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Penfriend XL is a powerful screen reader with text magnification, Word Prediction and On-screen Keyboards in many languages. Penfriend XL is primarily a tool to help those with special needs, but can also be used as a teaching aid. It can be used to help with:
Modern language teaching (MFL)
English as a second language (ESL)
Penfriend XL is built on the well established Penfriend XP. As well as multiple languages it adds screen reading and multiple onscreen keyboards. It helps anyone learning foreign languages. It provides speech feedback and screen reading of virtually any text from web or word processor in native voices, highlighting words as they are spoken. It will also simplify the typing of European languages when your computer is set to operate in the UK. It comes with several lexicons for each language which currently include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Swedish as well as UK English and Scottish Gaelic. It even has Latin lexicons. It will also help those with dyslexia and physical disabilities in English and any of the other languages it covers, providing the highest quality word prediction available.
Topic vocabulary can easily be added. Thus if you are working on a specific textbook and the text is available in electronic form, in about a minute you can teach Penfriend the new words in that book.If we don't have a lexicon for a language you want to use you can produce your own if you have substantial amounts of text in that language in electronic form.
New preferences have been introduced. For instance you can now set the minimum length of word predicted. Thus when selected, Penfriend will only predict words longer than a length you set.
Over time further lexicons, including topic lexicons will be provided on the Penfriend website. For most of the commoner languages native voices are available.
Penfriend word prediction software suggests words, as you type text into your preferred word processor or text editor.
Penfriend XP can predict the next word you want to write in English and Penfriend XL can do so in many languages.
Penfriend is very good at guessing the word you are typing after you have entered one or two initial letters. One key press, or one mouse click on your chosen word in the prediction window, then completes the word for you.
Penfriend will then go on to predict the next complete word you want to type and it is almost always very successful in doing so. It is in fact possible to write an entire document simply by clicking on Penfriend's suggested words in the prediction window, after typing in only the first few letters.
One user commented that "This software is spookily good at prediction".
Penfriend's word prediction uses a dictionary of known words, along with detailed knowledge of when they are likely to be used and words you have used before. Every time you type a letter, it comes up with a new list of the most likely words which fit your letters. Choosing one is a simple matter of pressing one more button, or clicking on the word with the mouse. If you're not sure how to read it, you can hear it spoken before you choose a word. This is valuable for those who have physical disabilities or dyslexia. But it will also help those wanting to write in a language that they are learning.
Minimising the predictor window switches off prediction and all the assistive functions in Penfriend. Useful if you want to type an email address without spaces after the full stop, or type numbers whilst predicting using number keys.
Homophones, sometimes known as ‘confusables’, are words which have a similar sound but differ in spelling and meaning. Examples of homophones include ‘there’ and ‘their’, ‘where’ and ‘were’ and so on.
Confusable word hints
With over 400 homophones in the English language, similar sounding words add depth to a language but they can also be the cause of great frustration. Spell checkers can’t be relied upon where these troublesome homophones are concerned. Confusables are often highlighted by people who experience dyslexia as a source of annoyance and confusion as you could accidentally end up with a properly spelled word, but the wrong word!
With Penfriend’s new option ‘Confusable word hints’ (go to View and Preferences) you can now see and even hear the difference between confusable words, so there’s no excuse to get ‘pair’ and ‘pear’ or ‘bear’ and ‘bare’ mixed up anymore.Abbreviation Expansion Now accepts unlimited length and number of abbreviations. Up to 12 can be displayed at one time.
Penfriend XL comes with a screen reading and text magnification facility, just click on the folders on your desktop or read web pages and hear them read with native voices. Speak the list of words offered by your word processor's thesaurus or spell checker.
The spoken text is transferred automatically to the clipboard where, if a large font is used, it can be magnified for those with visual impairment. There is an icon in the clipboard which allows you to switch the screen reading on and off at a single click.
The speech feedback facility in both Penfriend XP and XL means that it also speaks back the text you are writing. It can be configured to speak each letter as it is typed, each word as it is completed, and each sentence. It can read words from the prediction list when you point at them, when you choose them, or automatically when they change. It can also read back whole paragraphs (or more) of text from other applications using the clipboard. This might be your document, a web page, an email, or almost anything else.
While speaking text from the clipboard, a window can be shown which follows the voice, highlighting each word as it goes. You can click on a word to hear it again, or to speak a fragment of the text. This can be used in conjunction with the screen reading to enlarge and highlight words being read from web pages or the desktop.
Spell checking, Thesaurus and Dictionary
The screen reader in Penfriend XL makes it possible to read and highlight alternative spellings, synonyms and dictionary meanings available in Microsoft Word. These can all be read out, and if necessary magnified,on a right click.Thus although it does not have a spell checker built in, it gives direct access to the excellent Spell Checking, Thesaurus and Dictionary available in MS Word.
Penfriend XL comes with keyboards for many languages where their colour and size and font size can be adjusted to suit the user. Anyone can type easily in a foreign language.
The on-screen keyboards in both the XP (English only) and XL (multi-language) versions of Penfriend will be particularly useful for people either with physical disabilities affecting their use of a keyboard, or for those with dyslexia by reducing the visual strain of glancing repeatedly between the screen and keyboard.
It is also useful to anyone wanting to type in a language that is different from the default language on the users computer. Typing French on a computer set up for use in the UK or German on a computer set up for use in France becomes simple with Penfriend XL's keyboards.
There are now additional characters such as Â€,[,],@,# available via the Alt key. And the English keyboard now has the accented characters used in Gaelic.
A very valuable feature of Penfriend XL is that it allows you to access, speak and enlarge the spell checker, thesaurus and dictionaries in Microsoft word. Right click on a word and view the spelling options, synonyms and meanings available in Word's dictionaries.
The words being read can be automatically transferred to the clipboard where if a large font is used they are magnified and highlighted as spoken.
This works in any of the European languages Microsoft provides
Penfriend will work with many switch access applications to provide a fully switch accessible predictive writing environment. It integrates fully with Clicker 4 and Clicker 5.2 It can work alongside Discover Switch and the Windows On-Screen Keyboard.
Penfriend doesn't claim to know all the words you want to write in advance, but it is very good at learning them. Every word you type is analysed, and Penfriend can learn those it doesn't recognise. Depending on your spelling, you might ask for new words to be predicted immediately (as appropriate), or perhaps just to be remembered and then checked by a teacher.
Another feature is the ability to ban words. Thus risqué words, or words that a child should be able to spell can be banned, so that they are never predicted.
Penfriend holds new words in a specially marked list, so that you can easily review the ones it has learnt recently. There are various tools for manipulating these, such as approving only those used several times. This is also a useful tool for a teacher to see the spelling errors that a child is making.
As well as learning new words, Penfriend keeps track of the ones you've used, and your style of writing. This all helps to predict the right words next time!
Often you want specific vocabulary for a particular topic. One of the major advantages of Penfriend is that it is very easy to teach it new words either from the clipboard or a text file. Thus if you have a document with the words you want to use in it, it takes seconds to teach the program these words. They can then either be kept for the future or used for that one session. It is your choice.
An abbreviation expansion system which reconstructs full words or sentences from abbreviated typed text can be a very important benefit to people who suffer from motor difficullties or dyslexia. Reliable abbreviation expansion reduces the number of keystrokes that users need to input in order to communicate in full and rich language
As well as predicting words using the letters you type, Penfriend can store phrases or other words, assigned to special codes. When you type the short code and press Space, Penfriend can automatically replace it. This can speed up writing of commonly used phrases or even sentences.
Penfriend's abbreviation expansion function is under user control. So, naturally, you can control the abbreviations and their associated phrases yourself, adding and removing them at will.
Below is an example of how Abbreviations can now be used. Using the abbreviation qa 11 addresses have been stored. When you type qa they all appear in the prediction window. When you then click on the one you want, in the example CECIAA, its full address is typed into your document.
Penfriend now accepts unlimited length and number of abbreviations.
In English qa, qb, qc are good as abbreviations as there are no words beginning with these combinations.
When you finish a sentence, or use almost any punctuation mark, Penfriend can help you to get it right. Although it normally puts a space after predicted words, it moves that to after the punctuation, and capitalises your next letter. Little things like this give writers the confidence to put their thoughts on paper.
Smart punctuation is a nuisance if you want to type an email address without spaces after a full stop. It can be simply switched off by minimising the predictor window.
Penfriend makes its options easy to understand. There are enough to give you the choices you need for the people you work with, but each makes sense, giving you flexibility and comprehension.
The colours of text, in the prediction window and the on-screen keyboard, can be adjusted. The colour of highlighted words, both text and background, can be controlled separately from the normal words. Whether Penfriend learns new words, predicts them immediately, applies 'smart punctuation', or speaks as you type, can all be decided by you. A document included when you buy the system explains which options would help most.
Further, the options are stored per user rather than for the whole computer. This means you can have several people with different needs using the same system, but each one gets it configured especially for them. So one user might be working in English, another in French. All these preferences are stored in the lexicon .
Gaelic, Portugese, Latin
In Penfriend XL, it is easy to swap between different languages. For example, you can have both English lexicons and French lexicons on your desktop, then while using the French lexicon, you can drag the English lexicon to the Penfriend window to use English. Each lexicon supports one language at a time, so you cannot write a sentence in mixed languages.
The dialogue boxes and menus will be in the "main" language ordered. You can order Penfriend-XL-GB where the menu language is British English, or Penfriend-XL-FR where the menu language is French. Each variant of our "XL" product has all the available languages included in one licence.