Maavis Quick Guide

Simple managed access to media, communications and programs

Introduction To MaavisPortable

With MaavisPortable you can now run Maavis from a memory stick or any disk. Maavis is designed to give an ultra simple user experience when accessing photos, videos, music, video calls and running programs. It allows support staff or facilitators to easily configure settings and select media suitable for their users. This is usually a matter of simply copying files into suitable folders and possibly editing a few text files. Those with more technical experience can also tweak the colour schemes and create brand now pages using basic web development skills. A settings utility allows various user options to be set including if images are shown on buttons and enabling speech. Maavis is ideal in supported or managed environments where end users can access it by touch screen, mouse or switch(s) through the built in scanning options.

Maavis needs to be configured for each usage scenario. While it comes with an example configuration and set of media files, these are fairly rough and not designed to be presented to end users. You can easily provide something tuned to the specific needs of your users.

The following is a quick guide through the basics of using and configuring Maavis. Full details can be found in the online documentation.

Maavis is an open source community project

As an open source program you are free to copy Maavis and give it to you friends and colleagues. Once you have created a configuration on a stick you can copy all the files including Maavis and use it on more computers (but do remember to respect the copyright of any media you use).

In return we'd really like to hear about your experiences with Maavis, ideas for new features or bug reports. Maavis is still a young project and there are many features to add and even some bugs to fix.We'd also love you to contribute to the project in any way you'd like to. Perhaps you'd like to provide a sample media set or colour scheme. Can you help fix bugs or code new features? We believe Maavis will grow fastest when our community it is as open and approachable as possible and encourage you to join our user and development community to share in the fun.

Installing MaavisPortable

Maavis does not have a normal Windows installer, but to unpack all the programs and files into a 'MaavisPortable' folder, just download the 'installer' and run it. You will be given the option to install SkypePortable which is required for the video call feature (this will download files from the Skype servers, so you need an internet connection). You must ensure the SkypePortable folder is located next to the MaavisPortable folder in order for Skype to be found by Maavis.

Exploring MaavisPortable

Once you have run the 'installer', you will find a folder called 'MaavisPortable' which contains this file, a number of icons to run Maavis and an example 'MaavisMedia' that includes various media files and user configurations. The options for running Maavis include:
  • MaavisPortable - runs Maavis as the default user
  • MaavisPortable Settings - the settings utility for configuring user options
  • MaavisPortable with Login - the simple user login feature
  • MaavisPortable Video Calls (user Ethel) - login in user Ethel who is set up to make and receive video calls with Skype

Double click on one of these items to run Maavis. Use the Alt + Q keys to exit Maavis. Click on the buttons and explore. If you have a touch screen you can really enjoy using Maavis. Speech is an important part of Maavis, For example the title at the top of each page will be spoken when activated (clicked, touched or via switch), and can also be automatically spoken when the page is shown.

The example users are configured differently in order to show the available options. For example Bert and Ethel demonstrate the scanning options for use with switches (see Settings below for details of using switches). Bert does not showing images on buttons. Ethel speaks each label in turn while scanning and provide access to video calls. Use the MaavisPortable Settings option described below to explore and change these settings for each user.

The MaavisMedia folder, found in MaavisPortable, is explained in detail below but for now, notice you can rename most files and folders and add additional images, videos and music by dropping new files into suitable folders. For example, using Windows explorer, try copying the folder '.... MaavisMedia -> Users -> Default -> 1;Photos -> Cats and Dogs' , renaming the copy to 'Pets' and then dropping in some more image files. You can then explore your changes by operating Maavis, and see how easy it is to configure it.

Using Skype for video calls

SkypePortable is usually very reliable but occasionally causes issues for Maavis, particularly when it is starting up. In order to mimimse these we recommend you observer the following.
  • Skype must have been signed in to using a valid account. It is best to run Skype and sign in before first running Maavis. Skype remembers the login details.
  • Maavis will try to run Skype and connect to it once a user set to use it is at their home page.
  • Until Skype has successfully started and allowed Maavis access, any Call items on the home page will be grey and 50% transparent.
  • Skype requires the user to authorise Maavis access, It provides a button to do this on the main Skype window after Maavis attempts to connect. As Maavis hides Skype, a warning message is displayed if it is unable to connect. The message describes what to do in order to authorise Maavis.
  • Occasionally Skype takes a long time to allow Maavis to connect. In this case you will still get the authorisation warning but can ignore it.
  • Skype keeps track of where Maavis runs from so you may need to re authorise if you copy Maavis or run on another machine.
  • Finally if you are only going to use one machine you can install Skype and Maavis will use it and attempt to run it if required.

MaavisMedia - configuring contents

MaavisMedia is the top level folder of the folders and files containing all the media available to users. These files and folders also define what buttons are presented to the user to access various features of Maavis. The features are organised into screens that can be explored as follows

  • Login - a simple and optional login system. The user selects their button and then a specific button for their 'password'
    • User home page - a set of buttons, each of which accesses a 'chooser' for a particular type of content/activity
      • Picture Chooser - select a photo album
        • Picture player - slideshow with pause and other controls
      • Video Chooser - select a video (or album)
        • Video player - with pause and other controls
      • Music Chooser - select a music album or collection
        • Music player - with track select, pause and other controls
      • Speech Chooser - select a collection of speech buttons
        • Speech player - select a button to speak its label
      • Information Chooser - select web page to visit
        • Simple browser - with simple controls
      • Program Chooser - select programs to run. A stop button is shown to exit the program

If you explore 'MaavisMedia -> Users' you should clearly see how this screen structure is created with the folders and files. Here are the basics:

  • A folder or file appears to the user as a button with the folder/file name becoming the label shown on the button (note it is possible to prefix the name with a number and ';' to control the order of the buttons)
  • The folders under 'Users' are selected when Maavis login is used. Otherwise the 'default' folder is used
  • Each user folder has a 'Passwords' folder containing images for passwords. The file with an '!' in the name is the one that allows login
  • If a folder contains a image file named 'thumbnail' it appears on the folder's button
  • The type of chooser used for a folder is selected by a file with a name like _choosemusic
  • An _items.ini text file can contain web address and program targets

Web page URIs for Information buttons and the target for programs are entered into a text file called _items.ini. Each item is on its own line and the order of the lines controls the order of the buttons. An image file in the folder with the same name as the item in the _items.ini will appear on the button. It is also possible use media from the web rather than local files by using an _items.ini file as is the case with the 'Events (web)' photo album.

Hint: it is easiest to create new users, choosers or albums by simply copying an existing one and then editing the filenames and contents.

Running Programs

The entries in the _items.ini for running programs have to be programs, not documents. If you want to open a document then you need to run the program passing the document as an argument. For example to open WindowsUpdate.log in notepad add the following line:

WindowsUpdate log="C:\Windows\system32\notepad.exe" "C:\Windows\WindowsUpdate.log"

To run more than one program when a button is pressed, enter them all on the same line but with a ; character between them

User Settings

Settings are accessed by running MaavisPortable Settings and selecting a user. Most of the settings options should be self explanatory and have an immediate effect that is demonstrated in the settings application. The buttons describe what options will come into effect when they are activated. The Start Sound option is only available in 'default' user as it is played before a user has bee determined (you can also replace the MaavisMedia -> startsound file. A few options can only be changed by editing the userconfig file that can be found in the user folder; these are splash screen time, number of selection set buttons on a screen and scan rate.

The switch scan options only apply when switch user is selected. Switches are connected using a USB converter such as a JoyCable The Switch Access to Technology pdf from Ace Centre provides a good introduction to using switches and scanning
  • 1 or 2 switches 
  • User scan or auto scan - user scan requires a switch press for each step, auto scan runs once started
  • Manual start or automatic start - if switch 1 must be clicked to start scanning
  • Scan rate - speed of scan - edit the userconfig file
 Mode  Switch 1
 Switch 2
 1 switch + manual scan
 Hold to start scan
 Release to activate selected item
  and stop scan
 Hold to start scan
 Release to activate selected item
  and stop scan
 2 switch + auto scan
 1st click to start scan
 2nd click to activate selected item
  and stop scan
 1st click to start scan
 2nd click to activate selected item
  and stop scan
 2 switch + manual scan
 step to next item  activate selected item

 2 switch + auto scan
 step to next item immediately
 activate selected item

Getting help and advice

See the FAQ or head on over to the google group website or send an email to ask questions.

Useful websites