Touchless Notifications - User's Guide

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What does this app do?

Touchless Notifications "plays" your notifications:

  1. It takes each active notification in the notification shade:
  2. Slides them on screen one by one in large easy to read type
  3. And reads them out aloud using synthesized voice of your phone

What is it for?

It can summarize what you missed

When you are done, and get on your way, you don't need to stop, and check all the small notifications.

Touchless Notifications will read them for you.

You don't even need to constantly look at the phone.

How can you use it?

You can give your phone a command

or it can start automatically, all hands free:

Notifications are also shown on screen, you can even swipe away quickly the ones which are not important.

Advanced features

All these features should already make Touchless Notifications special, but you can also:


have notifications read out as soon as they appear when connected to headset or car audio

 

reply to messaging notifications using your voice



 

shake the phone to mute it, in case it started to read aloud in the wrong moment


 

swipe away notifications with two fingers, so no more notifications will be read from that app in the future
 

wave at the phone to mute immediate announcements when the phone lays flat on its back (great for "always" car mode and phone flat on desk)

set it up to read second language messages using the correct speech engine


 

control every aspect of the read-out to make it as detailed or as concise as you need it


 

it can even tell you the ambient temperature on selected phones

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Special features

System configuration

Enable Notification Access

New since Android 4.3, device notifications can be accessed without any hacks. You can give apps permission to monitor and interact with the notifications. As you can imagine, being able to access the notifications is foundationally essential for the operation of Touchless Notifications.

The first time you start the app, it will prompt you to enable this in System Settings:

  1. Go to Settings from your home screen
  2. Find General / Security / Notification access
    (Touchless Notifications will take you directly to this setting on most devices)
  3. You will see a list of apps installed on your device which are prepared to interact with notifications
  4. Place a check mark next to Touchless Notifications
  5. An alert box will display, press OK
    (Touchless Notifications does not store or transfer your notifications outside the protected memory of your device)
  6. Press the back key twice to return to the app if you used the direct link to Settings

Device Administrator status

Starting with Android version 4.2, apps require the Device Administrator permission to be able to lock the screen. Touchless Notifications can turn the screen off after the notification reading to avoid accidental screen touches if the phone is in your pocket or bag. This setting is necessary for this functionality.

The first time you start the app, it will prompt you to enable this in System Settings:

  1. Go to Settings from your home screen
  2. Find General / Security / Device Administrators
    (Touchless Notifications will take you directly to this setting on most devices)
  3. You will see a list of apps installed on your device which are prepared to become a Device Administrator
  4. Place a check mark next to Touchless Notifications
  5. An alert screen will display, press OK
    (As you can see in the alert screen, Touchless Notifications only gains the administrator permission to lock your screen, nothing else)
  6. Press the back key twice to return to the app if you used the direct link to Settings

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App icons and screens

Touchless Notifications installs two icons on your phone:


Touchless Notifications
(Pro/Free):
Launch this icon for initial setup, and to change settings later


Notifications
:
Launch this for the read out (click the icon or say "Open notifications" in Google Now)


My notifications, What's up
etc.
You can enable more launcher icons in the app (more on this below)


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Home screen widget

2x2 widget: resize to only show/hide full screen control (1x1 and 1x2) / current settings (2x1 vs 2x2).

This is very simple, but I already have ideas for much more complex widgets based on the trigger system.
The current widget allows you to control the Car mode a.k.a. "Immediate read-outs" and whether to show full screen notifications or not.

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Persistent notification + quick actions

Touchless Notifications places a permanent notification in the shade if you select any of the headset/power monitoring features. Remove the notification by disabling all connection triggers in the settings.

Click on the notification to open the settings. Use two fingers to expand the notification to reveal the 3 additional options:


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Immediate "car" mode

You can choose to have notifications read out as soon as they appear. This is ideal for car use, or when you listen to music with the phone in your pocket. You may choose to have the notifications always to be read out immediately, or only when bluetooth or wired audio is connected.

Terminology:

Notes:

  1. Notifications which have already been read in immediate mode will not be repeated in the summary. An exception to this is when you set immediate read out and the headset (or bluetooth) is not connected: notifications are going to be repeated in the summary (this is because we cannot be sure that you heard these notifications when they went off).
  2. You can control immediate mode from other applications (such as Tasker) using a plugin. Details below.

You may control whether only to hear and not to display the notifications. You can control this separately for singe and summary type of read outs:

Note: even if you choose to show notifications for single read-outs, they will only be displayed when the headset (or bluetooth) is connected. If you need the full screen notification even when the screen is on, select "Always + show always" for immediate read-out.

You have control over how other audio is handled when Touchless Notifications starts to talk:

This you can also set separately for single and summary type of announcements:

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Reply by voice

Mark messaging apps using the Select messaging apps menu item. In the full screen notification, these notifications will have a microphone button in the options shade.

  1. Press the mic icon
  2. It lets you dictate your message
  3. Then it reads it back to you.
  4. Then it prompts you to "Send, start over or add more?" There are a couple of other options too, all of them are displayed in the voice prompt window:
  5. If you choose to send it: it will start the app (by emulating the "reply" quick action in its notification, hence getting right to the correct thread)
  6. It will prompt you: "Long press to paste your message"
  7. So it does need one more user interaction to paste and submit your message

Notes:

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Locale / Tasker plugin and intent control

Locale / Tasker plugin

Note: starting with v3.0 Touchless Notifications now have its own touchless trigger system, which is much easier to configure. If you are planning to switch over to the Touchless Trigger system, you might want to temporarily disable the settings invoked by the Tasker plugin: in the Touchless Triggers list press MENU and put a check mark next to "Debug: disable Tasker plugin"

If the Pro version of Touchless Notifications is installed on your device, it will show up in the Settings Plugin section of Tasker. The following settings can be changed using the plugin:

Usage:
→in Tasker press the + sign at the bottom of the task edit screen to add an Action.
→it's in the Plugin group called "Touchless Notifications" (look for the green icon)
→click the pencil on the top for configuration
→place a checkmark next to the setting(s) you want the action to change
→select the value for the setting from the drop down list which appears on the right (the options are the same as in the preferences screen of Touchless Notifications)

Use the "Show ticker / toast" switch to control whether you want visual feedback when settings are updated by your Tasker profile. I demo how to set up a simple profile in the following youtube tutorial: http://youtu.be/mC9HmpxíZR_w

Intent control (deprecated method - use the plugin instead)

You can control certain settings of Touchless Notifications by sending the following intent:

Use Send Intent command from Tasker, leave fields blank which are not mentioned above. I published the exported task of this call on XDA developers: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=53520865&postcount=44

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Settings reference

Basic and advanced setting screens

Quick settings mode

In this settings mode Touchless Notifications will show only the most essential options. The use of this settings screen is recommended:

For all the settings use the switch on the top of the settings screen to switch to Advanced mode.

Advanced settings mode

In this settings mode you can fine tune all aspects of Touchless Notifications. This might be overwhelming for first time users, for them the Quick settings mode is recommended (use the option on the top of the settings screen to switch back).

There are over 40 options listed on this screen, organized into 5 categories:

Tap the category headings to fold them in or out. To keep the screen less confusing, only one group is allowed to be folded out at a time.

Buy Pro version (Google Play Store link)

Click this (or same button in the action bar on top) to get to the Google Play Store to purchase PRO version. Benefits:

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"WHEN to start the read-out" section

When: Now (Test Now)

Click this (or the same icon in the action bar on top) to test summary read-out. Notes:

  1. Press "Back" button to stop read-out, and get back to settings
  2. Full screen notifications are always shown in test read-out, regardless of the display settings
  3. Previously announced active notifications are included in the test read-out.
  4. The configured greeting settings are applied to the test read-out, even in the Free version (you can check how it's going to sound in the Pro version)
  5. You can temporarily disable "Say each once" in the "How to read" section to have all active notifications read out fir a thorough test. Don't forget to change back the setting.
  6. There are usage tips shown and/or announced at the end of each test play back, these are not played if the summary read-out is triggered by any other means.

Start summary when connected to...

Touchless Notification can automatically start summary read-out on different connection events:

There is a permanent notification shown in the system notification shade when any of the headset / power monitoring is active. Read more on connection monitoring in the Persistent notification section.

Touchless Trigger system

New in version 3.0, you can automate settings and start summary readout using Touchless Triggers.

Notes:

One example: Silence TN for the night:

this way the car mode (whatever you had it set to before it got triggered) will be restored in the morning"

Immediate read-out on incoming notifications (i.e. "car" mode)

Touchless Notifications can provide two kinds of notification read-outs:

Select

Notes:

  1. More on car mode in the corresponding "Immediate 'car' mode" section.
  2. You can control the "car" mode in Touchless Notifications from using the built in trigger system. See details in the Touchless Triggers section.
  3. You can control the "car" mode in Touchless Notifications from other applications (such as Tasker) using intents or the Locale / Tasker plugin. See details in the Tasker section.
  4. You can toggle the "car" mode from the persistent notification in the notification shade.

Delay before immediate read-out

You can enable a short delay before the immediate read-out starts. Use this to allow time for your notification sounds if they are enabled for the different applications.

When you say these... (Active voice commands)

A convenient way to start the summary read-out by issuing one of the voice commands. They work both in Google Voice Command (ie Google Now) and in Samsung S Voice. Notes:

  1. This feature depends on how Google Now interprests commands. Some commands work for a while then result in just web searches. Unfortunatelly I have no control over how Google changes this behaviour.
  2. For this reason I will make available stand-alone read-out trigger mini-apps, which can be started by voice more reliably. Please check the menu item from time to time to see if new commands are available.
  3. For each voice command a launcher icon need to be enabled. More on this in the App icons and screens section.
  4. On some Galaxy phones (S4, Note 2, Note 3, S5) you can set up the phone to wake up to the voice command "Hi Galaxy". Using the app S for Switch Voice Pro you can configure Touchless Notifications Free or Pro to start summary read-out without any further commands:
    - "Hi Galaxy"
    - "Hi Master. You have 3 notifications. 3 minutes ago you missed a call from wife..."
    This is a handy mode to get updates on ski lifts, or while riding a bicycle - without taking out the phone from your pocket. You don't even have to have internet connection.

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"WHAT to include in the read-out" section

Say Greeting

Touchless notification will politely greet you with the appropriate greeting for the time of day. In the Pro version you can turn off the greeting. In the Free version this switch will only affect the Test read-out.

User name

You can configure your name, so Touchless Notifications can greet you personally. Options:

Important: in the Free version of the application, these settings will only affect the Test read-out.

Speak in full sentences

By default Touchless Notifications will do its best to express itself full sentences. Sometimes it will even vary the ways it says the same things. For certain applications (Messaging, Phone, Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts etc), it will formulate notifications in a more easily understandable format. If any of these efforts irritate you, you can disable this option for the quickest and most concise readout.

Say current time

Select whether the time of day is announced in the beginning of the summary read-outs.

Say battery level

Select whether the current battery level is announced in the beginning of the summary read-outs.

Black list apps

By default Touchless Notifications will read out all active notifications and all incoming notifications (in immediate "car" mode). If you don't need certain apps' notifications, you can mark them in this list.

Notes:

  1. The list contains only those apps from your device, which have ever put notifications in the notification shade. You can return to this setting after a few days to look at the list.
  2. You can blacklist apps also by swiping full screen notifications using two fingers. You will be prompted to confirm.
  3. You can blacklist apps also by swiping down on full screen notifications, and taping on the "Blacklist" button on the top of the screen
    (the "Blacklist" button is replaced by the "Reply" button for messaging notifications)
  4. You can remove apps from the list using this option in settings.

Timestamps

Choose how the time of each announcement is announced in the summary read-out:

Amount of detail announced

Each notification has several parts. Touchless Notification can read as much of them as you want:

  1. App name only: "GMail notification"
  2. Notification title too: "Gmail from Robert Seller"
  3. Second line too: "Robert Seller sent you a Gmail message, subject line 'Re: Our plans'"
  4. Ticker text too: Sometimes gives a little more information
  5. Expanded content shortened: first sentence of the message body too.
  6. Full expanded content: first few sentences of the message body (about twice as much as the previous level).

Say temperature

Certain devices have ambient temperature sensor built in (Note 3, S4). Enable this option to have a read-out of the temperature at the end of the summary read-out. If your device doesn't have the necessary sensors, the read-out will be omitted. You can choose between Celsius or Fahrenheit units.

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"HOW to read-out" section

Pre-announcement delay

The immediate "car" mode notifications may be announced with a 3 seconds delay (if either "shake to mute" or "wave to mute" modes are enabled, and no music is playing). You have 3 seconds to prevent the announcement following any of the following "warning" signals:

In the pre-announcement time period you may cancel using any of the usual mute options:

If the device was woken to show the notification the screen will turn off when muted.

Audio interruption

You have control over how other audio is handled when Touchless Notifications starts to talk:

This you can also set separately for single and summary type of announcements:

Prompt to unmute

Show an unmute button at the beginning of the summary read-out if the volume of the active audio stream is muted. Click on the unmute button (in the upper left) to restore the volume immediately, and you can also adjust the volume on the system volume slider.

Audio stream to use

Most users will probably want to keep it on the default Media audio stream.

Choose BT mono audio stream to channel read-out to your (mono) headset or car system. Currently this is only guaranteed to work on Android version 4.3 because of 4.4 breaking compatibility. In this setting, audio streaming falls back to the Media stream when no headset is connected.

Choose Alarm or Notification audio stream to hear read-outs from the phone's speaker even if a headset is connected.

Last two options: Media + BT and Notification + BT: Android version 4.4 broke BT mono stream backwards compatibility. Establishing the BT connection is still possible although no sound is streamed to the device. Please test the last two items in the Stream selector, these should quiet the radio, and hopefully stream the notification read-out through the phone's speaker.

The very last option: None (silent / show only) lets you disable readout voice but keep the full screen notifications. This is especially useful with the "Wake to show notification" and "Always display + wake phone" settings.

Say each once (remember what has already been announced)

Touchless Notifications can keep track of which active notifications it has announced already, and only announce new ones. Turn this off to have all active notifications to be announced in every summary. Notes:

Order

Notifications in summary read-outs are sorted in chronological order, as they appeared in the notification shade. Choose whether to start with the oldest or the newest.

Full screen notifications

You may control whether only to hear and not to display the notifications. You can control this separately for singe and summary type of read outs:

Note: even if you choose to show notifications for single read-outs, they will only be displayed when the headset (or bluetooth) is connected. (Enable the special car mode Always + show always to override this behavior)

*The last, "wake phone" option will turn on the screen if necessary for the duration of the notification announcement.

Animation

Full screen notifications will advance using a sliding animation from right to left in portrait mode and top to bottom in landscape orientation. Turn off the animation if it distracts you while driving or appears choppy on lower end devices.

Enable swipe gestures

Disable the detection of swipe gestures if you don't need them and they cause unwanted behavior. Read the section on Full screen hand gestures for more details. If enabled the 4 supported main gestures are:

Shake to mute

Shake phone to stop read-out. Works both in summary announcement mode and in immediate (car mode) read-out. Set the sensitivity for the shake detection in the next option.

Pre notification intro sound:

The immediate "car" mode notifications will be preceded by a soft "click" sound and a 3 seconds delay (if either "shake to mute" or "wave to mute" modes are enabled, and no music is playing). You can prevent the a notification read out completely by shaking or waving at the phone after you hear the intro "click". You will hear another click when the mute gesture is registered.

Shake sensitivity

Control the sensitivity for the shaking (see previous option). Devices and personal tastes are different. If you set it too sensitive (higher values) it might cancel an announcement just by having the phone in your pocket while walking. Set it too low, and you might accidentally throw away your device because it needs to be shaken too much. Enable "Shake to mute" and experiment by using the Test read-out.

You can turn on the Pre-announcement delay to register muting even before it starts to speak.

Wave to mute

Wave in front of the phone's proximity sensor (on the top of the phone face around the ear-piece) to mute immediate announcements.
Wave detection is active only in two cases:

You can turn on the Pre-announcement delay to register muting even before it starts to speak.

Sleep when done

Have the screen turn off during or after summary read-outs to prevent unwanted screen touches (in pocket or bag). You have three options:

 

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"Voice I/O (Messaging & language)" section

Select messaging apps

Mark messaging apps, they will be treated in a special way:

Auto show reply button for messages

Notifications of messaging apps (marked using the menu item above) will automatically show the reply button (no need to swipe away from the app icon to reveal the button panel). Normally, when the button panel is revealed, the read-out will pause for a minute, but if you configure to open automatically no pause will happen. (see Reply by voice)

Voice prompt after messages

At the end of the announcement of the full screen notification the voice input window will come up, and let you say either: Reply, Dismiss, Repeat, or Next. (see Reply by voice for details)

Speech engine

Select you preferred speech engine. The "Google text-to-speech Engine" will usually yield the best results, but feel free to experiment.

Note: if you plan to use the advanced dual-language feature, you have to make sure the same speech engine provides both languages, as they cannot be alternated. Currently the Google TTS includes various dialects of the following languages:

Other TTS engines available for Android phones: Samsung built in (includes chinese too), SVox Classic, Ivona, Loquendo etc.

Speech rate

Change how fast it's going to speak. 100% is normal speed.

Enable secondary language

Only useful if you have one voice engine which can handle both English and your second language. Parts of the announcements, which include any of the the listed letters, will be read using this language. Optionally you can enable the option Messaging apps use 2nd language.

Select secondary language

Select the other language which should be used to announce notifications which contain the identifying characters, or if Messaging apps use 2nd language is enabled. Localization is planned in the future, currently Touchless Notifications is aimed towards mainly English speaking users.

Identifier characters (language checking)

List all the letters and characters which help Touchless Notifications identify non-english parts of notifications. I understand that this doesn't work for many languages which don't use many accented or special characters, hence is the following menu item: Messaging apps use 2nd language. Updates to language detection can be expected as the user base widens.

Messaging apps use 2nd language

All text in notifications by messaging apps are announced using the second language voice (without doing the language checking).

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Play back reference

Summary vs. immediate read-out

There are two kinds of read-outs in Touchless Notifications:

Turn on Immediate "car" mode for the former, there are more ways to initiate the Summary readout:

Immediate readout can turn on your screen, fade in the notification, read-it, then fade out and turn off the screen. You swipe the screen to interact with the full notification.

Summary readouts:

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Full screen hand gestures

Unless you disable full-screen gestures (see Enable swipe gestures) you will be able to interact with your notifications using the following gestures. Since the animation differs in portrait and landscape orientation, the gestures have different directions. It's easier to remember if you remember their direction relative to the app icon on the screen:

Skip to next

swipe in the direction of the card advance (right to left in portrait, or top to bottom in landscape) to skip to the next notification without listening to the current one

Blacklist app

swipe in the same direction (right to left in portrait, or top to bottom in landscape) using two fingers to blacklist the app whose notification is being announced (notifications of blacklisted apps are not announced in the future). See the menu item Blacklist apps on how to remove an app from the black list.

Action buttons

swipe away from the app icon (top to bottom in portrait, or right to left in landscape) to reveal the action buttons on the top of the screen (see Notification action buttons)

Dismiss notification

swipe towards the app icon (bottom to up in portrait, or left to right in landscape) dismiss a notification (remove it from the system's notification shade - as if you have swiped it away there).

Notes:

Notification action buttons

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Troubleshooting

Does not let me uninstall

This is the most confusing if you try to uninstall the app from the Play Store. The "Uninstall" button is replace by "Deactivate". Since Android version 4.3, Google requires apps to register as Device Administrators, if they need to be able to turn off the screen. You have to revoke this status before you can uninstall.

Use the Before you can uninstall this app command in Touchless Notifications (at the bottom of the settings screen in advanced mode) or go directly to:

And uncheck Touchless Notifications.

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Does not read out incoming notifications

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Does not show full screen notifications

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Prompts to reactivate notification access

There is a documented bug in the Android system, which causes the notification listener not to be started correctly after a crash or Play Store install/update.

In short: A reboot always fixes it, but sometimes it's enough to disable/re-enable the Notification Access. Hence is the prompt in my app (previous version just didn't work).

More detail: Touchless Notifications needs to be rebound to the system. Google itself is working around this by re-enabling the Notification Access if the notification listener stops working. Unfortunately for user apps, this can only be carried out with the help of the user (you have to manually take away the checkmark and immediately place it back). See https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=62811

If Touchless Notifications detects that the connection was lost to the system, it will display a prompt for the user to re-enable the notification service:

  1. Tap on the Settings button to get into the "Notification Access" list
  2. Tap on the checkmark next to Touchless Notifications to remove it,
    then without going away from this screen
  3. Tap on the empty checkbox, to place the checkmark back in it
  4. The system will confirm this re-activation, press OK
  5. Press back key to return to Touchless Notifications

Finally, if the above procedure does not fix the problem, and the same prompt keeps coming back, please restart your phone. It will surely solve to issue (until the next update).

I am sorry for the inconvenience.

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How to turn it off

If you need to disable Touchless Notifications for a while, and you don't want to loose your settings by uninstalling it, do these:

The last step is not strictly necessary, because the notification service of Touchless Notifications is designed to be lightweight, with no discernible memory or process footprint. Note: all similar apps need an always running Notification access or Accessibility hack to intercept notifications. Notification Access is the officially supported way to do it.

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Does not read one app's notifications

Make sure the app whose notification you are expecting has not been blacklisted

No voice in my car's handsfree system

Depends on the handsfree system in your car. If it is using the BT mono protocol, you are out of luck:

Android version 4.4 broke BT mono stream backwards compatibility. Establishing the BT connection still possible although no sound is streamed to the device. Please test the last two items in the Stream selector, this should quiet the radio, and hopefully stream through the phone's speaker.

Important note: When testing, you will need to disconnect and reconnect the bluetooth device after you exit the Touchless Notifications settings screen.

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Interference with the notification sounds

Enable Delay before immediate read-out


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