The single most annoying “feature” on webpages is autoplay. How many times have you landed on a page, reading and suddenly some ad or music blares away. Sometimes it’s impossible to find the offending ad , no matter how many times you scroll up and down looking. It’s worse if you have multiple browser tabs open, then you have to figure out which page is screaming at you.
There is a quick and oh so satisfying way of dealing with this. Edge, Firefox and Chrome all offer a quick mute feature that doesn’t even require you to know where the ad is. Whichever page is playing the sound will show a small speaker either in front of or behind the page name. Here’s an example:
Skim along the top of the browser and locate the speaker and tap to mute the sound. A small line will show the speaker has been turned off.
This doesn’t affect any other page you have open or music you may be listening to, just that webpage. It’s handy to remember, especially if you’re like me and you constantly have multiple pages open (often on all three browsers).
There are a couple of small differences between the browsers. Microsoft Edge is the easiest to see. The speakers is well placed at the front of the page name. Firefox is placed at the end, but still easy to hit. Chrome’s icon is much smaller and a bit fussier to try and hit. I’m not fond of it, but that is just a minor irritant.
Unfortunately, this isn’t very useful for people with severe visual impairments or issues with their hands, like tremors. I have a few customers with macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and MS who can’t hit that tiny a target consistently. The only solution I can think of is using the mute keyboard shortcut but, that mutes everything, which defeats the beauty of this little feature. If anyone has an extension that could help, drop me a line. I’d love to take a look at it.
I was poking the Microsoft store with a stick again to see what would fall out and look what tumbled out: Enhancer makes a number of changes in the way YouTube behaves, including volume control with a quick flick of the mouse wheel. It does other stuff too, but the ability to scroll the volume is exciting. Yea, yea, I really need to get out more, but seriously, it’s great. Enhancer, by MRFDEV Web Development, offers a number of options, including blocking ads, disable auto play, set automatic screen size, and much more. It’s worth a trip to the store to check out, especially if you watch a lot of YouTube. I personally like the option to preset the video to start on a specific screen size and quality and disable auto play.
The only teeny thing I have to complain about is accessing the controls. They are placed at the very bottom of the page (very unobtrusive) and occasionally a bit tricky to click. I have a couple customers who have control issues and wouldn’t be able to tap that tiny control panel without a major hassle. It would be nice if the pop up was a little larger.
To download it for Edge browser, fire up the Store app and search for Enhancer. It also comes in Chrome, Firefox and Opera flavours so you get to choose which browser you prefer.
Last time I looked at Microsoft Store’s extension offerings, it was a forlorn and desolate place. Not a lot available, much to my ever loving annoyance. I like playing around with extensions, even silly useless ones. Today I decided to see if there’s been an increase and what do you know, the offerings have grown to 42! Still not a lot of choice, but a marked improvement since Christmas.
I decided to test drive an extension called Web Developer Checklist by Mads Kristensen. It turned out to be anything but silly and a potential boon to web designers.
It’s the only offering in the Microsoft Store by the developer, and is available also for Chrome and Firefox. It’s a kickass little extension designed to help web developers check that they are using best practices on their site. Everything is compact and easy to use with a lot of helpful information, quickly accessible with a mouse click.
Handy little extension to have. It tipped me off to a couple improvements I should be exploring.
My sole complaint is a minor, quirky one. The screen on the left is from Firefox and the one on the right is from Edge:
It took me a few minutes to figure out the ace was a misinterpreted check mark. Like I said, very minor issue. Other than that, there are no real issues. I was interested in seeing it snagged a few different issues with each browser. That’ll be a project to look at tomorrow.
I’m always poking around the Microsoft store looking for Edge browser extensions. Until now, the offerings have been a wee bit slim. But… huzzah … a few new extensions have found their way to the store. I tested out two and, well, I’m impressed. You get one today, maybe the other on the weekend… depends on my mood. Read & Write, from TextHelp (https://www.texthelp.com), gets a nod for the single most useful extension I’ve seen to date. It’s also available for Firefox and Chrome if those flavours suit you more.
Read & Write is an excellent piece of assistive technology that reads webpages. People with vision issues, reading or learning disabilities or learning English will find this immensely useful. Once installed, you have a number of options that include reading a page or paragraph, simplified page layout, definitions and reference lookups. The voice is fairly easy to listen to and understand. The odd word is not quite right, but mostly above par for pronunciation and enunciation. One mildly amusing aspect with any software like this is they read literally – if there’s a typo on the page, that will be read.
It’s easy to use, just click the speech button on the toolbar and then hover the mouse over the text. The software does the rest. I put together a short video of Read & Write in action so you can hear what the voice is like:
It offers a couple of options handy for day to day use, including a built-in dictionary and Simplify. The dictionary is self explanatory.
The Simplify feature is outstanding. It converts the page to a high contrast single page of text only. It strips out the clutter and makes the speech to text option run flawlessly. It’s also handy for anyone who want to print a page, without all the images and ads. As a bonus feature, tap the minus/plus signs to increase the text size for easy reading.
The little picture dictionary is embarrassingly fun to use. If a person is unfamiliar with English, the simple pictograph images are a perfect way to show the meaning of the word. A stroke of genius. Not all words have pictograph definitions and once in awhile it throws up a cryptically funny one:
Not sure why the little stickman looks so angry but he looks like his blood pressure is through the roof.
Occasionally the extension stutters and doesn’t start reading immediately, but by and large, it’s reliable. At worse, all you have to do is turn the extension off and back on again. I was a little disappointed it didn’t read my Outlook email. But there are some pages that simply won’t work with the extension because of the way they are designed, such as Twitter. However, for the majority of webpages, the extension does the job.
If you know someone who might benefit from this extension, pass along the name to them – Read & Write extension for Edge, Chrome & Firefox. I have a number of customers I’m going to install it for. It’ll make some pages – the ones with itty bitty type – far easier to manage. Download it direct from the Microsoft Store or use your browser’s extension feature to install it.
Icon for Turn off the Lights Edge browser extension
If you enjoy watching movies & Youtube on Edge browser, this is a cool extension – Turn off the Lights, by Stefan VD. It’s a handy little extension that dims the background around the video window, cutting out distractions. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ve been using it for about 2 weeks and have encountered only one issue – it popped out and stopped working until I shut Edge down and restarted it. Other than the one instance, I’ve had no other problems. Get it the usual way, Microsoft Store ->Extensions->Turn off the Lights. Once installed, it sits on the screen’s toolbar within easy clicking distance.
The image still is from Professor Quatermass and the Pit – BBC sci fi serial from the 1950s. One of the best sci fi series ever made. Go watch it … no .. go .. now… Watch it. Where else can you see extinct giant Martian grasshoppers destroying humanity?