Technology to help you study
There is a huge range of technology available to help you in your learning, working and daily life. There is specialist technology for people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking and more. And there are general options that can be helpful for anyone.
Different disabilities require different technology options. As a starting point, AbilityNet's My Computer My Way is a comprehensive guide to setting up your Windows laptop, MacBooks, phone or tablet just the way you need.
Browser extensions add features to your web browser and are simple to download and install. These extensions are all free and provide useful tools to support your studies. Most are designed for the Chrome and Edge browsers but where other browsers are supported, these are listed.
Recommended Browser Extensions
Reading - ReadAloud
ReadAloud is the easiest option for having your computer read text out loud to you. In the Edge browser, look out in the toolbar for the Read Aloud icon - a capital A with ‘sound waves’ coming from it. Click on the 'A' and an additional toolbar will appear, allowing you to play or pause the readout. You can change the reading speed, and ReadAloud comes with a huge range of voices.
Reading – Pixie Reader and Helperbird
Pixie Reader and Helperbird both have a range of tools to support reading in the browser, including the option to open webpages, online PDFs and Google Docs in Immersive Reader.
The basic tools are available for free in both. Helperbird has a paid premium subscription service for some of the more advanced options.
Once installed, settings can be accessed from the extension icons (when pinned), and features can be launched by right-clicking on the screen.
- Get Pixie Reader for Chrome, Edge, or Firefox, and see the Pixie Reader tutorials page for help.
- Get Helperbird for Chrome, Edge, or Firefox, and see the Helperbird tutorials page for help.
Reading - ClaroRead Chrome
ClaroRead Chrome is a simple toolbar which features text-to-speech with text highlighting, in a wide range of languages and voices. It is compatible with the free Scottish-accented voices from The Scottish Voice.
There is also a screen overlay, and predictive text for online word processors such as Google Docs. Access these by clicking on the settings cogwheel.
For more reading and writing support features, ClaroRead 9 is available to all students on AppsAnywhere (Study Skills category). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help accessing ClaroRead and learning to use it.
Reading - Reader View
Reader View strips out the ‘noise’ from webpages, allowing you to concentrate on the relevant content. There are simple tools to change the background colour, font size and spacing, and you can choose whether to show or hide any images on the page.
Reader View also has a read aloud function which is compatible with the free Scottish-accented voices from The Scottish Voice.
Marinera Pomodoro is a timer based on the Pomodoro technique, used to aid concentration. Focus periods are customisable in length, and you can set an optional background noise or countdown tick.
The extension reminds you to take timed breaks between your focus periods and when to resume work.
It also tracks your completed pomodoros so you can see your progress over time.
Get Marinera Pomodoro for Chrome.
Noisli provides a range of background noises which you can blend to help create a distraction-free working environment. The free plan allows up to 1.5 hrs of background noise streaming per day.
Forest plants a virtual tree and sets a customisable timer for a period of focus.
Add distracting websites to your own blocklist, and then keep your tree alive by avoiding them while the timer is running. Trees which are grown successfully are added to your virtual forest.
Visual Stress - nOverlay
nOverlay is a fully customisable coloured overlay extension which can be toggled on and off with a single click. nOverlay colours only the background of the page and so it does not affect any images or text on the page.
There are several built-in colour options to choose from or you can create your own from the Options menu. Refresh your browser tab to see new settings take effect.
Get nOverlay for Chrome
Organisation and Referencing
Organisation – Todoist
Organise, plan and create task lists with Todoist, and share these with others. Upgrading to Pro (monthly subscription) gives you reminders/more projects and collaborators/larger file uploads.
The ‘Add website as task’ feature allows you to add online articles and research pages as tasks to review later.
Get Todist for Chrome, Safari and FireFox and see the Getting Started guide. Todist also has desktop and mobile versions so you can access your lists on any device.
Referencing – My Bib
MyBib is an online service which automatically creates fully formatted bibliography and in-text citations from webpages, books, journals, PDFs, and many other sources in over 9,000 different citation styles. There is a search function to quickly find books and journals, and citations can also be generated for videos.
The browser extension allows you to create a citation for the webpage you are reading, and then copy and paste it directly into your document or save it to a cloud-based project for export later. Reference projects can be exported into Word, copied to the clipboard, printed, or imported into tools such as Mendeley or Zotero.
- Click the MyBib icon to generate citations for the webpage you are currently on.
- Click on the bibliography entry or the in-text citation to copy it or choose Save To Project.
- The reference style can be changed by clicking the Change Style link.
- Creating a project gives you the option to save several bibliography lists, and add references from a wide range of sources including books and videos.
The Edge browser features a Maths Solver tool to help you understand and solve equations. You can either type in your problem or select it from a webpage.
To access Maths Solver in Edge, click the 3 horizontal dots in the toolbar to access the settings, click More Tools, then choose Maths Solver.
Installing a Browser Extension on Edge and Chrome
On the extension installation page, click the blue 'Add To Chrome' button or click ‘Get’ if you are using Edge. Installation should complete automatically. If an extension needs specific access to files/microphone/camera etc, you will be asked to grant permission during the installation process.
Manage Your Extensions
Click the jigsaw icon on the right-hand side of the toolbar in Edge or Chrome to see a list of all your currently enabled extensions. Click 'manage extensions' to see all your installed extensions. Options include:
- Pin / unpin your extensions to the toolbar to make them easier to find and access
- Disable or uninstall an extension to either turn an extension off or remove it altogether
- Troubleshoot by checking to see whether an extension is enabled if it does not seem to be working
Hardware available to borrow from the library
We have a range of ergonomic keyboards and mice, noise cancelling headphones, laptop riser stands and coloured overlays available for everyone to borrow from the library. If you want to check the library catalogue to see what is available, it helps to select ‘Equipment’ under the Format filter options on the right-hand side.
We also have extra-large monitors and height-adjustable desks in each library. Ask at the helpdesk for where you can find these.
Software for you to try
We have loan licences available for a range of assistive software packages. You can find out more about the software available for your to try in the sections below and request a loan licence using our online form.
CaptionEd produces accurate live captions in on-campus and online classes. Once the class has finished, you can then download a transcript of everything that was said to help you add to your notes.
CaptionEd is aimed especially at students with a hearing impairment. If you want help taking better notes, Glean might be the better package for you.
You can get an overview of how CaptionEd works and how it might help you from this CaptionEd tutorial video. If you would like to use CaptionEd, please contact us to request a loan licence by completing our online request form or emailing email@example.com.
Glean is an audio recording app which allows you to annotate your audio recording by adding text notes and coloured category highlighting, either live or when listening back to the recording. You can add lecture slides, easily play back audio from any point and export your notes in a variety of formats.
Use Glean with online videos
You can use the features of Glean to work with online presentations in the same way you would in a lecture, meeting, brainstorm session or interview. To do so, simply select the record through microphone option from the Home Tab. This short tutorial video will walk you through the full process.
Glean offers a free 30-day trial. Find out more from Glean.
MindMeister is a mind-mapping package you can use to gather information as you research, organise your thoughts and plan your assignments. You can share your mind maps with classmates to help you work together on group projects.
MindMeister is free if you do not want more than 3 mind maps. Visit MindMeister to set up your free account – choose the basic option.
MindView is a mind mapping organisational app which you can use to organise your ideas, and add text, pictures and weblinks as you study and research. You can export your map as a PDF or use it to quickly create a structured Word document or PowerPoint slide deck.
Where to Find It
MindView (Windows) is available to students via AppsAnywhere. For Mac users, please access AppsAnywhere via the Virtual Desktop. A 30-day free trial of both Windows and MacOS versions can be downloaded from here.
How To Guides
MatchWare have produced a series of video tutorials which demonstrate all the main features.
TalkType is an accurate dictation package. If you haven’t used dictation before, there are free options you can try in Word and other Office apps and GoogleDocs. You can sometimes improve the accuracy of these free options by using an external microphone.
TalkType is a professional package so offers much better accuracy. You can find out more from this video from TalkType.
ClaroReadClaroRead is a highly effective, multi-sensory software solution for supporting reading and writing, with visual tools that colour, highlight, and focus on difficult to read text. Words can be spoken back as they are typed, or selected text can be highlighted and spoken to ensure effective proofreading. There are spellchecking and dictionary tools and a predictive text tool.
In addition, there are extra features including a mind mapping application and a referencing tool. ClaroRead works across most applications and is particularly adapted to use in Word, Outlook and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
A Guide to ClaroRead
ClaroRead supports reading and writing. ClaroRead is a simple, easy-to-use and flexible software program that helps you to read, write, study, sit exams, and increase your confidence.
You can read any on-screen text out loud and improve your writing in Microsoft Word. ClaroRead also let you read aloud scanned paper books and documents.
Reading and writing are necessities in everyday life. Most of us spend a considerable part of the day deciphering and creating text. So just imagine how hard it would be if you couldn't process information as you were reading it, if the words got in the way of the message.
Tools - ClaroRead has a range of tools to help you read and write. From simply reading text aloud, to advanced word prediction, and a dyslexic-friendly spelling checker.
Reading - It reads out whatever text you want, and can skip references, even if it's within a piece of paper or within a picture. Use headphones to avoid disturbing people, or just to be discreet. It will read out whatever you want, as many times as you want. It will never get impatient or frustrated. Just knowing that you've always got a reader with you can remove a lot of stress from reading. Eventually, it builds confidence and independence.
PDFs - Use the scan button in ClaroRead to make them accessible. You can combine scans, delete pages, and even save them as a Word Document.
Text to Speech - For even more PDF tools, there's Claro PDF, which gives you the ability to annotate documents while having access to all the ClaroRead text-to-speech functions.
Proofread - ClaroRead can be used to proofread your writing, too. Having your text read out can really help you make sure that you have used the right words, spellings and punctuation. The spelling and homophone checker will identify all homophones in case the wrong one has been used. You can alter letter, word and line spacing, too. Word prediction also helps you to find the word you need.
Settings - You can customize how the toolbar looks in the settings tab. This will allow you to choose the style, size and which buttons you can see. Claro View and Claro ScreenRuler make reading more comfortable by tinting the screen colour and adding a line tool or window. You can also use the dark mode to reduce strain on the eyes. And these are just some of the tools included with ClaroRead.
Extras editor - You can also simplify the toolbar by using the extras editor. This lets you customise ClaroRead so that all the assistive technology you want can be launched from one place. ClaroRead takes away the stress of reading and writing so that you can be more focused, more independent, more productive and less anxious.
Available on PC, Mac and ChromeBook. To see our full range of on-the-go tools, visit the Android or iOS Store.
Further information on ClaroRead
Where to Find It
ClaroRead Plus is available to all Edinburgh Napier students via AppsAnywhere. For instructions on installing the AppsAnywhere launcher on your own laptop, please see this guide. You can also download a free 15-day trial of the latest version from the ClaroRead website.
ClaroRead is a floating toolbar which can be dragged around the screen or docked at the top out of the way but still accessible.
In Word, read from the current cursor position by clicking the Play button. In other windows applications, select the text you wish to hear and then click Play.
Adjust voice readback settings via the Voice tab on the Settings menu. Select the voice, speed and volume and hit Test to try out the new settings. Scottish Voices are available for download at the Scottish Voices website using your Edinburgh Napier email account.
Use the Check button to spell check your document. The Check window will show you the meanings of the suggested corrections and you can hear these read aloud.
Open the ScreenRuler from the Extras menu on the ClaroRead toolbar.
- Ruler – a highlighted bar which moves with the mouse
- Underline – a line across the screen which moves with the mouse
- Overlay - a full-screen colourcast
You can customise colours and opacity to suit here.
How To Guides
ClaroRead has extensive built- in help documentation, accessible via the Help button on the toolbar. This is very useful for finding help on a specific feature.
More Help and Training for ClaroRead
Immersive ReaderImmersive Reader is a free tool to support reading and writing for readers of all ages and abilities, with easy-to-use text settings to aid readability, a reading ruler and pop-up dictionary definitions. The Read Aloud feature aids comprehension as well as being a useful tool for proof-reading essays.
Improve reading skills with Microsoft Immersive Reader
The Microsoft Immersive Reader is a free tool, built into Word, OneNote, Outlook, Office Lens, Microsoft Teams and the Edge browser, that implement proven techniques to improve reading and writing.
Watch the short 90 second YouCan video on how you can improve reading skills with the Microsoft Learning Tools Immersive Reader.
Hi, I'm Mike. Today I'm going to demonstrate how you can improve reading skills with Microsoft Learning Tools. To get started go to office.com and sign in into your office 365 education account.
Click on Word to open a Word document and now go to the View tab and click on the Immersive Reader. You'll see all of the page is reducing distractions and I can really focus on the text. When you press the play button you hear the text read aloud and you see the words highlighted you can easily follow along. You can increase and decrease voice speed really easily.
You can increase the font size, you can also increase the spacing which is a proven technique to help reduce visual crowding, you also can click on a page colour that gives better contrast and can make it easier to see the letters. You can turn the syllables on as well and break them down with a single click. I can highlight the different parts of speech like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
Reading rulers are something that teachers have used for a long time for focus and with a single click here I can turn on line focus and really give that extra focus for students. With the Picture Dictionary, I can click on a single word and see a picture of that and also play it back to have that multi-sensory processing. A great tool for reading comprehension.
Learning Tools are available in OneNote, Outlook, Office Lens, and Edge as part of Office 365 in Education. Which is free for you teachers and students - go check it out!
Further information on Immersive Reader
Where to Find It
Immersive Reader is part of Office 365 and can be found in Word, OneNote and the web version of Outlook, as well as Teams and the Office Lens app. The latest version of the Edge browser also has the Read Aloud feature available in the right-click menu.
Log in to Office with your Edinburgh Napier username and password. Office can either be used in the browser, or you can choose to download Office365 onto your own device.
Quick Start - Microsoft Word
In Word, find Immersive Reader on the View tab. Click to open the document in Immersive Reader mode.
Use the three menus on the right-hand side of the screen (Word online), or the toolbar buttons (desktop Word) to adjust the text to make reading easier.
Your settings are saved and re-applied automatically when you reopen Immersive Reader.
Apply a reading ruler highlight using the Line Focus settings. You can choose to highlight 1, 3 or 5 lines of text at a time.
As you scroll through your document (use the mouse or the keyboard arrow keys), the line focus highlighting will remain comfortably in the middle of your screen.
To translate the whole document, select a language from the Translate dropdown and click the Document toggle.
The translation and the original document will now appear on separate tabs, and Immersive Reader can read aloud in either language.
Hear Text Read Aloud
Use the Read Aloud toolbar button (desktop Word) or the green play button at the bottom of the screen (Word online) to hear the text spoken aloud, with highlighting. If you have a ruler setting applied, this will automatically move with the text as it is read aloud. Adjust the reading voice settings by clicking the gear icon.
Individual words can be read aloud by clicking on the Word and then on the popup listen option.
Close Immersive Reader
Click on the Close Immersive Reader button (desktop Word) or the back arrow (Word online) to return to the standard document view.