Printed from www.bltt.org
You are viewing the old version of this website. Visit the new site with updated content at www.charliedanger.com

Communicate: In Print 2

Communicate: In Print 2 is Widgit Software's most recent version of In Print, a symbol-supported desktop publishing program. It can be used for creating books, worksheets, newsletters and posters; and used as a basic symbol-supported word processor. You can also manually create layouts in grid form that can be used for timetables or, if you are willing to bit a lot of work in, as symbol communication grids.

What's new in version 2?

Version 2 of Communicate: In Print sees the introduction of a colour version of the Rebus symbol set. The program has had several features added to take advantage of the new set, such as an ability to switch all symbols within an existing document from colour to b&w and vice versa.

Many people are also interested in how Communicate: In Print compares to the popular but aging Writing With Symbols 2000. Therefore you will find several references to 'the old way' throughout this review.

What's included?

As well as the software itself you also receive Widgit's Rebus Symbol set in both colour and black & white versions. These popular symbol sets comprise of over 7,000 symbols each and can easily be used in other programs alongside In Print. The package comes with the useful colour booklet 'Introduction to Symbols' that clearly explains what symbols are and who they might help. A full colour, easy-to-follow manual is also provided.

The Interface

When In Print first popped up I immediately noticed that it had a rather dated look about it. The images on the toolbar buttons look like the basic 16-colour designs that I associate with programs from 10 years ago; making it look ancient next to fresh new programs like Clicker 5. However, computer programs are less about aesthetics and more about functionality and these clear, concise buttons follow the same visual and cognitive accessibility guidelines as Widigit's well-researched Rebus symbol set. They're large and very clear; and for the majority their function is obvious without having to refer to their tooltip.

CIP2's menus are reasonably well organised and have corrected the unfamilar terminology found in Writing With Symbols. However I disagree with their decision to label their 'Options' item as 'Start-up preferences'.

The modes

The interface appears to have two modes: Create and Adjust. Different toolbars appear for each mode and to make it clear a different background colour is displayed behind your document.

Communicate: In Print 2 Screenshot showing Create Mode

Create (blue) Mode

Create Mode lets you draw boxes and type text into them. The program provides you with the tools you need to change the font style, size and alignment of the text plus add, remove or change the symbols.

Communicate: In Print 2 Screenshot showing Adjust Mode

Adjust (green) Mode

Adjust Mode lets you move and resize your boxes as well as have them auto-arrange and group together. Also use Adjust Mode when inserting clipart and other images.

Notice that the tools in both the left and right panes completely change when you switch from one mode to the other. The main toolbar that runs along the top of the screen remains mostly constant. This toolbar contains the most common features such as print, undo, copy & paste and so on.

Customizing the interface

Some programs let you move toolbars around and add or remove components to suit the child you are working with. While Communicate: In Print allows this to some extent it's not terribly flexible. It has four levels of layout to suit the user: from EASIEST (displays 39 buttons and has no Create/Adjust modes) through to ADVANCED (60 buttons). There is not a huge difference between the two extremes and there is no way of removing individual tools. The entire right panel can be toggled on and off using a button on the main toolbar.

You can choose between large and small toolbar buttons. Larger icons are obviously often suited for people with visual impairments, but are also appropriate for those with cognitive difficulties as they can find them easier to understand.

Finally the software has a useful 'Whiteboard mode' that positions the main toolbar along the bottom of the screen.

Writing with symbols in CIP2

For basic tasks CIP2 can be used in the place of Writing With Symbols 2000. This is handy if you haven't bought WWS2000 yet as it is the much cheaper option. However CIP2 is not a word processor - it's a desktop publisher and therefore there are some important differences.

Draw a box

It is impossible to type into a desktop publishing program without first telling it where you want your text to appear on the page. Achieving this is in CIP2 is very easy. Simply choose whether you want symbols or just plain text and draw a box in the top-left corner of the screen stretching across to the top right. As you type the box will increase in size and when you reach the end of a line a new line will start below.

Toolbar Button: Write Freely with symbol support
Labeled as 'Write freely in words and pictures' this toolbar button lets you draw a small box that will gradually enlarge as you fill it with text.
Write freely without symbol support
This toolbar button, labeled 'Write freely with words', does the same as above only symbols are not automatically generated above each word.

You can also draw boxes that have their boundaries fixed. As you add more content inside the box the font (and symbol) size will get gradually smaller as it resizes to fit the confined space. This is ideal if you want to get the layout of your poster or worksheet just right.

Alternate Symbols

Those who have used Writing With Symbols 2000 will know the importance of the F12 key. It was this key that allowed you to cycle through a variety of symbols associated with individual words. A frequently called upon example is 'drink' which is commonly used as both a verb and a noun and therefore required at least two different symbols.

There is need to use F12 in CIP2 - thankfully they've made selecting the correct symbol a lot simpler.

Presented with a selection of symbols to choose from
Type any word into CIP2 and the program will automatically pop a symbol above it. It will also list alternative symbols in a box on the right side of the screen.

This means that if the default symbol that appeared did not convey the meaning correctly an alternative can be selected easily and quickly.

If you do not wish for a symbol to appear for that individual word then you can easily click on the button shown in the bottom-right corner.

Speech

Communicate: In Print 2 is supported by speech. While in 'create' mode simply click on a box containing text and then click on the Speak toolbar button and the contents will be read back. The software only supports SAPI 4 voices and will not use the clearer, more realistic SAPI 5 even if they are being shared on your computer by other software such as Clicker 5.

Using Digital Pictures as symbols

A tricky part of Writing With Symbols 2000 was the 'Link to External Graphic' feature. This allowed you to associate your own home-made symbols, or more usually digital photographs, with words. A practical example would be to associate people's names with digital pictures of their faces. Is this any easier to accomplish in CIP2?

The image browser
I live with a cat called Pye and I want his little face to appear every time I type his name into CIP2.

There's no infamous 'Link to External Graphic' option and, to be honest, it's difficult to know how else to do it. I looked in the contents of the manual which explained all, and I guess it is easier than in WWS2000. But only if you know what to do.

See: Using Digital Pictures as Symbols in Communicate: In Print

The main disadvantage of the new system, and working with images in general within CIP2, is that the image browser is incredibly slow and tends to refresh itself too often. There's no obvious way of switching from the slow thumbnails to a basic list so one has to do a lot of waiting.

In order to keep your changes permanently you need to remember to select Save Wordlist Changes from the Wordlist menu. Communicate: In Print does not ask you if you want to save these changes when you close.

Putting CIP2 to the test

As mentioned at the top of this article, Communicate: In Print 2 can be used to make worksheets, posters, newsletters, communication grids and books. I decided to try making a simple poster to put the program to the test.

Clipart

Dropping in clipart from Widgit's large library was straightforward although it won't let you drag-and-drop which I would suspect most people would try first. Instead you click once on the clipart and then again on your document where you would like it to appear.

Symbols

The symbols appeared beautifully above my text without any problems. It was possible to switch symbols using the display mentioned above, and change them all from colour to black & white and back by pressing a single button.

Speech Bubbles

I used the speech bubble feature which worked perfectly for this poster and I'm sure that many kids would find them really motivating.

Box Borders

When I drew my first fixed-boundary box for text to appear in I was surprised that it had a big, ugly red border with sharp corners. I couldn't se any toolbar beutton on the screen that I could use to change or remove this so I assumed it was a visual cue that wouldn't print.

It did print. Eventually I found a way to remove it using the Appearance option under the 'Frames and Pictures' menu. Now that I know how to complete this task its not such a problem but it is perculiar that this isn't available through a more obvious toolbar button.

Inserting My Images

I was still getting bugged by the image browser. It took me ages to locate my Desktop folder as the software uses Windows' old folder structure, and then had to wait further while the thumbnails loaded. You can get around this problem really easily by using Windows Explorer to locate your images and then simply drag-and-drop them into place.

Selecting Text

I also found that selecting text with the mouse is really difficult. Most of the time I would select the text using the mouse to drag a highlight from right to left only to find it loses the selection before I got the chance to click on the Bold button or change the font. I found selecting text from left to right a little more reliable but still not 100%.

The result

Apart from a couple of small issues that bugged me it was a pleasure to create this little poster. It was a fun experience and it's always a joy to see symbols appear above words as you type them; and more and more words are being supported. I wasn't surprised that I was a little limited in what could be accomplished but I found the software flexible enough for me to get around these limitations and lead me towards alternatives.

Conclusion

Communicate: In Print 2 is a motivating and easy to use desktop publisher even without symbol support. Add symbols into the equation and you have a product that should be installed wherever there are symbol users. Where Writing With Symbols produced documents and communication grids, CIP2 produces varied and colourful accessible material that will look good school noticeboards across the country. There are still a couple of peculiarities in the program but they didn't stop me from using, and enjoying, the experience.

CIP2 costs £89 for a single user or £201 for five users. Upgrades (from CIP version 1) cost just £20 for a single user or £45 for five users. Further pricing information is available on the Widgit web site External Link

Some pictures and symbols on this page, Copyright Widgit Software 2004

 

Related Links