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Penfriend user Guide

This is a quick guide to getting started with Penfriend and using it's basic functions.

If you need more detailed help with the software, try our on-line help pages. If you have more specific problems or issues, try our FAQ or contact us.

There are links to more detailed guides and tutorials which you can download, as well as video tutorials on the Penfriend Blog.


Installing Penfriend

If you have bought a copy of Penfriend Portable, no installation or activation is necessary. Simply plug the memory stick into a vacant USB port on your computer and Penfriend will start automatically. In this case you can safely skip the download, installation and activation instructions and go directly to "Getting Started".

Otherwise, Penfriend XP or XL will either be installed from a CD you have received through the post, or downloaded from our web-site.

Step by step instructions on downloading, installing and activating your Penfriend software can be viewed if required.

Getting Started

To open your penfriend software simply double click on the penfriend icon on your desktop (a round icon with the letter "P" on it).

Otherwise go to the Windows "Start" menu on the far left of your taskbar and select "Programs" then "Penfriend" and click on "Penfriend XP" or "Penfriend XL".

The Penfriend predictor window opens.

Now open your favourite word processing software (e.g. Microsoft Word) a text window or any other software in which you want to write (e.g. a spreadsheet). Click in the text area and make sure the cursor is flashing.

Writing with Penfriend

When you type the first character, a list of words will appear in the Penfriend predictor window. These are Penfriend's predictions of the word you would like to type.

If you see the word you are looking for, you can click on your chosen word using your mouse or press the key indicated to the left of the word (by default this will be one of the "function" keys, f1 - f12). The word you have chosen will then appear in full in the text area and a space will be added at the end, ready for the next word.

Penfriend will then list a new set of predictions from which you may choose your next word. So it is then possible to write without typing any more Letters.

If the word you want does not appear on the list, type the next character and Penfriensd will again list a new set of predictions.

Predictor window preferences

Number of words listed: To change the number of words in the Predictor window, simply drag the bottom edge of the Predictor window up or down, to a maximum of 12 words. It is important to decide how many words are visible; for example, it might be too demanding for a person with limited literacy to read a list of twelve words for each prediction.

Predictor Position: You can also drag and drop the predictor window to whatever postition on your screen is convenient.

If you prefer, you can set the predictor window to follow the cursor in the text area as you type. To do this, go to the View menu and select Preferences..., then tick the Follow Caret check box.

Font Size, colour e.t.c: To change the font and font size shown in the prediction window, go to the View menu and select Preferences..., then click on Font and Size under " Appearance". In the "Font" window, choose your preferred font, font style and font size, then click OK.

Also under " Appearance" in the "Penfriend Preferences" window, you have the option to change the text and background colour of the prediction list.


The first time you use Penfriend it loads a default word list, called a lexicon (Default.lex). This cannot be modified, but once you save the lexicon with a different name, Penfriend can then remember your personal writing style by storing features such as the words that you have used, their frequency, how recently you used each word, information on grammer, your preferences and the on-screen position of your penfriend windows. Lexicons can be expanded upon or reduced, or an entirely new lexicon can be created.

To save a lexicon go to the main menu bar, click File and Save As. By default This will save your file to "My Documents" and name itself "My Penfriend Lexicon". You can change this to any name you like and choose where you want to save it. Save changes to your lexicon at any time by selecting Save Lexicon from the file menu.

To use a saved lexicon or a different lexicon, you can either drag and drop the lexicon into the main Penfriend window or, in the main menu bar click on Open lexicon on the file menu and browse to the desired lexicon.

Lexicons are available in a variety of languages with Penfriend XL, in which hey are handled in exactly the same way as English lexicons.

Teach a lexicon to learn and predict new words

The easiest way to teach Penfriend to learn new words, and expand an existing lexicon, is to instruct Penfriend to automatically learn new words. Click View from the main menu then Preferences. Under Lexicon tick Learn New Words check box and click OK. Penfriend will now learn words as you type them.

Another way is to click on View in the predictor window and then Lexicon. This will open a new window called "Lexicon". Click File in the Lexicon window and Learn Text File. You can now browse for a .txt file of your choice. Click Open and Penfriend will add the new words from the file to the current lexicon automatically.

To review or editwords in a lexicon, open the Lexicon window as above and click on Show. This gives you a list of options to review words. View any of the words in these lists simply by clicking on the word, and you then have the otion to delete it or tell Penfriend how it should be handles in future. Click OK to return to the Lexicon window.

Ban words so that they are never predicted

One very useful feature of penfriend is it's ability to ban certan words in a lexicon (e.g. swear words or common misspellings) so that they are never predicted again.

To ban a word, find it in the lexicon and click on it so that the Word Properties window appears. Tick the check box for Banned then click OK.

View all banned words from the Lexicon window by clicking on Show then Banned Words. To edit this list just click on each word to bring up the word properties where you can either delete it or remove it from the Banned list by un-checking "Banned".

Using Penfriend's on-screen keyboard

The on-screen keyboard lets you write by clicking on the screen with your mouse or mouse substitute. It is designed for people who prefer the mouse to the real keyboard.

To open the keyboard window, open the View menu and select Keyboard. From the On Screen Keyboard you have access to most of the same menus as in the Predictor Window and you can resize the on-screen keyboard to suit your vision and the size of your screen. imply drag any of the edges, as with any window.

If you want to predict from the on-screen keyboard rather than clicking in the predictor window, you can change your Preferences to predict using the number keys. If you then want to type numbers from the on-screen keyboard, minimize the prediction window, which will switch off prediction. Type your numbers and then maximize the prediction window.

Using Penfriend's speech feedback

Speech feedback makes it easier for a user to think about the subject matter, whether proof reading your own writing or reading another document. It is particularly beneficial for people who are not confident readers; are dyslexic; have a visual impairment; or have trouble distinguishing similar-looking words.

Make sure your headphones or speakers are correctly connected to your computer.

Penfriend will automatically detect voices already on your system such as the Microsoft voices installed with windows. You can download further voices from this web site. Penfriend XL and the portable version of Penfriend XP comes complete with a number of high quality voices from Cereproc.

To switch on Penfriend’s speech features, open the View menu in the Penfriend window and select Preferences. In the top-right corner change the setting from No Sounds to Speechclick . Click on Speech Options to select a new voice, here a sample sentence and configure what is read while typing (e.g. each letter, each word, each sentence, e.t.c). In Penfriend XL you can also tick the Screen Reader check box to switch on this facility.

Words you select in the prediction window can also be read out, and you can select mouse options for this from the Predictions drop down menu in the Speech Options window.

When you copy text in any software, you copy it to the Windows Clipboard. The contents of the clipboard can also be read out. Just select a section of text from a document and copy it. Penfriend will immediately open the clipboard window to show your text, and will start reading it out, highlighting each word as it is spoken, as long as the Sppech otion is selected.

You can control the speech by clicking on the buttons in the Clipboard window, and can hear individual words in the clipboard window by clicking on them. You can also hear the text from a certain point onward, by clicking within the clipboard, at your chosen starting point with the right-hand mouse button.


Downloadable User Guides