+F4 to close programs, F2 to rename files etc.). To allow them to behave as normal Windows F1-F12 functions you may need to reset them in the laptop settings or get your vendor to reset them.


  • Laptops are more expensive to repair.


  • How much will you be moving around?


  • Desktops are generally faster although most of us don’t need the speed to do simple computing such as email, browsing, document writing.


  • Desktops are becoming smaller – now you can carry around a desktop and plug it into a monitor.


  • You can get breakage insurance if you think it is worthwhile.



iPhone Gestures

Gerry took a small group to demo and discuss iPhone gestures related to the rotor and text entry/editing.

  • The rotor gesture consists of using 2 fingers or 2 thumbs to make a small clockwise or counter clockwise rotating motion on the screen. Each rotation navigates through a contextual menu of options and each of these options has a submenu of choices that can be selected by flicking up or down with one finger.
  • For example, the rotor menu items might be characters, words, headings, speech rate, language and so on. If you were browsing a web page and you rotated to the Heading menu then you would flick up or down with one finger to jump forward or backward to headings on the web page. If you rotated to the Speech Rate menu you would then flick up or down with one finger to speed up or reduce the rate of Voice Over speech.
  • The rotor menu is contextual because the menu items change depending which program you are using.
  • You may add, remove, or reorder items on the rotor menu by going to Settings, then General, then Accessibility, then VoiceOver, then Rotor.
  • The rotor is handy for editing typos in dictated text. For example, suppose you are in the text message app focused on the message text field. Double tap with one finger to start edit mode. Now you can double tap with 2 fingers to start dictation, say your message, then double tap with two fingers once more to end your dictation. Now if you hear that there is a mistake in the dictated text you can correct it with the rotor. Rotate on the screen with 2 fingers until you hear the choice called, Words. Now you can flick up or down with one finger to move forward or backward a word at a time to the incorrect word and tap the delete key to erase one character at a time. You may also rotate to the menu choice called, Characters, to navigate the text by character.


Next Meeting (Monday June 11 at 7pm)

  • Huseyn has offered to demonstrate how a blind person can use the iPhone to take pictures and record videos.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Meeting Location and Logistics

  • Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
  • We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
  • Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
  • Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
  • If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

To subscribe, use the form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.


National GTT Email Support List

CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:


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