Note for service coordinators:
Medical and ergonomics experts advise typists to use special equipment to minimize the physical stress of the job.
Some suggestions are lightweight computers, a good quality roller bag, and a portable steno table.
Also, it is usually a good idea to identify a personable tech person to help the transcriber with equipment issues, if needed.
The standard TypeWell system uses two
notebook computers and a linking device,
the TypeWell software, a comfortable
roller bag to carry the equipment, and a portable stand for
good ergonomic positioning. Some situations will also require an available printer and
copier to distribute
printed notes after classes or meetings. Sites wishing to use an alternate
viewing option for the reader, such as a TV monitor, other
large screen device, or hand-held computer must purchase that equipment as well.
The basic requirements for the transcriber's computer are:
- Light weight (under 6 pounds very desirable; under 5 pounds recommended; 3 pounds is best);
- Long battery life (greater than 3 hours desirable);
- WiFi or a serial port or both (see Linking below)
- No RAM requirement, any amount that works for Windows will work with TypeWell;
- A comfortable built-in keyboard (use of an external keyboard is strongly discouraged);
- A built-in pointing device, such as a touchpad (use of an external mouse is strongly discouraged);
- Windows 8, 7, XP, or Vista (or Apple Macs with special software);
- A writable media device such as a USB flash memory device.
It's generally better to get a model with a smaller screen in order to reduce weight.
Do not get a big screen model on the theory that bigger is better; for TypeWell services, smaller is better.
With TypeWell's adjustable font sizes, even the smallest computer screens are more than sufficient for readability.
Smaller computers are also lighter-weight, and thus better ergonomically for a transcriber to lift and tote around.
Transcribing Course Computers
The computer used by a transcriber during the transcribing course must have:
- All of the above requirements for a transcriber's computer;
- No RAM requirement, any amount that works for Windows will work with TypeWell;
- A working sound system for playing sound to a headset;
- An internet connection OR a method to transfer data from another computer that has an internet connection;
- At least 500 meg of free disk space on the C: drive;
- A comfortable built-in keyboard (use of an external keyboard is not permitted, contact us for details);
- A built-in pointing device (use of an external mouse is not permitted, contact us for details);
- A Web browser (just the program, no connection to the web needed);
- Windows Media Player version 7, or higher;
- Windows XP or Win 7 recommended (or Apple Macs with special software);
- Note: 1) The Wifi and linking hardware are used when providing
communication access services. They are not used in the
initial phase of the course. 2) Internet access directly from the laptop computer is not
required during the course.
Important: Be sure the computer you choose meets all the requirements, and is in good condition and reliable.
If the computer malfunctions and you need to switch to a different computer during the course, there will be a $50 transfer fee.
This is necessary because of the work needed to make the transfer and to re-sync the student account on the course internet server.
This section is for reader computers that run the TypeWell Reader software.
In contrast, when using the Web Browser Linking feature of TypeWell version 6, the only requirement is that the reader device have an Internet connection and a web browser.
The reader's computer requirements are:
- Same as for transcriber basic requirements, above;
- Even smaller and lighter (such as a 2 pounds) is more desirable;
- Small screen (12" or smaller is desirable);
- Easy to read screen;
- Screen that is easy to read from the side if more than one reader will be looking at the same computer during class;
A small computer with a small screen is doubly desirable for the
reader machine: so that it doesn't dominate the reader's desk,
and so that it's light and portable for moving between classes.
An inexpensive computer that is a good choice for the transcriber's computer is the Dell Latitude series.
Go to the Dell website, choose Small Business, choose Notebooks, and then choose Latitude, to see their product line.
Any of those in the 2-to-5 pound range are suitable.
The integrated wireless is a nice option.
Also be sure to change the warranty to the length you need -- most sites choose 3 year warranties.
The 3 lbs. Dell Latitude models are perfect for use with TypeWell due to their small size and weight.
However, before choosing a sub-3-pound "ultralight" computer as the transcriber's computer, try out the keyboard to make sure it is comfortable.
Some ultralights have smaller keyboards, with thin keys, and not everyone finds them comfortable for fast typing.
Some users find the keyboards of these ultralight to be undesirable for extended typing, although most really like them.
Also, ultralights typically do not have a serial port so be sure to get the integrated wireless.
The new 2-pound "netbook" computers like the Asus Eee or Dell Mini are excellent choices as reader computers.
They're inexpensive, lightweight, and unobtrusive.
Be sure to get a model that runs Windows 7, XP or Vista.
Note that these 2-pound computers have smaller keyboards that are may be inadequate for use as a transcriber computer.
Be sure to try out ultra small computers for typing ease before buying!
Linking Devices: Serial Cable or Wireless Cards
The transcriber's computer must be linked with the reader's computer (or alternate display device) to send the information being typed.
The best approach is to link the computers by wireless, which uses radio waves and no physical cable.
This allows the most flexibility in where transcriber sits relative to the reader.
It also removes the hazard and hassle of having a cable stretched between the two computers in class.
Wireless communication works at distances up to 100 feet.
Most new laptop computers have integrated (built-in) wireless.
Wireless cards can be added to older computers and are available in most computer stores for as little as $30 each.
Be sure to get 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n wireless, sometimes labeled as WiFi.
It's also possible to use Bluetooth wireless but the range is shorter and it is incompatible with WiFi devices.
See our wireless installation directions to configure the wireless devices properly for
Another less common method of linking when wireless is not available is to use a serial cable, which connects in the serial port of the two computers.
These cables are available from Cablesnmor.
Be sure to get a DB9FF (female-to-female) null-modem cable.
A good length is 25 feet.
If you'd like to use this method, first check that your laptops have the required serial ports; if not, USB converters can be purchased to add serial ports to a computer.
seem obvious that the transcriber will need some way to transport the computers
and other paraphernalia of the job. But, the means of transportation is
not necessarily so obvious. In order to protect the physical well-being of
the transcriber, it is best that the equipment not be carried. We suggest
a computer roller bag, such as those now available in many office stores. It is best
to get a bag with compartments, so the computers can be protected. These
roller bags can run from $50 upwards. One good source of
roller bags is Targus,
here's the direct
link to their roller bags.
The height of most desks is too high for comfortable, healthy
typing. It is very poor practice to have the wrists resting
on the edge of table or desk. For this reason, many transcribers
prefer to use a portable typing stand. A good
quality versatile steno table is the
(Do not get the extension table for a mouse that the company offers as an add-on for the steno table.
It makes the table out-of-balance and just gets in the way.)
There are a lot of other portable computer stands but quality makes a real difference for this application.
Be sure to get a stand that you can set up quickly, that is truly lightweight, and that doesn't get loose and wobbly after regular use.
We haven't yet found another brand as good as the insTand.
If the transcriber is
giving a paper copy of the notes to the reader, the transcriber will need easy access to a printer.
Thus, it is important to have a printer available for use that is compatible with the transcriber's computer.
It is possible for the transcriber to put the file on a USB memory key and put that key in a compatible computer that is connected to a printer.
It is necessary that the computer have a word processor on it, or at least WordPad in Windows.
Copier: At some sites, the transcriber
must often make copies of notes. This would be necessary when
the reader, classroom teacher, presenter, mentor or tutor want/need copies. It is
important that the transcriber have ready access to a copier, as the time
allotted in most transcribers' schedules to do editing and note distribution is
relatively short. If standing in a long line is a normal part of using the
copier, there are bound to be days the notes are not ready when they must be.
Alternate Text-Viewing Options
At some sites, such as churches or large meeting rooms, it is desirable to
show the transcribed text on a large screen.
You could use a separate computer monitor or LCD display, connected
to your transcriber computer using the built-in 15-pin video
connector. This approach has disadvantages: computer monitors
are expensive and not very large for comfortable reading from more than a few feet away. In addition,
cables must be fairly short so the transcriber has to be seated near
the display. This solution is rarely the best.
Another possible solution is to use a projector. They project the
image that is on a computer screen onto a modern projection screen or
even onto a wall. (Modern projection screens are similar to
old-style home-movie screens, except they have more modern coatings).
Projectors range from 3 pounds to 30 pounds, and connect to the
computer's 15-pin video port. The upside is that a projector can be
portable, and can display on a very large screen or on a wall, if
nothing else is available. The downside is that projectors can be
expensive, and might not work well in very bright rooms. Projectors
are available from many major manufacturers and business computer
stores. Prices begin at $500.
The third alternative viewing option is often the best for most
sites. It is to show the text on a TV monitor. This
is easy if your computer has a built-in video-out jack (a yellow
circular socket). But most computers do not have this. If your
computer lacks this jack, you'll need to purchase a converter box,
such as those from Focus
Enhancements. Converters cost a few hundred dollars or less.
Be aware that TV monitors are not suitable for close-up viewing as
they are much fuzzier than computer displays. However, they can work fine
for showing large text to a room full of people, even when the room
is brightly lit.