Adobe Reader (7 came on my computer) and Dragon — either version — didn’t seem to like each other. More often than not, trying to run both at the same time crashed Adobe. When I could get into Adobe, I couldn’t access the menus by voice — I had to say the keyboard shortcut. If I had to fill out a PDF form, I couldn’t dictate into it — I had to print it and, depending on the length of the form, have someone fill it out for me. Most annoying, however, was the fact that Adobe thought Dragon was a screen reader. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Adobe doesn’t work with my assistive technology, and yet knew enough to say that it had “detected” I was running some kind of assistive device. Therefore, every time I opened a document, it insisted I had to wait for it to “prepare the document for reading.” Okay, Adobe, if you can detect I’m running assistive technology, why can’t you figure out that it’s not a bloody screen reader?
So, since I haven’t subjected my computer to any experiments in a while, I decided to look up alternative PDF programs. I wasn’t even looking for them to work with Dragon — I was just hoping they wouldn’t crash it. The most prominent freeware I found was Foxit. I downloaded the earlier version, 2.3, because it sounded slimmer and more stable. The first good sign: Foxit weighed in at 6 MB.
When I ran the program, it opened quickly. I opened a PDF article from my flash drive and it came up on the screen with no problems — not once did Foxit assume I was using a screen reader. [PLEASE NOTE: I don’t know if Foxit is compatible with screen readers to begin with.] So far, I haven’t experienced any CPU peg-outs, freezes, or crashes. Foxit’s memory usage is 16,284K last I checked. I seem to remember Adobe using a bit more than that, though I can’t be sure.
I could access the menus in Foxit by natural language — both main and sub headings. I could navigate by saying “page up” and “page down” as I did in Adobe. I didn’t even have to say “page down” if I didn’t want to. Foxit has the ability to “auto scroll” through an article, which you can access by saying “View” then “Auto Scroll,” or by saying the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-Shift-H. Tell you what, that beats hell out of going hoarse. (this feature was also available in Adobe, but I was too busy trying to get it to work to notice.)
To scroll faster or slower, press the Down and Up arrows respectively. To scroll up, press the minus sign. To stop, press Escape. I neglected to mention this before — was thinking of another program.
Foxit has a “Typewriter tool” that allows you to enter text into PDF files, then print or save the document. Foxit does note that if you save the document, some “evaluation marks” will be present if you use the typewriter tool in the free version, but I wouldn’t think that would be a big deal. I could dictate form information just fine, but be aware that depending on your form, your dictation might appear in the middle of the line instead of above it. You could, however, probably erase the line and just say your text. You can choose from a variety of fonts and font sizes. The default is Helvetica 12pt. To change the font or the font size, you will have to use the Mouse Grid or the mouse motion commands to click the drop-down menus.
The “Commenting tools” allow you to make various highlights, such as straight or squiggly lines in various colors, on the document. You can also put a comment next to an image or something, but be aware that you’ll have to move the mouse cursor over a speech balloon graphic to see what you’ve written. You can also write notes, using the “Note tool” subheading.
There’s probably a lot more to this program, but I don’t have enough PDF files handy to work with it quite yet, though I will shortly — a bunch of bureaucratic/medical forms coming up. But I can’t tell you how much I wish I had found this program earlier, particularly in grad school — almost every reading assignment was a PDF article, and my reading and notetaking would have been a hell of a lot easier. Oh well — if I understand correctly, at least I won’t have to ask anyone to fill out the red tape for me this time!