Assistiveware for Mac – Keystrokes

The Keystrokes software by Assistiveware is exclusive to Mac but its one of the best assistive programs I have found, and I did spend 3 months researching, looking for a system that would accommodate the changing needs of a progressive disability.

I didn’t want to have to keep changing equipment, especially further  down the line when money would be been used on carers wages so little spare for expensive programs/aids etc.

Firstly looking way ahead I needed something I would be able to use with a variety of access methods. Keystrokes fit this criteria as I can use the Word Prediction with Hotkeys on Hardware keyboard (on iMac) while I can still type. (It also works with Headmouse if you are unable to use your arms/hands or compatible with a scanning program if you needed
these further down the line).

The Hotkeys system is where there is a number alongside the word prediction so if you can still press keys either using thumbs or head/mouth pointer this can speed up typing. Where it says ‘shortcuts’ next to it when you press on that it brings up a list of shortcuts you can make. These are also known as abbreviation-expansions. For example typing ‘hhu’ quickly sends ‘Hi, How are you?’ into a chat box when someone IM’s me.

Another way to do this is to make a panel of buttons with pre-stored sentences on. My ‘Form Filler’ panel was made for this purpose and also handy to quickly put together a letter when I have to post one. clicking on one button will add my full address or ‘ Dear Sir/madam’ etc

I don’t use the on-screen keyboard on my iMac as I can manage to type on it due to the spaced key design on the keyboard and I chose the extended keyboard with number pad allowing me instant access to numbers without having to turn hotkeys on and off all the time. Hot keys uses the numbers 1-0 across the top of the qwerty keyboard.

On my old iBook which has smaller keys closer together I did use an on-screen keyboard and plug my joystick plus into it. For this I had another set of pre-stored sentences that I can use to quickly reply to Instant Messages and keep up in the chatroom.

When you clicked on the button with pic of keyboard on the panel extends (Chat ‘n’ Surf panel not yet completed)

Keystrokes can also be used with SmartNav and HeadMouse Extreme which allow you to control the cursor using head movements, or it can be used in conjunction with scanning panels (an additional program called SwitchXS) and a button.

Switch XS can scan a keyboard for you if you can only hit one button. You can use all your abbreivations created in Keystrokes and the hot keys word prediction. In this demo you can see it scans down to the number S1-15 to select the predictions shown on the right hand box. If you had Keystrokes before you can also edit your own panels and save them as a Switch XS panel to be scanned instead of the using one of the standard ones given in the program.

I purchased Keystrokes online and it is £234.12 at Kagi online.

They send you an activation code which you type in the trial version that you download. It then doesn’t expire after 15 days. I was able to use the same code for Keystrokes 4 (on iBook for OS X 10.3.9) and also download Keystrokes 4.1 onto my iMac (OS X 10.5) then later also onto my Macbook.

You can make panels do anything from opening programs to activating sequence of buttons if you have difficulty with more than one button at once.

It can speak words/letters as you input and you can make it read text back by adding a button that activates read text. It can be used as a basic communication aid this way.

Keystrokes also includes a Dwellclicker for people unable to press buttons or who find constant left clicking fatiguing. I find it handy for the constant left clicking, but find it quicker to drag and highlight by pressing and holding down a button placed right forearm whilst moving joystick with left hand.

Summary: An excellent program, very well put together and caters for a wide range of disabilities and input methods. The best feature I think is been able to design your own keyboards/panels from scratch although it does come with some to start you off which you can leave grey or recolour them easily.

Although expensive you only have to buy it once and because you can customise it and it works with a variety of input methods it also meets the needs of changing levels of disability due to progressive conditions etc.

NOTE: animated screenshots of Keystrokes and Switch XS taken from Assistiveware site. They also offer a text-to-speech program called Proloquo and a screen reader for the blind.

4 thoughts on “Assistiveware for Mac – Keystrokes

  1. Hi Kati! I’m a longtime Keystrokes user, but I never got very deep into making shortcuts. Now I’m having to move to a switch, so I’m adding SwitchXS, and suddenly see the need for an extensive shortcut dictionary. But I’m having one persistent problem, and I don’t know if it’s a glitch, if I have my settings wrong, or what. Basically, I have it set to expand shortcuts when the spacebar is pressed. The problem is that if I’ve defined a group of letters as a shortcut, and they happen to fall at the end of a word, they get expanded! For example, “ty” = “thank you”. If I type (using the switch) “dirty ” the shrtcut expands and gives me “dirthank you “. I can’t imagine that’s intended behavior (if anything because I’ve seen people define single letters as shortcuts, and that would result in an unintend shortcut expansion at the end of every word), Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, and thanks for the great write-up!

  2. Hi Becky

    You have to use a combination of letters that don’t happen naturally in words, I use tx for thank you tvm for thanks very much, txh thanks for your help etc

    I looked at switch XS I downloaded the demo but I can’t even get it to work for me so given up on it. I might get track-it instead if I can’t even manage joystick plus with directional control.

    You should check out this ladies video. She uses Switch XS and I think on her website you can download a copy of all her abbreviations/user dictionary for switch XS. The web site address is shown on end of video.

    How did you hear about my blog?


  3. Hey Katie,

    Great post! Keystrokes has certainly been one of the most important tools I’ve ever had. It’s just so flexible and there’s so much you can do with it.

    Would you be interested in posting some of those customized keyboards you created? The one you created for chatting, in particular, could be very useful for me and other people. I have created some keyboards on my own although mostly for specific games, and I usually post them along with the review of the game on the assistive gaming site. Some of those keyboards you created look fantastic! 🙂

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