Friday, 31 October 2014

CO-Writer, simple and powerful word processor for students with print disabilities.

price: $21.99
Application homepage:

This is one of my favourite literacy support apps for the creation of text and for reading. It has all of those highly desirable literacy support features and yet, it runs beautifully and has a really simple interface that is perfectly usable for even my most distractable students (once they've given the speech to text a run for its money by making it talk nonsense for a while, of course!)

There is a version for both american and british english (otherwise known as english) and the main difference is in the artificial voice and the spellchecker, both are of high quality.

At more than 20 dollars, this is not the sort of app one just buys to have a look at. So i've saved you the trouble and will give you a run down on how it works. I personally use the British English version as an Australian teacher.

The Title Screen

When you open the app you'll get a list of all the texts you have created or imported into CO-Writer these could be PDFS, copied text or created text. There are options here to rename and export writing to everything from facebook to email to iMessage- most of the time you will be resuming a text by clicking on it or pressing the new item button in the top right.

The Working interface

After you've created a new text or resumed a text from the title screen you'll come to a screen with your work, a keyboard with predictive text. The word prediction is customisable. You can use speech with the Siri key or word prediction to assist you in the construction of your passage.  Each word you type is spoken as you type or select it. Using this multisensory approach i've seen students comfortably create passages that they struggle with on pen and paper relatively quickly and it's very empowering for them and for me!

Phonetic Spellchecker and Word Prediction.

The spellchecker in CoWriter is geared towards mispellers- not mistypers like your average spellchecker. This means suggestions for corrections are based on the sounds or phonemes used rather then by assuming you know how to spell and have just missed a character!  You'll also notice in my screenshot that the word predictor has suggested a commonly used email address in my results- this is because Co-Writer's suggestions infer from your own writing style after a while!
Here is a little article which explains why COWRITERS word prediction and spellchecking algorithm is so sophisticated compared to more conventional types.

It guessed i was trying to spell "Knowledge" by looking at my phonemes- even though i missed the K- clever clever!

Speech to Text

Speech to text on CO-Writer BE can be configured for a male or female voice and both of these voices are very clear and easy to listen too. The rate of speech is adjustable. My only complaint is that the moving highlights- like the word prediction feature are NOT adjustable- my kids with low vision or glare issues are out of luck on this app for colour customisation. Boo!

Still great though if the blue highlights and words are easy for you or your student!

Customisation options

In no particular order- here are my favourite customisation options;

*Font size- up to Size N22. 
* Customisable fonts- Including San Serif fonts such as Tahoma!
* Pick between male and female voice
* Pick whether words or sentences are read out upon completion- or both!
* Speech rate

Topic dictionaries

Writing a paper and using scientific terms? Tell that to your word predictor and make life easy! The topic dictionaries span across KLA's- as well as being able to adjust for early,primary, secondary and tertiary language levels- a teacher or user can easily customise the word prediction so that the student will recieve suggestions appropriate to their topic- or just keep the settings on default and Co-Writer will just infer from the students writing style automatically.


There are plenty of literacy enhancement softwares, and the IOS updates continue to enhance the basic apple experience with word prediction. However few softwares work as well as this and have such a simplicity of interface combined with such powerful options. Most importantly- the thing doesn't stutter when you import large documents- it is in actuality- highly usable and convenience for its purpose.

I have trialled many softwares with my students and amongst students who do not have vision concerns- this app is typically the favourite, it has everything a student needs to use voice, audio or word prediction to assist them in creating and reading content and supplies it in an intuitive manner, it also interfaces well with other applications so one can use it as a daily tool for everything from sms's to shopping lists to essays. Recommended for young and old!

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