ABOUT THIS USER GUIDE

This document has been validated by W3C for good coding practice.

W3C validator page (opens an external link

Once Stascom Utility Suite has been installed, this user guide can be opened with the hot key, control+Windows+F1. The file will be launched in your default Internet browser. This document has been tested with three browsers and was found to navigate as expected. These browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Navigating the contents is similar to that of any page on the Internet, e.g. by headings and hyperlinks. The main sections are distinguished by level 1 headings, the sub-sections by level 2 headings, while additional information for sub-sections are under level 3 headings. The document consists of four main sections, i.e.

General program operation topics:

Utility description and configuration options topics:


GENERAL PROGRAM OPERATION

BACKGROUND ON THE PROGRAM

Stascom Utility Suite currently consists of a few, often unrelated, utilities. I started this project in late 2015, initially simply calling it Stascom. At the time the aim was merely to create a tool to automatically recover and manage sound on a user's default audio device. Subsequently I have added more utilities and functionality, which do not necessarily have any relation to audio as such. Nonetheless, they are proving useful, thus I added these to the package. As the program has grown substantially since its inception, I changed the name to Stascom Utility Suite. For simplicity, I shall refer to the program as Stascom throughout this document.

SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEMS

Stascom should run on any version of Windows, XP or later, but the supported operating systems are Windows 7 and Windows 10. The entries related to Windows settings and applications, control+Windows+F8, have not been tested on OS's earlier than Windows 7. Consequently, it is possible that not all of the entries in this dialogue will work if used on operating systems other than Windows 7 or 10.

A note to users of previous versions

Users who have been using older versions of Stascom should please take note of the following changes which were implemented in version 2017.1.7.

  1. In older versions the minimum allowed master volume output was 20 percent. Based on user needs this setting now is customisable between 5 and 50 percent. It was necessitated by persons with a hearing impairment using audio induction systems, as well as those needing amplification from their PC or laptop output. Other users who do not have a hearing impairment occasionally use earphones. In these scenarios, the previous minimum output level of 20 percent was too high.
  2. An opportunity to specify a minimum master volume level is given towards the end of the installation process. This value can be changed after installation in the sound recovery section via the configuration window.
  3. A further consequence of the changed approach regarding minimum volume is that previously defined volume levels, such as recovery volume and day / night volume levels, will have to be re-configured after installing version 2017.1.7.
  4. I have changed the interface of the configuration window. Based on user feedback the new approach is less cluttered and easier to navigate. The main screen has five radio buttons, referring to the four automated functions and the general settings section. In addition, there are two buttons below these controls, i.e. "activate" and "close." The "activate" button is the default in this window, so after arrowing to the desired radio button, pressing enter will open the corresponding settings. After pressing the "apply" button in any of the resulting windows will return focus to the main configuration screen from where a different section can be opened. Pressing the "close" button from the main window will collapse the configuration window and return to the system.
  5. The functionality of the desktop shortcut now is twofold. If the program is not active, it will launch it. If already active, the shortcut will bring up the program menu, similar to pressing control+Windows+M.
  6. The hot key for adding a window title exception has been removed. This key combo posed a challenge for users of laptop keyboards. The functionality to add a window title exception has been moved to the configuration window. The relevant button is found under the auto maximising section.
  7. An option for the user to choose between a desktop or laptop keyboard layout is currently being considered. This option might become available in a future release.

A QUICK NOTE ON USING BUTTON CONTROLS IN STASCOM DIALOGUES

Extensive use is made of button controls throughout the Stascom windows. Some of these buttons are defined as the default for their specific dialogues. This means that the button will be activated when pressing the enter key. Some dialogues have more than one button though. Since only one button can be defined as the default in any given dialogue, those not defined as defaults need to be activated by pressing the spacebar. This is consistent with Windows standards.

INSTALLING THE PROGRAM

AUTOMATIC PROGRAM UPDATE FEATURE

REMOVING STASCOM AND ITS ASSOCIATED CONFIGURATION

TEMPORARILY UNLOADING THE PROGRAM FROM MEMORY

GETTING A SUMMARY OF YOUR SETTINGS

THE MENU HOT KEY

The hotkey, control+Windows+m, will present the user with a numbered list consisting of linked functions to the individual hot keys of the program, as well as five miscellaneous functions. The letter m used in this combination can be thought of as m for menu. This keystroke was added for convenience, should the user not wish to memorise the individual hotkeys. Please note that a full list of hot keys is available in the hot key reference at the end of this user guide.

The order of the list of hot keys in the above-mentioned dialogue honour the order of the corresponding function key combinations used with control+Windows. The order of these options is as follows:

  1. Control+Windows+F1: - Open user guide.
  2. Control+Windows+F2: - Generate summary report.
  3. Control+Windows+F3: - Open configuration options window.
  4. Control+Windows+F4: - Unload Stascom from memory for the current session.
  5. Control+Windows+F5: - Audio mixer information.
  6. Control+Windows+F6: - Password Generator.
  7. Control+Windows+F7: - Word count.
  8. Control+Windows+F8: - Windows settings and applications.
  9. Version information.
  10. Reset program settings to installation defaults.
  11. Contact the program developer via e-mail.
  12. Manually check for program updates;
  13. visit the developer's home page.

Please note that first digit navigation is supported in the menu hot key. For example, pressing the digit 5 will move focus to the entry for audio mixer information. Press enter to activate the entry with focus. Pressing the digit 1 will cycle between option 1, 10, 11 and 12. To dismiss the dialogue, press the cancel button or alt+c, or simply press the escape key.

DOWNLOADING THE SETUP PROGRAM

As mentioned above, Stascom is self-maintaining in terms of future updates. Should the user wish to download the installer for backup purposes, the latest build will be available from my secured web site.

Open my home page here, opens in a new browser window

CONTACTING THE PROGRAM DEVELOPER

Feel free to contact me with feedback. Future updates to the program will be considered, depending on user requests and my availability midst of other projects. Kindly consult this user guide before asking support questions. An option to send me an e-mail is also available under option 11 in the menu hot key, control+Windows+m.


UTILITY DESCRIPTION AND CONFIGURATION OPTIONS

OVERVIEW OF UTILITIES

What follows are descriptions of the automated functions in Stascom, what to expect from their behaviour, as well as how to tailor their settings to your own preferences.

SOUND RECOVERY

The purpose of the Sound Recovery feature is to recover audio output under the following circumstances:

  1. Master volume becomes muted, at which point the utility will automatically unmute the default audio device.
  2. Volume level of the master output on the default audio device drops below the user defined minimum level, in which case it will automatically be set to the pre-defined recovery volume output, see the section on customisation for more detail.
  3. When Stascom corrects sound output, whether it's by unmuting your default audio device or recovering the master volume output, a SAPI5 message will report the event. This message will be accompanied by the default Windows exclamation sound. The message itself will report the name of the event, i.e. whether Stascom recovered mute or low volume, the name of your default audio device on which the recovery was made, and lastly, the time the recovery was made.
  4. It is important to note that if the day / night volume adjustment on a schedule is enabled, sound recovery will only be made from the minimum output level to the recovery volume if the system time is earlier than the defined night-time. The reasoning behind this is to cater for a night-volume lower than a "general use" volume.

Let's put sound recovery to the test

To test the recovery automation, from the Windows run dialogue (Windows+R), enter "sndvol" without the quotes and press enter. This will bring up the mixer dialogue where output levels for your audio device can be adjusted, as well as muting of the master volume and other applications running on your system at the time. Feel free to either lower the master volume below your defined minimum volume, or muting the master volume. Stascom will immediately, provided that the sound recovery feature is on its default setting of enabled, unmute the master output, or increase the volume to the pre-defined recovery volume level, in the event that it has been dropped below the minimum volume. As mentioned in the point above, the event will be reported via a SAPI5 message. It will also be reflected in the summary report, generated with control+Windows+F2.

Configuration options for sound recovery

Sound recovery disclaimer

It should be noted that the sound module in Stascom cannot recover audio output if

AUTOMATED DAY / NIGHT VOLUME ADJUSTMENT

Changing options for day / night volume adjustment

AUTOMATED MAXIMISING OF APPLICATION WINDOWS

AUTOMATIC TIME ANNOUNCEMENTS

Changing time announcement options

This concludes the section on automated functions. Please continue reading to learn about on demand utilities in Stascom and how they can enhance your daily computer operation.

AUDIO RELATED HOT KEYS

PASSWORD GENERATOR DESCRIPTION

Generating a password

Important note on password generator

For security reasons, the generated password is not stored in a file on your system. After generating a password, it will merely remain on the Windows clipboard, provided that the user has activated the button described above, until the contents of the clipboard is replaced by different text or a file or files. If not copied to the clipboard with above mentioned button, the password exists merely in memory until the dialogue is closed. It therefore is recommended that the user should immediately save this password in a secured database program directly after generating it. Two such tools are

KeePass (opens in a new browser window)

and

PasswordSafe (opens in a new browser window

WORD COUNT

WINDOWS SETTINGS AND APPLICATIONS

CONFIGURATION OPTIONS OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF AUTOMATED FUNCTIONS

It was made clear under the section about automated functions that all these modules have configuration settings which  ensure user control over when, how or if they should be performed. The automated function settings are contained in the first four radio buttons i.e. Sound Recovery, Day / night volume adjustment, Automatic maximising and Time Announcement. A fifth radio button exists, called general settings, pertaining to those features outside the scope of automated functions. The entries currently presented when activating this radio button are discussed below. As more features are added to Stascom, the available options in this section will be expanded.

Select preferred SAPI5 voice and speech parameters

During installation, the user has the opportunity to select a preferred SAPI5 voice, speech rate and volume level. Since we tend to change our minds after making an initial choice, the option to modify these is necessary. When pressing this button, the user will access the familiar dialogue we saw during installation, i.e. a list of installed voices, preferred speech rate and volume adjustment. A button to preview the voice, and, finally a button to save the voice settings for future use. It should be noted that the voice chosen here is based on the index number for the specific voice as returned by Windows. Should the globally used SAPI5 voice be changed or SAPI5 voices be installed or removed by the user, this index reference will change. This effectively means that Stascom will channel its messages through a different voice. It is recommended that in this scenario the user manually unload Stascom, make changes to the Windows voices and then re-load Stascom by activating the desktop shortcut. If not, it is possible that Stascom will encounter an error when attempting to speak via a previously selected SAPI5 voice. Also, after adding or removing a SAPI5 voice or changing the globally used SAPI voice, it will be necessary to re-configure the preferred voice to be used with Stascom.

Enter preferred name to use for program messages and profile settings

Sounds familiar? Yes, we had the option to enter a preferred name during installation, rather than to be addressed by our Windows profile name. Once again, we may have the need to change this name to something shorter, or perhaps a nick name. This button will first report what the currently recorded name is, offering to change it by entering a new name. If no new name is entered, the previously defined name will be used.

Automatically check for updates when program starts

Earlier in this document I recommended leaving this feature enabled to benefit from new additions to Stascom as they are released. However, we may occasionally find ourselves in a situation where Internet access is limited, or expensive, for example, when we are paying for access at a hotel. Even though the installer for Stascom is fairly small, we would want the freedom to disable the automatic update feature when required. This is a standard set of radio buttons, i.e. the one setting will enable this feature, the other will disable it.

Enabling / disabling hot keys for inserting accented and other special characters

This feature enables the user to easily insert accented and other special characters. While Stascom is active and the option pertaining to this feature is enabled, press control+slash, within three seconds followed by the letter "h", to open the reference guide in your default browser.

READING EMOJI SYMBOLS

If the Stascom installer detects that NVDA is installed on the user's system, it will copy a dictionary file which will translate emoji symbols. Please note that this dictionary file is specific to NVDA and will not be utilised by a different screen reader. During installation, the setup program will announce a message via the selected SAPI5 voice that this dictionary file is copied, as said, only if NVDA is present on the system. A NVDA add-on, developed by Erion and Jeff Rutkowski, to insert these symbols and special characters in an edit field is available for download from the following site:
download the Symbol Insertion NVDA add-on here (opens in a new browser window
Please consult the documentation accompanying this add-on for instructions on how to insert these symbols in your text.

HOT KEY REFERENCE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Christo de Klerk

Jacob Kruger

My wife, Retha

Deenadayalan Moodley

Jan Bam

Many thanks to all of you, you keep me on my toes, not to mention humble. 👍

Go to General program operation

Go to Utility description and configuration options

Go to hot key reference

Go to top of document