There It Is!

Tips

When Sibelius 7.5 was first announced last year, the Timeline received top billing out of all of that product’s new features with its score navigation capabilities. Less noticed, perhaps, but vital to an important set of Sibelius users was a subsequent update to Sibelius 7.5.1 that added support for the open-source screen reader, NVDA. To quote the NVAccess web page, “NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free ‘screen reader’ which enables blind and vision impaired people to use computers. It reads the text on the screen in a computerized voice. You can control what is read to you by moving the cursor to the relevant area of text with a mouse or the arrows on your keyboard.”

Because the Timeline and certain other Sibelius features are not accessible to NVDA, plug-in developer Bob Zawalich, the Sibelius development team, and Sibelius users Kevin Gibbs and Gordon Kent set about creating tools that would take advantage of Sibelius 7.5.1’s new ability to access the screen reader. You can read more about the process in a blog post that Kevin Gibbs wrote for Avid, and download the accessibility tools from Avid’s Knowledge Base.

The result was a series of plug-ins available in a new Sight-impaired category that can be downloaded from the Sibelius plug-in page or directly through Sibelius 7.5.1 by going to File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Sight-impaired. A side benefit of these new plug-ins is that some of their features are useful for sighted users as well.

One such plug-in is called There It Is!. As you might expect, it searches objects in a selection and tells the user precisely where each of those objects is located. A View button can be used to browse to objects without taking the dialog down, a feature that is probably only helpful for sighted users. If you’ve ever used Bob’s plug-in What Is Where?, There It Is! is similar, but with navigation capabilities.

The plug-in can detect an incredible number of objects — including many more than are available in the Timeline — and there are options to skip ones that can be slow to gather, like notes, rests, slurs, and bar rests.

As an example of one of the many uses of this plug-in, I wanted to find all the instrument changes in my score to look for any anomalies. There It Is! dutifully complied:

instrument-changes

When an object type is chosen, another list is filled with the objects of that type present in the selection, with their staff, bar, and position in bar locations noted. Choosing OK will select the object, and bring the selected object on screen.

Objects can be displayed sorted by bar, so you can see all the objects in a single bar for all the staves, or you can sort the objects by staff, so you can see the objects across all the bars in each staff.

There It Is! is a valuable tool for vision-impaired and sighted users alike. Congratulations to the Sibelius team, Bob, Kevin, and Gordon for collaborating on this and other tools that improve usability for as many people as possible.

Comments

  1. Bob Zawalich

    Thanks for writing about this plugin, Philip. I do think that in many cases it is a much more focused too than What Is Where? for seeing what is in a region of a score.

    One very powerful ability of There It Is! is the ability to locate and navigate to objects you have filtered, which may be scattered throughout a large score. Say you filtered all tuplets and then wanted to see what you had filtered. There was really no tool to let you do that.

    There It Is! was designed to require a passage (box) selection, but I changed it to also work on a “multiple selection”, so it could give you a list of the filtered objects and their locations, and would let you view each of them in turn, without destroying the selection.

    When I thought of doing this, I knew There It Is! was a Sight-impaired plugin, and I did not want to mess up the way the sight-impaired users would be using the plugin. It is often not obvious to a sighted user how someone without sight would use such a plugin. I asked my contact Kevin Gibbs if he thought it was a good idea, and we had to discuss it for quite a while before we agreed to make the change, because he also thought it could be useful to be able to find just the objects that had been filtered.

    There It Is! intentionally does not list notes, because there are just too many of them. I did have some uses for looking at filtered notes, but I thought it would be too disruptive to add that to There It Is!. (A sight-impaired user cannot scan a list of object to find the desired one, but has to have the screen reader read all of them. So a really big list is unwieldy. Instead, I changed the Go To plugin to be able to “Go To” selected objects, including notes.

    There It Is! is actually a child of GoTo, so there is a rather pleasant swapping of generational DNA going on here!

    At any rate, for all users There It Is! is an excellent way to navigate to filtered objects, and for sighted users, Go To will give a few more options.

  2. Kenneth Gaw

    Well done all concerned.

  3. ron

    One of the best screen readers is Text Speaker. It has customizable pronunciation, reads anything on your screen, and it even has talking reminders. The bundled voices are well priced and sound very human. Voices are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and more. Reads out loud, or easily converts blogs, email, e-books, and more to MP3 or for listening.
    http://www.deskshare.com/text-to-speech-software.aspx

  4. Cat

    Well!! There it is…..! Joseph II in Amadeus! :-)

  5. Tim Boyd

    Hello, I am a music teacher of students who are visually impaired in Ontario, Canada. We have been successfully using Lime and Lime Aloud to create theory exercises. I haven’t experienced working with Sibelius through NVDA yet, and would really like to explore it as an option. Does anybody know if a trial version of Sibelius will be ok with NVDA? Also who might be the best person out there is to ask questions about this?

  6. Bob Zawalich

    I’d suggest asking on the Sibelius technical support forum.

  7. Ben Kaufmann

    To listen to the text on your screen, the best app is “Text Speaker”. Using this amazing text to speech tool, you can have your computer read aloud documents for you. Even if you want mp3 files, you can create that in the application. Very easy to use. Best for blind and visually impaired people to listen to the docs.
    https://www.deskshare.com/text-to-speech-software.aspx

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