Apps for iPhones, iPads and Android Devices
Edited by Cheryl Dobbs.
This article provides some suggestions for specific areas of need that some users with dyslexic difficulties encounter. For simplicity, and to prevent overwhelming users, we have intentionally restricted the number in each section as a starting point for ideas rather than presenting lengthy lists. Other useful websites have been included at the end to help you investigate further.
It is important to note that Apps are only byte-size portions of software compared to those you may use on a computer or laptop. It is unlikely that you will find everything you need in just one. However, a small collection that you can work between may provide a convenient and adequate mobile working environment.
Please note that although updating the operating system on older devices will introduce some new features, the functionality of some Apps may be affected by the age and speed of your device.
If you have any suggestions that you think will help others, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and include a brief note outlining why you found the app particularly useful.
1A. Reading Options on Device
Speak Selection, VoiceOver.
1B. Reading Apps
Web Reader, Blio, iBooks, Kindle,
Voice Dream Reader, Eye Reader, Instapaper,
Android TTS: Adilko, Moon+ Reader Pro, Kindle.
2. Writing with Text to Speech Options
ClaroSpeak, Speak it!, AppWriter English, Abilipad, CapturaTalk.
3. Speech to Text
4. Writing and Writing with Stylus
Pages, Evernote, Penultimate.
Skitch, Popplet, Explain Everything, Inspiration,
iThoughts, iThoughts HD, Side by Side, MindMeister
7. Scanning and OCR
CamScanner, Image to Text, Perfect OCR, Scan Pages.
8. Internet Search
Dragon Search, Google Search,
Dropbox, Daily Reminders, PhotoMind, VoCal Voice Reminders,
10. Creating Interactive Texts
SonicPics, Book Creator, Scene & Heard, Pictello, KeyNote.
11. Suggestions for Children
Skitch, Popplet, Claro, AppWriter English, Book Creator.
PuppetPals HD, Hairy Letters, Playschool Art Maker, Comic Life, Tocaboca programs, Pirate Scribblebeard’s Treasure,
LEGO DUPLO Apps, Busy Things, The Going to Bed Book,
Rumble in the Jungle,
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure.
12. Calculators and Maths
Fusion Calculator, Calcbot, Panther Math paper, Panther Calculator.
Find My iPhone.
15. Other Useful Links
1A. Reading Options on Device:
Built in text to speech is available on iPhone, iPod Touches, iPads (iOS devices) and recent Android phones and tablets (Android 4.0 or later).
To activate: Go to Settings – General – Accessibility – Speak Selection (ON) where you can also adjust the Speaking Rate. High-quality voices are offered but there is no option to change it. Uses the male RealSpeak Daniel voice on UK devices.
To use: Tap the screen to highlight the text. Then tap Speak.
Comment: Some users have reported that highlighting and speech is not always fully synchronised.
N.B. A separate accessibility feature, VoiceOver, is available for those with low vision. It may also be useful as a reading tool for Apps such as Blio and iBooks (see below) where other text to speech options are unavailable. It is activated through General – Accessibility.
For Android devices you will need to turn on text-to-speech. This is done through the Language settings menu. Although the voice provided is quite robotic there are a number of high-quality voices available for purchase on the Google Play store at a low cost (search for SVox, Ivona or CereProc). Once turned on, some apps will offer a speak selection option on selected text or you can install a text-to-speech app that will access the clipboard.
1B. Reading Apps:
Comment: A useful application which can also read pdf, word and rtf documents through applications such as Dropbox (see below).
Blio (Free): An Ebook reader for books purchased from the Blio bookstore; includes audio, customised fonts, colour backgrounds and images. It also allows access to freely available eBooks and EPUB, PDF, or XPS formats, via iTunes or the web.
Comment: The sample book provides an example of audio with text highlighting. The voice is American but other voices can be purchased for £6.99 each if preferred. N.B. not all books can be read with audio, but those that can are indicated with a green head set symbol. VoiceOver will read a PDF that reflows. However, this is not consistent and does not have good magnification when zooming in. The quality of text read varies.
iBooks (free – iPhone/Pad): Apple’s own eBook reading tool. You can open any compatible eBook or PDF within iBooks or purchase books through the itunes store. EBooks can be read aloud using the speak selection function or through VoiceOver (with no highlighting). You can select different fonts styles but there are only 3 background colour options: sepia, white or black.
Kindle (free – iPhone/Pad): an app sized version of the Kindle. Adjustable font sizes and background colours (more available on the iPad app than the iPhone) can be applied.
Comment: Combining the additional downloadable dictionary together with the note taking facility, may make this a useful study tool for some texts. N.B. the dictionary requires internet access.
However, the App is not supported with text to speech like the Kindle device.
Voice Dream Reader (£6.99 – iPhone/iPad): a text to speech app that enables the user to read aloud various files. It uses a female American voice with precise synchronized highlighting and Dropbox support. A wide range of alternative voices can be added for £1.49 each (provided by Acapela).
N.B. PDF reading is still “experimental” – currently it produces many errors (even in well made PDFs) and the original PDF formatting is not maintained.
Comment: This app has a fantastic range of speech speeds (50 to 500 words per minute), compared to some of the alternatives that cannot go faster than 240wpm.
Eye Reader (£1.49 – iPhone): an easy to use magnification and illumination tool. Hold the phone over a page to magnify and illuminate text using the LED and camera. There are no set levels and the light automatically comes on when the App is launched but it can be turned off by gently shaking the phone.
Comment: You need to hold the phone steady to get the clearest view and vary the distance to change magnification levels. Watch out for battery power with constant use!
Instapaper (£2.49 – iPhone/iPad): A facility for saving and reading web documents offline. The facility is installed as a bookmark. When browsing the web, tap the document to instantly save it into the App for later access.
Comment: This is a useful facility for those using devices which are not 3G enabled. Items can be moved and saved into different folders.
Kindle is also available for Android but again is not accessible with text to speech.
2. Writing with Text to Speech Options:
ClaroSpeak (£3.99 – iPhone/iPad): a text to speech application with quality voices and synchronised text highlighting. Can import texts to read or use to write your own. Colour options available for font, highlighting and background.
Text can be exported directly into e-mail or SMS, saved as a text file, audio file or into Dropbox, as well as simply copied and pasted elsewhere.
Comment: An easy to use application with good design and a range of high quality international versions (voices) available.
Speak it! (£1.49 – iPhone/iPad): A text to speech app. Font size and speed can be adjusted. It comes with natural sounding speech synthesized voices but enhanced versions need to be purchased for an additional fee (£0.69).
Text can be saved as an audio file and emailed (as an audio file) from within the application.
Comment: N.B. Text can be highlighted as it is spoken but the keyboard needs to be displayed for this to function.
AppWriter English: (£20.99 for iPad) a word processor designed (according to the developers) specifically for users with literacy difficulties. It incorporates highlighted text to speech (with web access), word prediction, font and background colour preferences.
With iPad3, it is also possible to dictate direct into the App.
Comments: The App comes with a default dyslexie font. Spell checking may not offer sufficient support for all users.
Abilipad (£13.99 – iPad): combines use of image, grids, word prediction and spelling support for writing. Also offers ability to customise keyboards.
Comment: Again, spell checking may not offer sufficient support for all users.
A useful tutorial on using this App can be found at: http://a4cwsn.com/2012/03/abilipad/
CapturaTalk (£35/£40 excl. VAT) for Android: a reading and writing support app for Android devices with a range of tools. CapturaTalk includes a talking web browser, word processor, PDF reader and ebook tool. It also has built-in OCR letting you take a photo and hear the text within it read aloud.
£35 for education customers, £40 for non-education customers – prices are ex VAT which dyslexic customers are exempt from. Customers can buy it pre-installed on Toshiba tablets and then the bundle is VAT exempt.
3. Speech to Text:
Dragon Dictation (Free – iPhone/iPad): Speech to text application (requires web access to function). Text can be sent direct to sms, email, Facebook etc. or copy and pasted into other applications.
Comment: This App shows surprising accuracy for some users. It is useful for short bursts of text rather than prolonged writing. Text to speech support is available (when the keyboard is visible), using the Speak Selection accessibility feature on the iPhone and iPad (see above).
Pages (£6.99 – iPhone and iPad): This app provides a bite-sized version of the Mac word processor. A range of templates are included, shapes, tables and photos can be imported with a tap and documents saved or exported.
Comment: Documents can be directly exported to email, iTunes etc – but the option to export directly to other facilities such as Dropbox would be useful. As a word processor, it is an easy product to learn to use but does not have the support options that some may require.
Evernote (Free – iPhone/iPad): A very easy to use web service that links notes from the computer and iPhone, iPad or Android device whether they are text, audio or images. Store them on one device and they will automatically update across your others.
Comment: Allows you to keep your jottings safe and organised into notebooks – they can be tagged and easily found again. Recordings can be made, photos taken and all can be shared via email – they are automatically dated and a location can be noted to help the memory.
Writing with Stylus:
Penultimate (£0.69 -iPad): app for handwritten notes, diagrams etc. Pages can be saved into individual notebooks and both can be sent direct by email, Dropbox and Evernote. There is a choice of width of pen, colours and ability to take photo within app. Comes with lined, squared and plain paper backgrounds but additional ones can be purchased including papers for musical notation, young writers and time management.
Comment: an easy to use app for those times when you need to write not type and adds to a useful collection of tools to improve productivity.
Skitch (free iPad and Android): a collaborative tool that allows you to capture screen shots, annotate and share. A simple but highly effective facility.
Popplet (£2.99 iPhone) and (iPad Lite): a space for creating and sharing ideas. Use to brainstorm your thoughts, create a mindmap or annotate an image. For Android users, Popplet can be used via a web browser.
Explain Everything (£1.99 – iPad): a tool to combine pictures, video clips and more to create animated presentations. These can be shared using the various tools such as Dropbox etc.
Comment: an affordable tool which offers great flexibility of use.
Inspiration (£24.49 – iPad): a byte-sized version of mindmapping software. Can export as an outline version or as a pdf of the map.
Comment: If you are used to using Inspiration on a computer, this will feel limited, but still useful. It does not have speech recognition capability and although map can be exported as a pdf, it cannot be re-accessed through computer software version.
Side by Side and Side by Side Pro (Free and £1.49):allows the iPad screen to be split into two (four) screens. Each screen allows for web browsing, viewing documents or files and/or note-taking. Notes can then be exported to other writing programs on your iPad, saved into Dropbox or e-mailed.
Comment: paid version is advert free.
MindMeister (free – iPhone/Pad and Android) is an internet based mind mapping service. A free subscription level allows you to save up to 3 maps. It is easy to share maps to enable one than one person to collaborate with you. Maps are also accessible via any web browser so this is a good tool if you need want to access your maps on lots of different computers.
iDraw (£5.99 for iPad): a versatile drawing and painting package with many tools and options.
7. Scanning and OCR:
CamScanner (free*/+ £2.99/Pro £4.99 – iPhone/iPad): A portable scanner for your phone. It scans the document, whiteboard etc and saves as a pdf. You can either store this on your phone or, perhaps more usefully, send to email, Dropbox account etc. N.B. *The free version adds a watermark to the pdf.
Image to Text (free iPhone/iPad): Allows the user to take a picture of text and transcribe it via Optical Character Recognition. It is then saved as text and can be shared with others via email or read in Evernote.
Comment: Works quickly considering the OCR overhead and is accurate if there are clear fonts – filters out images and seems to cope with sunshine and shiny surfaces – outputs basic text.
Perfect OCR (£2.49 – iPhone/iPad): Use your phone to scan a document and convert to OCR. Save as a pdf or e-mail directly from the application.
Scan Pages (free – iPhone/iPad): Simple scanning application that allows documents to be shared by email or saved into EverNote, Dropbox and GoogleDocs.
8. Internet Search:
Dragon Search (Free): Instead of typing in text when you want to search the Internet – just use speech (requires internet access).
Comment: again lack of text to speech facility but since the text required for a web search is limited this may not prove to be such an issue.
Google Search (free): Just speak into this app to search the internet (requires internet access).
Comment: this seems quicker than Opera and Safari browser searching.
Dropbox (free –iPhone/iPad): Dropbox provides a useful facility for saving and using documents across devices. The App provides instant access to your documents wherever you have web access.
Comment: This facility is excellent not only for back up and sharing files, photos etc. Additionally, it provides a means of being able to access TTS fairly simply with documents such as pdf, word etc. Transfer the document to Dropbox and then open it via Web Reader to hear the document read aloud.
Daily Reminders (Free/59p –iPhone/iPad): A very simple notification pad for daily tasks.
Comment: If you use Outlook or Calendar efficiently then this app will seem very basic to you. However, it is its simplicity which makes it a really useful tool for setting reminders for the tasks you need to do each day and one day ahead.
PhotoMind (£1.99 -iPhone and iPad): a notification app which uses image instead of text. Take a photo and set the time to be reminded.
VoCal Voice Reminders (£2.99 – iPhone and iPad): a notification app which uses voice/sound instead of text. Record, set the timer and decide if you need to be reminded every minute or hour until the task is completed.
10. Creating Interactive Texts:
SonicPics (£1.99 –iPhone/iPad): a really quick way to collect a few photos together, add an audio commentary and share with others.
Comment: Provides an excellent visual prompt to begin a writing activity with visual images or to demonstrate through activity rather than as written text.
Book Creator: (£2.99 – iPad): an elegant App for the creation of stylish books that is very easy to use, creates stunning eBooks effectively and with style. Arrange images, audio and text and then export to iBooks where Speak selection allows text to be selected and read (see above).
Comment: A great App – just one disappointing detail is that when the completed project is exported to iBooks, although the Title page appears within the display of titles, it then becomes the right hand page when the book is opened.
Scene & Heard (lite & £34.99 – iPhone & iPad): Capture and combine videos, photos, text and audio to create interactive scenes. The App is marketed as a communication aid for children and adults but its simplicity of use makes it a viable literacy tool including matching symbols (Widgit) and words to photographs. It is easy to use and versatile.
Comment: Scene and Heard is an easy way to make photos of scenes come alive and encourage conversation and/or symbol use. Lite version allows one scene to be made.
Pictello: (£13.49 – iPhone/iPad): an app to create talking picture albums and books. Each page can contain an image, five lines of text and a recording or use text to speech.
Comment: A very easy app to quickly create texts and events to share. N.B. Text is not highlighted and UK text to speech voices need to be downloaded if required but at no additional cost. These take a while to download and you are advised to connect the device to mains power whilst doing so.
KeyNote (£6.99 – iPhone/iPad): create your own interactive presentations that can be synchronised across devices automatically with iCloud.
11. Suggestions for Children:
It is so very easy to quickly use up memory on devices with the many Apps around for children, that it is worth giving some thought to what sorts of activities are required and how they can be organised. Do you need to sort Apps into folders or would it best to keep the most frequently used on the first page, for instance?
Make full use of the options now available in these devices with text to speech support (TTS) and multi-sensory activities, e.g. listen to books with TTS, make use of the camera, audio and video options and combine with Apps to produce a personal working environment. As a writing activity, for example, use the camera to record video or take photos for visual prompts, plan writing in
Skitch or Popplet but use the TTS options in Claro or AppWriter English for writing support, then transfer text and images into Book Creator.
Apps for tablet devices can be really useful, but they may not always suit every part of the working process for all users, particularly those who struggle with reading and writing text. Tablets and smartphones offer tremendous versatility as portable, mobile devices to plan, brainstorm and record but the compensation offered from software on a desktop or laptop may provide greater support for the writing process for some children (and adults). In addition, not everyone finds an onscreen keyboard comfortable to use if they have extended pieces of writing to compose. Good portable ones are available as an alternative.
Ensure that consideration is given to individual needs and an appropriate tool is selected for each specific task. This may mean that the device is used for only part of the process rather than the whole. Documents can be stored in Dropbox and then downloaded to whatever device or computer is used next.
There are a number of Apps around specifically focusing upon different aspects of developing and supporting literacy specifically for children. Sometimes they practise a skill and sometimes they provide motivation that other ways have never achieved. They still need as much careful consideration as those selected for the specific individual needs of any user. From the many we have tried, these are just a few of our favourites for being engaging, learning new skills and enjoyment:
PuppetPals HD (free and £1.99 for iPad): create puppets, simple animation and voice narration with this screen version of a puppet theatre.
Hairy Letters (£1.99 for iPhone and iPad): an engaging animated activity which teaches letter sounds, formation of letters and blending.
Playschool Art Maker (Free – iPad):animated picture and movie maker using PlaySchool favourites.
Comic Life (£2.99 for iPad, iPhone and iTouch): create your own comic and share.
Pirate Scribblebeard’s Treasure (£1.49 for iPad).
For examples of good quality interactive books see:
The Going to Bed Book (£2.49 for iPad and iPhone).
Rumble in the Jungle (£1.99 for iPhone and iPad).
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure (£2.99 for iPad)
12. Calculators and Maths:
Fusion Calculator (Lite version Free/£2.49): A calculator that allows the user to view calculations in multi steps. Numbers can be saved and dragged around the screen whilst the keypad is used for other calculations.
Comment: N.B. The free version displays adverts. Neither has scientific functions.
Calcbot (£1.49 – iPad, iPhone) Another basic calculator which records the previous results in a notepad alongside the keyboard so that you can go over the steps carried out.
N.B. Does not have scientific functions.
Panther Math paper (iPad): an App (based upon Universal Design principles) for the layout of notation for mathematical text entry that is not possible from a standard QWERTY keyboard. Very easy to use once the basic keyboard layouts are understood. Useful for those who have difficulty with motor movement and legibility or would prefer to use a screen.
N.B. The paper can be saved and exported to other Panther Math Paper users or exported as a pdf but quality of this needs to be improved. The fixed position and style for adding “carrying” numbers was not helpful – but none of these detract from a good developing App. Hopefully later updates will address some of these issues.
Panther Calculator (iPad): the layout of this App differs from conventional calculators and places the numerals (from left to right) and operations across the bottom of the screen. The clear interface (universally designed), may make this a useful and more intuitive alternative for some users.
Find My iPhone (Free): Once activated, your phone’s location is displayed on a map. It includes an option to send a message to the screen or play a sound (even if it is in silent mode). It also allows you to lock or wipe the device remotely in the event of it being stolen.
Comment: Make this one of the first apps you install. It only works if your device is turned on, but it is really useful. The GPS signal gives reasonable accuracy for location. If you have actually lost your phone, there is always the chance that the message will enable the finder to return it to you.
Exam Buddy (£1.99 – iPad) Flexible tool with five applications to support, organise and plan revision. Create your own notes with video and image, prompt cards, quizzes and audio.
15. Other useful links:
Freeware Products contains other useful apps to specifically support study.
Strategies for the Information Technology Age presentation includes further examples.
iPad apps and integrative workflows from Craig Mill at CALL Scotland offers an example of working between Apps.
New apps for iPad and iPhone from Inclusive technology are the start of a group of apps for younger users.
Bristol Dyslexia Centre (Nessy) has developed apps related to their literacy scheme and programs.
Apps for Literacy on Spectronics site has a range of additional literacy support ideas.
Read Write Web has examples of the specialist apps being developed.