At Speaking Email we realise you want to save time not waste it. That’s why we avoid reading out clutter.
But how do we do that? We’ve now got 6 ways to keep you hearing your most important emails.
1. Ignored senders
Our most recent addition is a little feature we call “ignored senders”. With two taps you flag an email for ignoring and that sender will be skipped in future. It still reads out the name and then says “skipping this sender” so you are aware – and you can tap again to unignore.
2. Reply thread skipping
Emails often contain long threads of replies and forwards. I prefer to listen to these and then swipe next when I’ve heard enough. You may prefer we don’t read these out at all. We have a feature that looks for your name or email address within thread headers and skips the rest of the email when we have evidence this email thread has crossed your path already. This is a really nice feature for busy people listening handsfree.
“Skipping the rest as it was in reply to an email sent by you”
3. Signature skipping
Within emails we detect and skip over bits of irrelevant content. This includes email signatures, legal disclaimers, footers, contact details such as phone and fax blocks, long strings of digits, IDs, URLs, characters such as ———–.
4. New emails only
If you want to hear only new emails we have two switches for this, either unread only or unplayed only. The difference is “unread” uses the server status to tell if it’s been marked as read from any mail client, while unplayed is just whether Speaking Email has read it out already.
5. Gmail category tabs
Promotional, social, updates and forums. If you use gmail you can switch on or off any of these gmail categorisations in account settings.
6. Skip promotional emails
Sick of listening to junk mail and newsletters? There’s a switch to turn these off. We detect promotional emails simply by looking for unsubscribe links.
Lots of people said this app would be great for blind people so we have been working with the blind community to make Speaking Email accessible using VoiceOver.
I’m pleased to announce that Speaking Email is now fully accessible with VoiceOver, the screen reader that blind people use to interact with their iPhone. We’ve been reviewed as a fully accessible app on AppleVis, the online community for visually impaired iPhone users.
We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic and supportive feedback from blind and visually impaired users, which makes this effort really feel worthwhile:
“I just wanted to say this app is awesome! It makes reading emails a lot easier.”
“Your app is one of a handful that could assist people with visual problems and I strongly support your efforts.”
“I want to thank you for this app because my 93 year old mother is almost blind from macular degeneration. She can now listen to her emails without needing someone to read them to her”
“The accessibility is awesome”
In the process we learnt a lot about making HTML5 apps WAI ARIA compliant, and some of the challenges around swipe and slide interactions using VoiceOver. A big problem is that VoiceOver takes over the swipe gestures, and a fundamental part of our app is what we call the “email slider” where you navigate emails by swiping left and right.
We managed to solve this by presenting the email slider as an ARIA “tabset”, which is a component that happens to be navigated by swiping left and right. We named the tabs by the title of the email (eg “Email from Fred Flintstone”) so the user can quickly flip between emails and hear VoiceOver read out the email title. A couple of seconds after the user stops changing tabs (ie swiping left and right), we then trigger our own text-to-speech engine to read out the email content nicely as usual. So we managed to present a swipe left and right interface using VoiceOver and WAI ARIA standards.
We got some amazing feedback from our beta testers during this, and their feedback helped drive this effort.
Stuff like this made our day:
“Speaking Email totally rocks! The accessibility is awesome!”
Check out Speaking Email at www.speaking.email – also usable while driving (or doing anything else).
Speaking Email now has simplified connecting to Office 365 and supports enterprise security policies in Exchange. http://www.speaking.email
Some of our Exchange and Office 365 users had trouble connecting due to enterprise IT security polices. We’ve now implemented Microsoft’s ActiveSync provisioning protocol, enabling Speaking Email to play nicely with corporate IT policies. So more people in enterprises can use Speaking Email to listen to their email on the go.
We also simplified the account set up process for Office 365 – many people were unsure what settings to use so it’s now preset.
There are more enhancements for Exchange users coming. We recently added a setting allowing you to control the number of days back to sync your inbox (just like in iPhone mail app). We plan to improve this by adding an “auto” setting with automatically figures out the number of days based on number of emails you typically get. Too many days sync can cause major slowdowns for people with hundreds of emails a day. Too few means you many not see many new emails unless you use Speaking Email regularly. So we think automatically determining this will help some odd situations some users have reported and plan to make this the default setting.
Other things on the wishlist for Exchange are:
– plan to support autodiscovery of server settings based on email address
– quick replies (currently works with gmail automatically and others with configuration, but not available on Exchange)
– attachment speaking (reading out the contents of word or PDF docs attached to emails)
Let us know in the comments if you’d like to get your hands on any of these features or if you have another feature to suggest.
1. Stop checking emails during family time
2. Stop bad texting and driving behaviour – use purpose designed apps in the car
3. Get a phone cradle for my car
4. Get more organised with work email
5. Use my time efficiently
6. Recommend Speaking Email to my friends
Speaking Email currently can miss emails that are in the past when using Exchange server. This happens because we sync back only one day by default. If you only want to listen to your latest email this is not a problem. But if you expect to see emails from a few days ago, you will not see them.
We have now added a feature under account settings allowing you to choose how many days to sync back. Our sync defaults to one day, which means it checks for new mail since yesterday (i.e. it will not download mail from the day before yesterday).
If you get lots of mail and are up to date on reading it, this is a good setting. But if you don’t have heaps of mail every day, or want to listen to your inbox back a few days, you will want to set it to longer.
I had this great idea for a feature for us to build into speaking.email. Wouldn’t it be cool if you started driving to work, and very helpfully, Speaking Email would read out your days’ agenda. That way, you could be heading to work, and Speaking Email would pipe up and tell you about a meeting you have in 20 minutes, in the other direction!
Anyway, it turns out that Gmail Calendar already has this feature. It will send you an email that Speaking Email will read out to you, while driving.
Over the years I’ve come up with lots of coping strategies to deal with the daily commute. I’ve tried music, but I only had one tape. I’ve tried calling someone for a chat, but they are usually also driving or busy – plus it’s hard to get the microphone setup right. Luckily gadgets have come a long way since the tape deck. I’ve had great success with audio books, and more recently podcasts on my phone. It was pretty hard in the early days of my palm 5 and windows ce clamshell type devices, but these days with Android and iPhone things are a bit easier for everyone. I’ve had the privilege to be right in the heart of seeing how these devices work, and how apps are built for them, being a programmer since the 90’s (oh man!)
Now, with our Speaking Email app, it feels good to be able to provide one more solution to the commute problem. The idea is that you get in the car, put your phone in the cradle, check your Bluetooth is talking to the car (or headset / hands free system) then open Speaking Email and start driving. You can catch up with your emails that came in over the weekend – just like you are listening to the radio or a podcast. When it runs out of email to read, it will wait until something comes in, then read that. Really good for making sure you’re right up to date before you get to work. If you have your phone mounted in a cradle, you can do a ‘2 touch’ reply to someone – e.g. press reply, then choose a canned reply you set up earlier such as ‘we need to discuss that’.
I’d be keen to hear if you have had a similar experience trying to get some useful time back during your commute. Have you had any other success with getting stuff done while multitasking – and does speaking email fit into your work day? We are really keen to improve it too, so tell me if you can see ways to change and enhance it and we can help you make your commute better.