FSCast #211

February,  2022

GLEN GORDON:  On FSCast 211, Chancey Fleet is here to talk about training workshops offered by the New York Public Library.  Many of them are online and available to everyone worldwide.  Chancey’s also quite the expert on 3D printing and will share some resources for doing that accessibly.  Then I’ll demonstrate what it’s like to use the new Windows Terminal and give an overview of working at the Windows Command Line.

Hello, everybody.  Glen Gordon, welcoming you to our February edition of the podcast.  As many of you know, we have product updates that come out every six weeks.  The February edition are out now.  Unless you’ve done something explicitly to disable update notifications, you have been or you soon will be told of the update you’re entitled to for ZoomText, Fusion, or JAWS.  We encourage you to accept those offers and download the updates, mostly because there are a variety of bug fixes that come out each time, and some incremental feature improvements.  So well worth getting the updates.  And if for some reason you’ve turned off automatic notification, you can always go to our website to download them, as well.

We’re right around the corner from this year’s CSUN Assistive Technology Conference.  It’s happening March 15th through 18th in Anaheim, California.  And of course Freedom Scientific will be present, accounted for, and putting on lots of workshops.  If you want more details about how we’ll be participating and how you can make contact with us, go to freedomscientific.com/events and hit H until you get to March.  Arrow down a little bit, you’ll find the CSUN Conference, and all the information is right at your fingertips.

Power Tip from Negoslav Sabev

GLEN:  Time now for this month’s Power Tip from Negoslav Sabev.  It has to do with an issue that came up on the most recent FS OpenLine.  Someone was talking about doing a PowerPoint presentation, and for whatever reason needing to jump really quickly to a slide while you’re in slideshow view.  And none of us who were trying to answer questions knew about this little tidbit, which is that when you’re running a PowerPoint slideshow, and you want to go to a particular slide, all you need to do is type the number, using the number row.  Press ENTER.  Lo and behold, the slide will change, and the virtual buffer will be updated in JAWS.  Plus, if you happen to hit ESCAPE, you’ll be on that slide, outside of the slideshow, but at a point where you can edit or make changes.

We thank Negoslav for his tip and for indulging my mispronunciation.  The good news is he gets an update to his JAWS license.  If you, too, have an interesting tip, something that most people likely don’t know about – that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for – you can write to us at fscast@vispero.com, fscast@vispero.com.

Training Resources from Dr. Denise Robinson

GLEN:  It’s interesting that different months, different topics come to the forefront, and this month’s clearly is training.  We of course have our own array of training resources ranging from on-demand and live webinars, to YouTube presentations, to written material.  You can find out all about that by going to freedomscientific.com/training.  But there are lots of other people talking about our software as well, including Dr. Denise Robinson.  She has a website called YourTechVision.com where there are a variety of videos, including many on the JAWS Braille Math Editor.  Her most recent on that topic is doing multiline equations.  So if that’s specifically of interest to you, or you want to know some of her other training resources, go to YourTechVision.com or search on YouTube for Your Tech Vision, and you’ll find the resources offered by Dr. Denise Robinson.

David Kingsbury Has a New Book Out

GLEN:  David Kingsbury has a new book out in which JAWS figures quite prominently.  It’s called “The Windows Screen Reader Primer.”  He’s a technology trainer at the Carroll Center in Massachusetts.  And the book pretty much follows the curriculum he does when he’s working with students one on one, covering Microsoft Office apps, Acrobat Reader, various web browsers, and a few other topics, all nicely navigable by using the H key to move by heading in Microsoft Word.  And there are practice files to work on topics of interest to you.  If you’d like a copy of the book, it’s put out in conjunction with the Carroll Center, and they feel strongly enough that people should be able to have it that it’s available for free.  Best thing to do is go to your favorite search engine and search for “The Windows Screen Reader Primer,” and you’ll find it at the top of the list of results.

Interview with Technology Trainer Chancey Fleet

GLEN:  And speaking of training, on the line with me now is long-time technology trainer Chancey Fleet.  She is Assistive Technology Coordinator at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, which is part of the New York Public Library.  She’s also President of the Assistive Technology Trainers Division of the National Federation of the Blind, long-time disability rights advocate and generally knower of most things tech.  Chancey, welcome to the podcast.

CHANCEY FLEET:  Thank you so much.  I’m happy to be here.

GLEN:  I think I’d like to start with you and your journey towards becoming an accessibility and disability rights advocate.

CHANCEY:  Well, I figured out early on that technology had the potential to be very liberating.  I had a laptop when I was in elementary school in the late ‘80s.  And my father made sure that I started exploring screen readers at the same time that I was exploring braille literacy and reading and writing.  And so I always had technology in the classroom.  And when I got to college, Virginia had a great program where voc rehab consumers could become part-time tech tutors.  And I got to go to the homes and workplaces of folks from all different walks of life and help them achieve their technology goals.  And that was my pathway into the industry.

My pathway into advocacy and activism was participation in the Organized Blind Movement, the National Federation of the Blind.  And in that organization early on, responsibilities were handed to me that were unusual for a college student, unusual for somebody without a lot of experience.  So, for example, I got to be an ambassador for the first KNFB reader and demonstrate it to folks and answer questions and give presentations.  One of those presentations led me to my first grownup job after college at ITG.  And I had the pleasure of flying around the entire country teaching federal employees with disabilities how to use their tech.  And that’s my grounding in the field.

GLEN:  There are lots of organizations that train blind people using tech.  But it’s often directly connected to either something you need to do for school or something you need to do for work.  Is that structure ideal?  Or is there a better way to look at things?

CHANCEY:  That structure is necessary because we have a 69% unemployment rate and huge issues with retention in higher education.  So that structure needs to exist.  But it’s not sufficient, and it also turns out not to be a structure where I feel totally at home.  I have a lot to be grateful for in my background supporting VR-related, voc rehab-related instruction.  I learned so much about being organized and coloring with inside the line and navigating systems.  And being in those highly structured environments gave me a chance to meet with people from all different professions and hone my craft.

But the reason why I’m at the library today is that I did become pretty restless working within that model.  There were lots of people that we couldn’t serve – undocumented folks, homemakers, happily employed people, retirees, plus anybody that had questions about something that had nothing to do with work or school.  You might want to learn to use Match.com.  You might want to learn to do some gaming on your own time.  And those aren’t goals that we could support.  And at the same time, I realized that I had a lot of privilege.  Having a lot of blind friends, being in the organized blind movement, when I had a question about something that was kind of off-book I would just ask my friends.  But not everybody has the desire or the means to cultivate those deep community connections.  And if you don’t have them, then everything about learning tech feels kind of hard.

And that’s why we came to the library.  In 2010 we approached the library, myself and a couple other activists, and pitched the idea of doing a Saturday tech coaching program there.  We got some room in their newsletter.  We got some space.  We assured them that we would be able to coordinate everything.  We started out with just a Google Voice number.  And started out just three hours a week on Saturdays in 2010.  And the premise is really simple.  Every goal is valid.  We asked from the beginning, asked people to make sure that they take notes.  And if they have trouble coming up with a note-taking method, we have those conversations about braille and typing and recording and all the methods that people use.

And our coaches didn’t all have the tech background that I have.  A lot of them are just confident blind or disabled people who know how to use their tech.  And we match up individuals with volunteer coaches or now staff.  And I was able to leave my day job in 2014, come to the library full time, and two other former volunteers followed me over.  So we now have a staff of three.  One position, by the way, is open right now.  So reach out if you’re in New York or want to be in New York and think that you might know the right person or be the right person.

GLEN:  So what got the library interested in funding this?

CHANCEY:  So something else funny happened around that same time, still around 2010.  There was a proposal to take the braille books out of the library and send them to storage in New Jersey and use that space for something administrative.  And my community responded as we do by circulating petitions and calling folks and showing up to meetings that we didn’t necessarily have invitations for.  And when all that was over, the chief librarian at the time said, you know, thank you.  The braille books came back from New Jersey.  The books made it back on the shelves.  The chief librarian at the time was appreciative, but he said, “You know, you folks don’t really come to the library.  Younger people are downloading books.  If there aren’t a lot of folks in the branch, then the space may be up for grabs again.  So be aware.”

So that I think definitely factored into our decision to host our project at the library.  And eventually lots of people did start coming in who hadn’t particularly identified the library as a destination before.  They maybe were getting books through the mail for years, or downloading books.  But suddenly on Saturdays there would just be bunches of blind and vision-impaired people coming in, and their families, and their friends, and their assistants.  And other programs started to pop up that weren’t specifically around tech.  We did teach-ins on the rights of college students with disabilities.  We did a seminar on unified English braille before it became finalized.

And the New York Public Library ultimately is here to strengthen our communities and advance knowledge.  And they could identify that we were fitting in with those core values, and they found the funding so that we could provide the same level of technology literacy support to patrons that sighted patrons might find at other libraries, and so that we could be part of the transformation of our branch into a real vibrant happening community space.

GLEN:  How did you reimagine your services once COVID hit?

CHANCEY:  So we did it pretty quick.  I think it was still March when we started hosting workshops online.  We tasked a couple of interns and volunteers with looking at a spreadsheet that had the contact information for our patrons at that time and calling everybody that didn’t have an email address or didn’t check their email regularly, and seeing who was willing to try getting on Zoom.  We started with a mailing list of around 150 people at that time.  So we started advertising there.  We used social media.  We used word of mouth.

And first we started targeting workshops that were solving urgent problems in the community.  So we did this thing called “News by the Numbers” for the nerds that used the wonderful SAS graphics accelerator Chrome extension to help people look at raw CSV data using sonification so that you could actually access your COVID stats.  We all wanted access to those, and there was barely any access, especially in the beginning, that was accessible unless you learned to do this thing.  So we did that.

But we also focused on learning to use Zoom itself and a little bit of G Suite.  And we highlighted online shopping because in that moment everybody was doing online shopping, whether they liked it or not.  And then once the novelty of the crisis had sort of passed, and folks were in more of a normal life at home rhythm, as normal as it ever gets, we broadened back to doing workshops on all of our usual topics, except we brought them online.

GLEN:  What was the impetus to opening these up to people outside of New York City?

CHANCEY:  So our group programs have always been open to anybody who comes into the door.  We’ve never required a library card or identification.  You can simply walk in and participate.  And it wasn’t uncommon in the past for folks to come in maybe from New Jersey, or sometimes even come in as tourists to attend something.  We once had somebody come from Japan.  They were just here for a week, and they popped in at our braille study group.  And we all thought that that was great.

GLEN:  Yeah.

CHANCEY:  So the only thing is the door changed, and the commute got a little better.

GLEN:  Now we’re in 2022.  What’s the nature of the online offerings that you have?

CHANCEY:  So we release a newsletter on a quarterly basis.  And you can check out the lineup.  We have a braille study group that meets in person at the branch and then separately meets virtually on Saturday mornings.  We sometimes have miniseries.  For example, we just wrapped up a three-week series on Google Docs with accessibility in mind.  And then we have a 12-week workshop focusing on JAWS and another one focusing on NVDA that happen every quarter.  And the next round of those will be starting in April.  And the impetus for those was just a patron request saying could we do a deeper dive into specifically JAWS.  And I said, “Sure, let’s start a study group.”  So initially we just called it a study group.  But as we’ve run it it’s gotten a little bit more structured as it’s gotten larger.

And we’re also open to sighted people who have a reason to learn about accessibility.  So once in a while a developer will wind up in one of our workshops, or a parent, or a teacher of visually impaired students.  And because we’re a library, anybody can come in.  We don’t need to see paperwork.  We don’t need you to prove that you’re anything except willing to learn.

GLEN:  Am I right that for these longer workshops that span multiple weeks, there is an email list or other way that people can exchange ideas during the duration of the class and potentially thereafter?

CHANCEY:  Yes, there is.  We use a Google Group.  And our workshops are limited.  We started out limiting them to 25 people.  Now my upper limit is 35 because that seems manageable.  So we have a Google Group where folks can correspond with each other.  We ask folks to think about doing homework, although it’s optional because this is informal instruction.  So, for example, one week’s homework might be using the virtual cursor on YouTube, and then finding a YouTube link that you’re interested in and sharing it with everybody else and reporting back on how it went.

When we get to the very end of the 12 weeks, one of the last things that we do together is checking out the Amazon website because it’s one of the most cluttered websites, and websites that cause people a lot of consternation.  And we do a group exploration of how all of that works.  And we touch on web skills, but also diving into JAWS settings, getting things customized, basic word processing and editing, basic Windows concepts, and additional tools along the way.

So we’ve got that Google Group.  We meet for 90 minutes each week.  And then we offer a recap before that 90 minutes, just a half hour, if you need to hear last week’s concepts again.  Or if you missed a session you can tune into the recap.  And then lastly, volunteers are kind enough to offer a set of notes.  So usually a couple students will volunteer to take notes, and those get posted out to the Google Group so that everybody who wants to participate, regardless of their ability to take notes yet, can jump in.

GLEN:  What do you do about the outliers, the people who are so far ahead?  And what do you do about the people who are really lagging behind where most folks are?

CHANCEY:  So for the people that are jumping ahead, I’ve found a lot of them will stick around and start helping out, which is great.  In particular I’ve got somebody in my JAWS group now that is taking notes and also posting these wonderful explainers to one of the Google Groups.  So some people, if they have the time and the inclination, they’ll know that they’re ahead, and they’ll stick around and start backing up my instruction, which is amazing.  I did not know that that would happen, and it’s just great.

There are outliers who will attend a few sessions and then just kind of nope out if things are going too slow for them.  And I’ll just talk to them and let them know that there are other workshops for specific topics that are at a faster pace, and maybe we’ll see them again later.  Usually we do.

For folks that are just getting started, sometimes being in a roomful of people who are a little bit further ahead is reassuring.  I’ve heard that it makes people feel hopeful, and it’s a way of level setting, and it’s very motivating.  And I’d say if they can understand at least half of what’s going on, then they’re probably getting something worthwhile out of the course, especially since they can always come back and take it again.  If they are experiencing frustration or finding some stumbling blocks that we can’t really get around, for example, if they’re not really able to type and find keys effectively, if they’re not really able to manage Zoom quite yet, that’s when we would say, hey, “Let’s connect you with a one-on-one coach.  Let’s focus on typing or these basic commands and see if you want to pop back in next time the course meets.”

The thing is, since it runs every quarter, it’s not a huge problem if someone jumps in and then discovers that it’s not for them yet.  We can move them to something else that is and then have them reenter.  We let people level set for themselves and decide for themselves if they want to be there.  And, yeah, that’s it.

GLEN:  You helped create, and probably were the impetus for creating, something called the Dimensions Project, which I have not experienced firsthand, but it sounds like 3D models, tactile drawings, all that stuff?  Am I correct?

CHANCEY:  Yes.  So we have – the Dimensions Lab is a free open space where anyone blind or sighted can come in and create tactile graphics, regular braille documents, 3D models.  The only thing that you’re responsible for paying for is filament or paper.  And crucially, we also offer skill-building workshops with experienced graphic designers who now understand tactile design.  A lot of that takes place in person at the library.  But Dimensions has crept into our technology programs.  Last year we offered an introduction to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript with tactiles that we mailed out to everybody.  So we have a tactile color wheel, a tactile box model, serif and sans serif fonts, and tactile representations of the actual size of different font sizes.  And that’s been extremely fun.

And during the peak part of the pandemic, when we were all still quarantining fully, it was so great to jump on a weekly class with folks.  And we couldn’t be in a room with them, and we couldn’t touch any of the same things.  But they could take something out from the mail and have a tangible connection to the concepts that we were learning.  And I think tactile graphics are so powerful in almost every field.

GLEN:  Is this low tech or high tech for generating this stuff?

CHANCEY:  Yes.  So we have embossers.  We have three 3D printers.  And we also have analog tools.  We have a bunch of sensational blackboards that folks can use to draw with a regular ballpoint pen on a rubberized surface.  We have low-temperature, non-toxic 3D printing pens from 3Doodler.  We’ve got a drafting tablet.  We’ve got calipers.  And, you know, sometimes we’ve got clay.  So just like drawing in the sighted world, there’s no one right tool, and there are a lot of different entry points and points of exploration for people.  So we make things as complex as tactile street maps and infographics, and we make things as simple as Valentine’s cards and tactile cursive alphabets that people can study to improve their handwriting.

GLEN:  What do you know about blind people independently using 3D printers?

CHANCEY:  I’m working on a project with the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute.  So if you’re coming to CSUN, come check out my presentation.  And the deliverable will be an online repository of tips for 3D printing while blind.  I will tell you that a lot of the pad software is graphically based.  You probably already know that.  And so if you want to design independently as a blind person, you’ve got to use code.  So we use OpenSCAD; and you can define, join, and subtract from 3D shapes.  And the code is not a whole lot harder to learn than HTML if you’re open to it.  And then you might just use a visual interpreter to inspect the onscreen rendering of your work before you print.  Or if you’re feeling lucky, you can just go ahead and print.

The slicing software that takes code and turns it into something that an individual 3D printer can handle, Simplify3D, which is a paid program, is super accessible.  I’m getting reports that Slic3r is accessible, as well.  And if you can work from the command line, that’s accessible.  There are others like Cura that at the moment that I’m speaking need a lot of accessibility love to make their graphical user interfaces more accessible.

When it comes to the hardware, most 3D printers are fairly accessible if you’re able to lightly interact with a visual interpreter.  So for example the one I have sitting next to me right now does have a little LCD screen that helps me pick a model from my flash drive.  And that’s a two-minute call to be my eyes.  It’s, you know, annoying, but definitely not a showstopper. 

Now, 3D printers extrude material at a very high temperature.  And it’s a little like being in the kitchen.  If you want to be save and confident, it’s best that you understand all the parts of the hardware before you start out.  Learn to identify common problems by sound.  If the filament’s bunching up on the extruder head, often it’s easy to hear that rattle.  Something’s not quite right.  And with practice and care, while something’s 3D printing, you can lightly touch it in a different area and monitor how your print is going.  But just like with lots of other blindness skills, the average sighted person might think it’s dangerous, and there are some tips and tricks that we impart to folks so that they can use the equipment safely and effectively.

GLEN:  I’m really excited.  I had no idea this was going on and that you were working on this project.  Very cool.


GLEN:  And 3D printers are not cheap now, but they are within the realm of some to buy; right?

CHANCEY:  Yeah.  There are a few that start at the low several hundred dollars.  But the thing is, there are lots of 3D printers in libraries and maker spaces and schools.  If you’re willing to improvise a little, you don’t need a lot of specialized blindness-specific equipment to use a 3D printer.  So you can probably find one in your city.  You can definitely find one with us if you’re in New York.  But my hope for the future is that more community centers, more maker spaces will think about non-visual culture moving forward.  And anybody in the community can start that.

So, for example, there’s a group called See3D.  You can just google them.  I think the person that got that ball rolling is Caroline Karbowski, and I believe she’s sighted.  And that’s a group of folks that do 3D tactile design and send out 3D models to any blind person, particularly blind youth, that need them.  And they send out things like maps and scientific material and architectural models.  So there’s a lot of exciting work being done.

GLEN:  Is there anything else I should ask about that you would like to make sure gets covered?

CHANCEY:  I just want everybody to know how possible it is and how fun it is to start a community coaching program.  Again, we did not have any budget, no budget when we started our program.  If you have a pod of three or four willing blind or visually impaired folks, and somebody who’s willing to organize a calendar and organize an onboarding flow for people, I would love to see more ways for blind and visually impaired people to get bootstrapped into information literacy.

It can be really confusing to open a case for voc rehab.  There are some people who aren’t eligible.  And you’re better prepared to deal with the bureaucracy of VR if you have enough information literacy to correspond and to read the stuff that’s being handed to you.  We live in a country and a world where access to accessible information literacy instruction is very uneven.  There are lots and lots of gaps.  And some days it feels like bailing out the ocean with a spoon.  We need more spoons.

And it’s easy to start a small study group.  One of our patrons has actually started his own braille study group in Virginia that meets at a different time from ours.  And he just ran with the model.  And now we have twice as much support online for people that want informal braille instruction.  Please steal our ideas.  Just take everything.  Replicate.  Iterate.  Do what our student is doing on one of my Google lists, and add stuff in, make us better.  We need a patchwork of support in this country and in this world.  And VR is wonderful, but it cannot be the only thing if we’re going to lift up our people.

GLEN:  If people want to take part in some of the workshops you offer, where is the best place for them to get a listing?

CHANCEY:  So you can go to talkingbooks.nypl.org.  That’s our website.  You can also email me.  I’m Chancey, C H A N C E Y, Fleet, F as in Father, L E E T at nypl.org (chanceyfleet@nypl.org).  And if you put “event list” in the subject, I will add you to our Google Group.  We will not spam you.  We will only send you one or two event announcements a week.  And that’s the best way to make sure that you never miss something.

GLEN:  Chancey, thanks a whole bunch.  I’m glad we finally got to talk after I don’t know how many years of knowing about one another.  It’s about time.

CHANCEY:  Thank you, Glen.

Working at the Command Line

GLEN:  When Chancey was talking about tools for doing 3D printing, she mentioned Slic3r.  That’s without the K.  It’s a great tool for preparing files to go to a 3D printer, if you know how to work at the command line.  And that caused me to start thinking that we’ve never really talked about the command line and console windows here on FSCast.  There’s no way that I can possibly teach you all there is to know about these things.  First of all, I don’t know all there is to know.  And secondarily, there’s tons and tons.

What I’m hoping to do in the next few minutes is to give you a general idea of what it means to work at the command line, why you might care, and how you can get started.  And also as a bonus, starting with the February update of JAWS, which should be available now as you hear this podcast, you can actually use the command line interfaces inside Windows Terminal, which is Microsoft’s new and modern way to have multiple command line windows open.

So to start with, what does it mean to work at the command line?  It’s actually one of the older computer concepts that has gotten a revival in recent years.  Back in the old days of mainframe computing and Unix and DOS, working at the command line was sort of the entry point for everything.  And lots of people knew it.  It really is nothing more than a conversation with a computer.  Right?  If you have a chat with someone, let’s say in a browser, what’s going to appear is a log of what you say and what they say.  And in the case of working at a command line, it’s very much the same.  You open a window.  You get a prompt.  You type something to the computer.  The computer spews forth with some information.  And that gets written underneath what you had typed.  And so the conversation goes as long as you’re working at the command line.

Now, JAWS by default will automatically speak what the computer is outputting, so you don’t have to constantly go back and review with the JAWS cursor.  But reviewing with the JAWS cursor is another option.  There’s really not much more to it than that.  Obviously, each command has its own special syntax, and that’s something you need to learn to be proficient.  But in terms of accessibility, working at the command line is historically the most accessible way of doing things.  So whether or not you just want to improve your own personal productivity or whether you’re thinking of working in the technology field, mastering the command line is a great thing to do.

In recent years, working at the command line has enjoyed renewed popularity from a really young population, largely from people developing for the web.  And although it’s been available in Windows since the very beginning, it’s always been hosted in a pretty Spartan interface.  That is, of course, until a couple of years ago when Microsoft decided that command line should have a modern UI, and they created Windows Terminal.  For Windows 10 you need to download it from the Windows Store.  It’s preinstalled on Windows 11.  Most of what I’ll be showing you in Windows Terminal can also be done in the legacy command prompt windows.  So whatever your choice is, you’ll pretty much have information you can use either place.

With all of that out of the way, let me bring up Windows Terminal.  I’ll go to the search box.

JAWS VOICE:  Search box edit.

GLEN:  And type in “terminal.”

JAWS VOICE:  Microsoft Teams app.  Windows Terminal app.  Press Y to switch preview.

GLEN:  All I had to do was type T E R, and it brought up that.

JAWS VOICE:  Windows Terminal.  PowerShell.  PowerShell.  P S c:\users\glen>.

GLEN:  So that’s the PowerShell prompt, the letters P S for PowerShell, space, the name of the directory, in this case c:\users\glen, and a greater than sign.  And whenever you see that, it means that whatever the last command was that you executed has finished, and the shell is waiting for additional input from you.  Just like when you open a web browser, you actually show web pages in different tabs.  In Windows Terminal, you’ll see different shells.  PowerShell is one.  The traditional Windows command prompt is another.  And the shell is nothing more than the tool that accepts command input from you and calls the necessary programs to execute the commands that you’ve entered.  There are a couple of ways to open new tabs in Terminal.  The more generic way is by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+SPACE.

JAWS VOICE:  Context menu.  Windows PowerShell CTRL+SHIFT+1.

GLEN:  The reason it actually announced Windows PowerShell is not because it’s the first in the list, but rather because that’s the tab that’s currently open.  Whatever tab you’re in when you press CTRL+SHIFT+SPACE, that’s what it’s going to offer to open again as the shell for the new tab.  If I arrow down...

JAWS VOICE:  Command prompt CTRL+SHIFT+2.

GLEN:  Which means that pressing ENTER will open a command prompt.  It also means that for future reference, CTRL+SHIFT+2 will open a new command prompt for you without having to go to this menu.

JAWS VOICE:  Command prompt.  Leaving menus.  C:\users\glen>. 

GLEN:  If you want to go back to PowerShell, or for that matter to any other tab that you’ve opened, you can go to tab by number.  So you do need to sort of remember which tab is which.  CTRL+ALT and number will move to that numbered tab.

JAWS VOICE:  PowerShell.  PowerShell.

GLEN:  So that was CTRL+ALT+1.

JAWS VOICE:  Command prompt.  Command prompt.

GLEN:  Which was CTRL+ALT+2.  I’m back there.  You can also use CTRL+TAB to switch between tabs.  There is a small accessibility problem which is when you’re on the last tab, CTRL+TAB will move to the first one.  It will wrap, but nothing is announced.  Now that I’m at the command prompt, I’m going to change to a directory where I’ve set up a couple of files for showing things to you.  I actually like having a directory off the root of my C: drive that’s pretty easy to type, where I do lots of work.  So I have a TMP directory, and under there I’ve created one for this demo called Command Line.  So I’m going to type cd\tmp\commandline.

JAWS VOICE:  SPACE.  C:\tmp\commandline>.

GLEN:  For those of you who’ve been in command windows before, if you do a dir, you’ll be used to hearing...

JAWS VOICE:  Volume in drive C: has no label.  Volume serial number is E41E-V7F1.  Directory of c:\tmp\commandline.  02-17-2022 8:53 AM <dir>.  02-17-2022 8:53 AM <dir>.

GLEN:  So I’m going to stop this.  This will go on for a long time.  You can turn the JAWS cursor on with NUMPAD minus.


GLEN:  And then route JAWS to PC with INSERT+NUMPAD minus.


GLEN:  And now if I arrow up...

JAWS VOICE:  Blank.   2 Dir(s).  966,356,017,152 bytes free.

GLEN:  And I showed that to you to let you know that you can always use the JAWS cursor to review not only the commands you entered, but the output that’s come back from the system.  The command I used was DIR to get a directory listing.  And that command, like most others, allows special options.  The most confusing part about options is what’s the character that introduces them.  On Windows originally the option character was slash, and that still holds true for many Windows commands.  On Unix and Linux, the option character has traditionally been dash because slash is a directory separator.  So when you’re using a command that was originally written for Linux but has a Windows version, you use a dash.  So if one fails, use the other.  In this case DIR uses a slash for its options.  So if we try entering DIR SPACE and /b, that’s going to give me a listing of the files in this directory, but nothing else.  It’s just going to list their names.

JAWS VOICE:  FSCast 210 Transcript January 2022.docx.  Newfiller.wav.  C:\tmp\commandline>.

GLEN:  So that’s a quick way to get a list of file names.  But more importantly, it’s just to let you know that the power of working at the command line is using different options to accomplish different things.  If you’re not a computer professional, you may wonder if working at the command line matters to you, and if you should even care.  And I’d answer to that question an emphatic yes because very often you can do things much more quickly by memorizing some commands and entering them than you can in a program where there’s a complex GUI interface that may not be the most usable, even though it’s “accessible.”

One of the tools that I really like is called Pandoc.  It’s considered the Swiss army knife of file conversion tools.  If you do a search for Pandoc, P A N D O C, you can find all the information about how to use it and how to install it.  In this case, I have the transcript of last month’s FSCast, lovingly prepared by Elaine Farris.  She sends me the transcripts in Microsoft DOC format.  And when I post it on the web it goes up in HTML.  Now, I can go into Word, open the document, convert to HTML, and I get an HTML document.  And quite honestly, that’s what I’ve been doing for years.  When I began to prepare this demo I suddenly realized, oh, I could do that with Pandoc.  If I type in Pandoc and the name of the file I’m converting from, so I’m going to type F, and then I’m going to press the TAB key.

JAWS VOICE:  “FSCast 210 Transcript January 2022.docx”

GLEN:  That got expanded due to filename completion, which when you press TAB will expand the next filename that begins with the prefix that you typed.  So the command line now has Pandoc, followed by the name of the file I want to convert.  I want to convert to HTML.  So I type in “‑t space” and then “html” and then “‑o” to name the file that’s going to get created as HTML.  And I’m just going to call it Transcript.html.

JAWS VOICE:  C:\tmp\commandline>.

GLEN:  So that’s another feature of command line programs.  They very often do their work silently, except if there’s an error.  And in this case I entered everything right.  If I do another dir/b...

JAWS VOICE:  FSCast 210 Transcript January 2022.docx.  Newfiller.wav.  Transcript.html.

GLEN:  I’m going to type T and press TAB.

JAWS VOICE:  Transcript.html.

GLEN:  And I’m going to press ENTER here.

JAWS VOICE:  Transcript.html – Google Chrome.  Heading level 1, FSCast #210.

GLEN:  If I press H...

JAWS VOICE:  January 2022, heading level 2.

GLEN:  And arrow down.

JAWS VOICE:  GLEN GORDON:  On this first FSCast of 2022 we’ll meet Maureen Hayden.

GLEN:  So there’s our nice Word document converted to HTML, thanks to a single Pandoc command line.  And Pandoc will do all sorts of document conversions.  Whether you want to convert to or from markdown, if you want to generate PDF files, it’s all at your fingertips with that tool.  I’m going to go back to my command window now.

JAWS VOICE:  Command prompt.

GLEN:  And I’m going to show you one more thing, just to give you the idea of the sorts of tools that are available at the command line.  And I thank Doug Lee, JAWS scripter extraordinaire, for turning me onto this one.  It’s an audio processing tool called Sox, S O X.  Sox is to audio files what Pandoc is to documents.  Any sorts of audio processing tasks like extracting portions of files, changing pitch, adding reverb, adding echo is at your fingertips at the command line.  I happen to have here a copy of the filler music that I use between FSCast segments.  You know the one I’m talking about.  [Music]

Let’s say hypothetically that I wanted to remove some of the bass sound in that.  Obviously I could go into GoldWave or Sound Forge or any number of audio processing programs and do this.  But you can also do it at the command line with Sox.  So Sox has its own special syntax.  You type Sox, the name of the file you’re converting, the name of the file you’re converting to, the effect you want to apply, and any options, in this case without the dash, that apply to that effect.  So in this case I’m going to type in Sox, SPACE, and then N, and press TAB.

JAWS VOICE:  “newfiller.wav”

GLEN:  And it’s hard to understand, but that said “newfiller.wav.”  That’s the name of the WAVE file I’m converting.  I’m now going to type in the output filename, which I’ll call “nobass.wav.”  Apply a high pass filter.  And the way that works is you put in a frequency in hertz, and it says all frequencies above that will be allowed and all features below that will be filtered out.  So I’m going to type in “high pass space.”  And just to make this very dramatic, I’m going to type in 600.  That’s going to remove a lot of the low end of the file and make it sound much more like it’s coming through a telephone.  Going to press ENTER here.

JAWS VOICE:  C:\tmp\commandline>.

GLEN:  We now have a file called “nobass.wav.”  Here’s what that sounds like.  [Music]

Sox hasn’t been updated since 2014, but it’s filled with features.  Do a search for Sox, S O X, audio processing.  You’ll find all the details of how to get the program, how to install it, and a very lengthy man or manual page which describes all of the options.

I want to talk briefly about how you should read option keys when you see commands.  Typically in manual pages that were created for Unix or Linux, the standard format is to list the name of the command, all of the options that are possible in brackets or in braces, and following that a detailed explanation of what each option is.  So in that initial command line that you’ll see manual pages and sometimes when you run a command with –h, you’ll see options in brackets or in braces.  Brackets mean something is optional.  And if multiple things are listed in brackets, it means any of those things are optional.  If something is listed in braces, they’re typically listed with a vertical bar between them.  And that means pick one from the menu.  Pick one from this group, but no more.  Armed with that and a little bit of patience, you can pretty much master any command line tool.  And once mastered, you can accomplish amazing things very, very quickly.

In terms of Windows Terminal, you really do need to learn the shortcuts, especially because some of them are surprising.  In particular, since Terminal is organized as a series of tabs, you often will want to close a tab, and at least I thought that the natural key for that was CTRL+F4.  But no such luck.  It’s CTRL+SHIFT+W.  And each tab you open is closed that way.  Even the Options tab is closed that way.  That was a surprise to me. To set options you can go into the dialog for that, which is CTRL+COMMA.  Most of that is pretty accessible, except radio buttons can’t be navigated with the keyboard.  So that makes it kind of challenging.

Fortunately the radio buttons aren’t necessarily involved in some of the most common options.  You have a secondary choice, too, which is to edit your options as a text file.  And the hot key for that is CTRL+SHIFT+COMMA.  Microsoft has lots of documentation online about Windows Terminal, including options and how to set up things in a particular way.  It’s also highly customizable.  So if you want to use CTRL+F4, you can read about doing that and change your key map to make that possible.

If you want to copy text out of the Windows Terminal window for any reason, I recommend using the JAWS virtualize window keystroke, which is ALT+JAWS Key+W.  It takes the text from the window, puts it in the virtual viewer where you can easily copy and paste from within it.  And when you hit ESCAPE, you’re back in Terminal, exactly where you were before.  CTRL+V, or CTRL+SHIFT+V, it does seem to vary depending upon the version of Windows Terminal you’re running, will allow you to paste into a terminal window.  And that’s particularly useful if you’re trying to learn from something online, or you’re working with a  website, and you need to actually enter a long command.  It’s often very helpful to copy it from somewhere else and paste it into the terminal rather than needing to remember it enough to copy it in.  So CTRL+V.  If that doesn’t work, try CTRL+SHIFT+V.

Lastly, there’s CTRL+SHIFT+P, which brings up the Command Palette, which lists all 96 actions that you can take in Windows Terminal.  Many of them are attached to keys.  Others are not, which you can attach to keys yourself or execute them directly from the command palette.  It starts out as a list that you can arrow through.  There’s also a search box where you can type something in, and that’ll limit the number of items in the list.

I really hope that for those of you who’ve not spent much time working at the command line before, that this discussion has demystified things a little for you and left you feeling empowered, empowered to learn more, try some command line tools that felt off-limits before, and essentially add some things to your toolbox that can really save you time.  There are lots of web resources out there.  I’m sure there are people in your friends group who are long experienced users of the command line.  And if all else fails, feel free to write to me, and I’ll  try to help as I can.  That’s ggordon@vispero.com.

Signing Off on FSCast 211

GLEN:  And that does it for FSCast 211.  I’m Glen Gordon.  See you next month.


Transcript by elaine@edigitaltranscription.com






edigitaltranscription.com  •  02/22/2022  •  edigitaltranscription.com