Wednesday, November 18, 2015

ZoomText Fusion, a quick review

The latest product from AI Squared is called ZoomText Fusion 10.1.  This is a ZT magnifier integrated with Window-Eyes 9.2.   This product seems to target people with progressive vision loss, such as those with retinitis pigmentosa, to transition seamlessly from magnifier to a full time screen reader.  Unlike the screed reader that was in the ZoomText Magnifier/Reader 10, the Window-Eyes  screen reader in the ZT Fusion has lot more capabilities. With my continue worsening vision, I have been looking into a full time screen reader for awhile.  I have tried JAWS and NVDA screen readers but found them hard to use because of all those hard to remember hotkey shortcut.  ZT Fusion is supposedly easier to use, especially for those who already familiar with the ZT Magnifier/Reader, that's me.  I have to give ZT Fusion a try so I downloaded the free 60-day trial before deciding whether to spend the money to upgrade.  BTW, the upgrade price from ZT Magnifier/Reader is $399 while buying a new copy is $999.

I installed the trial software in a laptop PC running Windows 7 Professional.  This PC already had ZT Magnifier/Reader 10 installed on it.  There is no need to uninstall ZT 10 to run the trial software.   During ZT Fusion installation, Avast anti virus program thought one of the file was a virus and stopped the installation.  I had to stop the anti virus program in order to continue.  I noticed the installation process has been improved.  There is a tool bar to change font size and enable or disable voice at the top of each installation screen.  If you enable voice, you would hear what button or options on the screen.  The setup wizard would run as part of the installation, you can choose to run the wizard or choose the default setting. If you choose the default setting, you can change the setting later.  It took about 5 minutes to install all the software components.  There was a progress bar on the screen but no audio feedback during this component installation.  If you can't see the screen, you might not know what's going on.

Oh, ZT Fusion supports Window 7, Window 8.1 and Window 10, it also support touch screen.   I am happy with Win 7 and have no plan to move to Win 10, so the additional Window OS support has no value to me.

After completing the installation and restarting the PC, you would see the ZT Fusion 10.1  tool bar which is very similar to the ZT 1Magnifier/Reader 10 tool bar but with an additional tab labeled Fusion.
Magnifier Tool Bar

The magnifier tab looks the same but has more finer magnification granularities for the lower magnification range.  While this is nice, I won't  upgrade for this feature because I don't think it would benefit me if my vision is getting worse down the road.

The Reader tab also look the same but has three new sections under Verbosity setting.  These new sections offer verbosity settings for common tasks, browser mode, and MS office.   Additional screen reader control can be found on the Fusion tool bar.  In addition to IE and Firefox browsers, the ZT Fusion now also support Google Chrome browser.   ZT Fusion also has bunch of settings for MS Office. This has little value to me because I use Firefox browser and Google Doc.

The Tool tab has an additional icon called Image Reader.  This is an additional  OCR and hardware product to read hardcopy documents.  I think my Abbyy OCR software and scanner could provide similar function.

Since I chose the default setting during the installation, I wanted to bring up the setup wizard to see what options were set.  The setup wizard is a new choice under the settings on the menu bar.  The setup wizard let you set the most common options for magnifier, reader, and tools in few screens.  Alternatively, you can do the same setting and more under each tab.  After revewing the settings and changing some to my liking, I want to look at what's new under the Fusion tab.  Clicking the Fusion tab would bring up the following Fusion tool bar which contain 3 groups.

Fusion Tool Bar

Settings: this icon would bring up the Window-Eyes 9.2 control panel.  The control panel contains many screen reading advanced options that are all new to me. Pressing PF1 key would bring up the window-Eyes user manual which has description for all the options.  I think I have to read through this manual in order to use the screen reader.

BrowserMode :  turn on or off automatic browser mode while on the web.  If you click on an input field like in a form, it would turn off the browser mode so you can enter data.  You can also manually turn off browser mode by pressing insert + z keys.

PageNav : pressing this icon while on a web page would list all the headings, links, and landmarks on that web page.  I think the Web Finder on the magnifier tool bar provides the similar  function.

TutorMode:  provide voice guide while you running application.  The amount of guidance is depended on the verbosity setting. For this quick look, I turned on the beginner level and checked many boxes on the verbosity setting for web. 

LearnCtr: contains online tutorial on various ZT Fusion topics such as magnifier, screen reader, web page, Microsoft office.

Pronunciations : offer a way to change the pronounciation of a word to your liking.

OK, let's take ZT Fusion to a spin on the web.  The first website I visited was  The site detected I was using a screen reader and offer a screen reader friendly website at  The website didn't offer this option when I was using ZT 10.  Once on the alternate amazon website, ZT Fusion read  out number of links on the home page.  The ZT Fusion turn on browser mode automatically, you can tell because the pointer was changed from an arrow to a pointing finger with arrow keypad symbol.  At this time, you can use the up and down arrow key to move around the webpage or use hotkey shortcut to do the same.

I then tried Fusion with Google Chrome.  The first time I was on the Google home page, it offered a link to turn off the instant search option, which I didn't do.  After couple of search, Fusion crashed saying it had compatibility issue and told me go the browser's advance setting to turn off some options.   

Next, I opened the Thunder Bird mail client.  ZT Fusion told me to use arrow keys to move around in this application.  I was able to read and send email.

Finally I opened a Google Doc.  The document was opened in browser mode.  While in the browser mode, I used arrow keys to move around the page to read.  To edit the document, I pressed insert + z to get into edit mode.  Fusion seem to work fine with Google doc.

After using ZT Fusion for few days, I don't plan to update at this time for the following reasons:

ZT Fusion feature

What’s in for me

Win 10 & touch screen support

Np plan to use Win 10 or touch screen

MS office support

I use  Google Doc

Google Chrome support

I prefer Firefox

Window-Eyes screen reader

Nice to have, but the regular ZT screen reader is OK for my need at this time.  I might use the free NVDA screen reader in the future.

Supposedly easier to use for current ZT magnifier user

Not really, I still have to memorize all those hotkey shortcut just like other full time screen readers.  I like the tutorial mode and the auto browser mode.

Upgrade for $399

Too expensive, I would consider it for $100.

I will continue to use the ZT Fusion until the end of the trial period.  Who know, I might find some functions' I can't live without and bite the bullet.  Will update this as I learn more about ZT Fusion.

As a side note.  For the past few days, I have had few  crashes on Fusion start up and couple of crashes when trying Fusion with IE and Google Chrome.  These crashes might suggest stability issues and this is another reason that I don't want to upgrade.  The ZT Magnifier/Reader 10 is much more stable.

ZT released an update for Fusion on 12/16/2015.  After running Fusion with the update for few days, I don't think the update make any improvement.  I told ZT about this and they had me install an utility to collect system dump.  When I run the utility, all I got was a blank window screen, I had no idea what it done.

ZT released another update on 1/7/2016.  The release note didn't say what the update fixed.  The Fusion with this second update seem to be more stable.

After 60 days of free trial, I have decided not to update to Fusion Ver 10.1 for the above reasons.  After I deleted the Fusion trial software, I attempted to run the ZoomText Readder/Magnifier Ver 10.1 free trial, but keep having trial has expired message.  I guess I can only run one free trial software per PC.  When I delete the ZT Ver 10.1 software, it also deleted my current ZT Ver 10 software from the PC as well.

Disclaimer:  I am no expert on ZoomText products, this post may have inaccurate statements.  Please visit the following link for the most accurate and up to date product info. 
Zoom Text Fusion product info

FWIW, this July 2015 WebAIM survey seem to suggest that Window-Eyes is gaining popularity as a primary screen reader.  However, I think the gain is partly due to its inclusion with MS Office.  The following diagram is from the survey. 
Screen reader usage trends