This month’s maintenance for the ATbar has included the updating of the wiki to include the instructions as a link from the toolbar with a small question mark icon. This has been completed in both Arabic and English and came about thanks to a question that we received via the contact form. The latter now also has our address as requested.
We also had a question about making toolbars in the market place and we have been updating the site to ensure that new toolbars can be saved as there seemed to be a problem with this aspect of the site. Making ones own toolbar is easy with a simple install to the bookmark or favorites area within the browser.
Both Nawar and Magnus have been looking into issues that affect the toolbar in terms of its presentation, such as cascading style sheets causing buttons and text to change. We are trying to find a way of eliminating these difficulties but it is easier said than done!
Nawar has also be researching issues around free and open source TTS voices to see if there are any new options or ways of developing ones ourselves. Not easy!
We have had a request for the story of ATbar and are looking forward to hearing when this will be published! Whilst researching for this article we also checked the statistics and found that we have had around 2,800 visitors to the download page (where the embed code is situated) in the last year, 1,125 WordPress plugin downloads. The total statistics for the English and the Arabic ATbar show that it has been used on 160,000 different sites and has had over 6.7 million uses in the last three years.
Over the last two weeks Magnus has been working hard to make the Arabic marketplace and the English marketplace easier to use – Now it is time for testing and providing comments! With over 30 plugins it was becoming apparent that we needed to sort and filter the contents of the marketplace.
Search and Filter
The ‘Search’ works in English and Arabic and you can search for plugin and toolbar names, descriptions and categories plus tags that are language specific. Search words are recorded so that we are aware what is being searched and can work on the type of plugins that may be required. The search is not collecting any IP addresses or personal data.
Plugins can be filtered by language and category and you can set the number of items to be viewed per page so that you do not have endless plugins scrolling down. However, once a plugin has been chosen the page jumps back to where you were if choose to have a long list.
If you are in a page belonging to one language it is now possible to switch between languages and stay on the same page rather than jump back to home.
There is now a helpful arrow to show you how to add a toolbar to your browser. The only problem we have to overcome is the fact that the ‘Install button’ becomes the name of your toolbar and you might need to re-name the bookmark (right hand mouse – edit (Chrome) or rename (Internet Explorer) in your bookmark/favorites list or under properties in Firefox). This is available in both Arabic and English.
This is how you rename the toolbar of your choice. There is the possibility of using the title of a toolbar for the install button but this could mean the name is too long – short names are best.
A recent FOSS survey is seeking to learn more about user engagement with the open source community. It has been produced by ‘a regional research team affiliated with the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at the School of Business of the American University in Cairo, in collaboration with Ma3bar, the Arab Support Center for Free & Open Source Software at the University of Balamand, Al-Kurah, Lebanon.’
It would be wonderful if the results of the survey could provide us with more information about Arabic open source assistive technologies but for the moment just knowing about the availability of any products would be helpful. (Sadly the survey ends with a Captcha so it is not screen reader accessible.
Despite searching and contacting individuals accross the area we have struggled to find FOSS assistive technology programs that have already been developed in the Arabic language. Please leave comments to tell us about any you might have found.
Miftaah on Ma3bar.org offers Araic translations for information about several portable apps. Their range of apps includes office, browser, email, PDF readers and VLC. However, I discovered that although the menus may be in Arabic (as we have achieved with our Access Tools pendrive menu (version 2) the actual programs are still those available in English from Portable apps).
ArabEyes has links to a number of start up projects including the Duali spell checker and Khotot, a set of open TTF Arabic fonts. More information is available about the latest release of the bold version of KacstOne font v5.0.
Sadly many of the other sites are dated and the code is no longer being updated.
Perhaps the place for professionals to find out more is the ArabNet as this crosses boundaries when it comes to the commercial and open source world. It hosted the ArabNet Digital Summit in Beirut and as Mike Butcher from TechCrunch said:
“The MENA (Middle East North Africa) region’s largest digital event has been expanded to 5 days featuring speakers, panels, workshops, a startup competition and about 1,500 delegates. In a sign the the Arab business world is really getting switched on to tech these days, there’s even a hackathon-style developer event during the conference. I daresay there will be some interesting startups for TechCrunch to unearth there.”
So hopefully you will join us in the quest for open source and freely available Arabic language assistive technology. Here is a short video from the Mada Center in Qatar about building the awareness around assistive technology and accessibility in Arabic.
It is thanks to the Mada Center that we have been able to explore the development of open source assistive technologies in Arabic and the latest version of the ATbar in Arabic has occurred.
The building of the plug-in website is underway in English and as with every page on the ATBar web site we would greatly appreciate corrections for the Arabic version as the pages are at present using the Google translate system with some help from our kind post graduates.
We would like to receive comments about the proposed design seen below for the main ATKit page and then for the plug-in page.
Seb has recently been working on the documentation and the code behind the plugins for the ATKit making it possible to convert the ATBar into a modular system that allows users to choose which plug-ins they wish to have on the bar.
An example above shows how Readability has been added to list of plug-ins and the code is available on the ATKit wiki.
The spell checking issues appear to have been solved but testing is now at an important stage where we see if it works with sentences other than those we have in our test paragraph!
The free to users Arabic text to speech plug-in has been causing more concern as Acapela and Nuance still reign supreme and these voices can be licensed with the plug-in system, but the gauntlet has been thrown down to see if we can explore other options!
The Kit subsite is to hold the marketplace for additional modules for the toolbar, but until we have decided how that will be implemented we can’t start making the interface. Currently there is a placeholder with a “coming soon…” message.
The Arabic site is the same as the English one expect for everything reading to from right to left. We will need someone to translate the ATbar.org pages into Arabic, but once that is done then it will be finished.
The ATbar installer is available from the site now. Simply navigate to the download page and the automatic installer will pick the appropriate installation files depending on what browser you are using. Currently only Chrome and Safari are supported but we hope to include FireFox and IE in the future.
Currently I am working on improving the instructions page to have detailed instructions of use however, these may need to change depending on what features we decide to use on ATbar v2.0. The Help and FAQ files are also under construction – any input with questions that you might think need answering would be appreciated.
The About and Privacy pages also need to be written (looking to E.A for input on those).
Seb has started building the new bar with a Chrome extension that makes it possible to have persistence so you can view more than one page with the bar staying in place. It works with top pages but even with lower levels it is now easy to toggle the toolbar on and off from the menu bar of the browser. You can also see when it is being used with a small white area appearing around the button.
The download for the Chrome extension is at the moment available from the Google Chrome site, but will soon be available on our new ATbar website. Further extensions or add-ons are planned for the other browsers and once these are tested it will be onto offering more options for the user.
I have created a mock-up of the ATbar website, which will contain the main features of the toolbar, download, instructions and help files. It is quite basic at the moment and just displays some simple information. The links are just ‘anchors’ but do not go anywhere.
The “kit” (module development) and “API” (application interface) links are intended to be for two subsites and are therefore highlighted in orange. They will be changed to be more elegant in the future. The page has enough space for plenty of content and both images and text work with the colour scheme.
ATbar mockup site in Arabic
Currently there is no Arabic version, but there are language links in the footer. The Arabic link uses Google translate for a quick demonstration of how it might look. Plans for an Arabic site need to be discussed.
Please comment on the layout, colour scheme and design, this is only the first draft.