Welcome to Stascom 2019.4 by Jacques Stassen
What's new in version 2019.4?
- Added support for installation on a Windows standard user account;
- Added the ¿ and ¡ characters to the accented characters module;
- Added an option to disable the home row 1 to 0 quick access hotkeys;
- Decrease / increase volume hotkeys were changed to modifier+8 and modifier+9 respectively. The previous key bindings were found to cause unexpected keyboard behaviour on one of the beta tester's system. This change also serves as greater consistency, as all hotkeys now use the same modifier;
- Added an option to disable the ascending / descending tones when adjusting master volume with the built-in hotkeys;
- Added an extra option to time announcements to provide speech only;
- Improved interaction with JAWS;
- Added option to disable automatic correction of mute status on default sound card;
- The setup file now automatically unloads all running modules before installing an update;
- The files for the hotkey reference guide and inserting accented and other special characters are stored locally, as to have access to these files while not connected to the internet.
Changes since the 2017 release
Apart from the new features included in Stascom 2019.4, a number of changes compared to the 2017 release apply, summarised as follows:
- On-the-fly changes of the default audio output device will be honoured by program specific voice notifications. To ensure that this works as expected, the advanced setting for SAPI5 settings in Windows should be set to use "preferred audio device" instead of a specific sound card;
- When the package launches, it checks if all required program files are present. Should any files be absent, Stascom will give an appropriate message and open the user's default browser to download the setup file;
- The name of previous versions of the program was quite long, often resulting in people referring to it by the wrong name. For simplicity, the package now simply is called "Stascom";
- Due to code optimisation, The program is substantially smaller than in previous versions. The installer is a mere 1.78MB. The required disk space for the program is 12MB;
- The emoji dictionary for NVDA supplied with previous versions is not installed any longer, as emoji translation is now natively supported in the latest versions of NVDA and JAWS;
- When the program launches, greeting the user is based on the time of the day, e.g. good morning or good afternoon;
- Stascom 2019.4 registers as a normal Windows installation and therefore is listed under "add / remove programs" in Windows 7 and "programs and features" in Windows 10. It follows that, if required, removal of the program can be performed as per Windows standard procedure. Unlike many uninstallers, all program files, shortcuts and program configuration will be removed;
- The word count routine has been re-written and is now handled internally with improved responsiveness. The feature strips all punctuation and special symbols, providing a more accurate result than most other packages;
- Correction of low volume needs to be enabled through the relevant setting in Configuration Manager and is disabled by default. To ensure that master volume output is reset to your personal preference, specify the desired volume level during the second phase of installation. This value can later be changed under the "Set correction volume level" setting in the Configuration Manager. The default value for this setting is 50 percent;
- The list of Windows settings and applications has been revised and stripped of entries which perform more or less the same as some of the other entries in this list. This list now totals 51 entries;
- The configuration report listing package specific settings and general system information is now renderred in HTML rather than plain text. This means that the different categories can easily be navigated by headings, as on any web page;
- Battery status on laptops is reported automatically while disconnected from charger, while charging, or both. The notification intervals are configured in the Configuration Manager. As can be expected, this feature and associated options are hidden on desktop computers;
- Contact Manager, including yearly customisable audio and text birthday reminders for listed contacts. Alert options are either audio and text, text only, or disabled. If set to audio and text, the audio alert will be repeated after 15 minutes (by default), if a reminder is not acknowledged. The interval can be changed to half hourly, hourly, or disabled in Configuration Manager. This module is mainly for the benefit of users who do not have access to a smartphone, or possibly those who prefer the flexibility and simplicity of the Stascom alternative. The current version does not feature importing contacts from an external file source such as csv;
- Reminder Manager with audio and text alerts, with optional repetitions on a future date. Audio alert sound can be changed if desired. The same customisable options as with birthday reminders, are available. See above;
- Calculate day of the week for any date between 1 January 1601 and 31 December 9999;
- Maximises application windows automatically. Window title exceptions can be specified ;
- Prevents mute status on default sound card automatically. Recovery volume is configurable;
- Low volume correction on default sound card (disabled by default). Minimum and normalise levels are configurable;
- Two schedules and output percentage for automatic volume adjustment can be specified (disabled by default);
- Password Generator, creating a unique, very strong 10 character password with each keystroke. Generated password can be copied to clipboard optionally;
- Time announcements on the hour, half hour and quarter hour. Individual hours can be specified, or disabled altogether. Custom audio chimes are optional if preferred over the included sound clips;
- Accented and other special characters can be easily inserted with hot keys;
- Alphabetical list of 51 Windows applications and settings quickly accesseible with a hot key;
- master volume level increased / decreased by 5% with hot keys, ascending / descending tones to indicate the volume adjustment;
- Word count for selected text in commonly used editors and browsers, with an option to place the result on the Windows clipboard. This feature is not supported in some editors and e-mail clients with non-standard cursors. The results are more accurate than in most similar packages, as it ignores all punctuation and special characters;
- Program configuration can be reset to installation defaults;
- Report generator, providing a summary of program settings and system information in HTML format for easy navigation;
- Choice of three sets of modifier keys to use with Stascom hotkeys. A bypass key suspends Stascom hotkeys for five seconds. Should the user wish to disable the home row 1 to 0 hotkeys altogether, this can be done under the general category in Configuration Manager. If these keys are disabled, all options can still be accessed through the program dashboard, activated with modifier+backslash.
Operating system support
Stascom will run on Windows 7 and 10, both 32 and 64 bit architectures. As support for Windows 7 will be discontinued in January 2020, Windows 10 is recommended from a security perspective.
Screen reader support
Stascom 2019.4 has been tested with the latest versions of NVDA, JAWS and Narrator in April 2019. All aspects of the program are accessible with these three screen readers. It should be noted though that translation of the dashboard and other windows is superior with NVDA.
Downloading and installing the program
Should you read this after downloading and installing Stascom 2019.4, feel free to skip to the next heading.
The following caveats apply to downloading and installing the program.
- There is no need to remove an older version of the program before installing version 2019.4. The setup program will close the previous version and replace it with the latest update.
- Depending on the local security policy on the user's system, Windows 7 and 10 may report that the origin of the file, "Stascom_setup.exe," is unknown. This is normal for any program that does not have a signed certificate. As Stascom is a free program and not sponsored by any means, it does not warrent the expense of such a certificate.
- When using Internet Explorer browser to download the setup program, Smart Screen Filter may inform the user that the program has not been signed by the developer. Refer to the explanation above.
- When receiving these warning messages, simply instruct Windows to continue with the download or installation. The same holds true for the second part of the installation where initialisation is done for first run of the program.
Users might be greeted with silence from their screen readers in these scenarios when another message from Windows is presented. Pressing tab or shift+tab will echo the following message from Windows:
Windows protected your PC. Windows SmartScreen prevented an unrecognized app from starting. Running this app might put your PC at risk. More info. Don’t run.This is normal for any program that does not have a signed certificate. Enter on "more info" and then on "run anyway." Stascom has been tested extensively on various systems, so the user may continue with confidence at this point.
Hotkeys and modifier keys
The default modifier for Stascom hotkeys is the control key. This can be changed to alt or alt+control in the Configuration Manager. Should you find that any of these assignments clash with another application on your system, modifier+0 can be used as a bypass key. This key combination suspends all hotkeys for five seconds, as to allow the keys to be passed through to the underlying application. A third option is to disable the home row 1 to 0 quick access keys under the general category in Configuration Manager. Modifier+backslash opens the program dashboard, from where all features and user preferences can be accessed. For a complete list of program hotkeys, press modifier+backslash for the program dashboard, then activate the entry called "Hotkey reference guide."
Navigating the Stascom interface
Whether you are navigating the Stascom dashboard, or any other dialogues produced by the program hotkeys, interaction with the controls is standard to any other Windows interface. For convenience, pressing the escape key or Alt+c will consistently move back one level in the interface, or return focus to the system when the lowest level is reached. The exception to the rule is when navigating Configuration Manager, in which case these keystrokes will move to the next settings category.
I wish to thank the following people for their valuable suggestions and hours of testing. Christo, Jacob and Retha have been involved since inception of the program in 2015, the other users were added as testers for this final version.
- Chris Belle
- Christo de Klerk
- Geoff Waaler
- Ian Blackburn
- Jacob Kruger
- Lena Joy
- Mohammadreza Rashad
- Retha Stassen
- Teri McElroy