Frequently Asked Questions

Is PhotoVOCA iOS only now?
For the time being yes, with a smaller development team and the widespread use of iPads by our target users and contributors, we're focusing solely on iPad development for now. We're keeping the development as portable as possible to simplify a move to Android and Windows in the future.
There's too much sound - why does everything overlap?
PhotoVOCA supports 10-finger multi-touch and will play 16 sounds at once - this makes a massive difference with sound play, babble and sensory activities. If you are only using the app for communication purposes you might want to enable 'Single Sound Playback' on the Sound Settings page of Adjust Settings. In this mode every time a new sound is started any other playing sound will immediately fade out to prevent overlaps.
Is PhotoVOCA multi-language?
Board editing, help, session logging and symbol search is currently provided in English only, but the actual communication boards support script and text-to-speech in 37 languages and locales. You can combine any number of languages on a single board or in a single phrase too.
Why does the app keep switching off when I use several fingers to play?
Make sure you have 'Multitouch Gestures' disabled in your iPad's General Settings if you're using more than two-fingers at once.
Does the app need an internet connection?
No. All symbol searching, board editing and text-to-speech is done locally on your iPad. The boards you create are stored in a local private database on your iPad, not online.
What happened to the sound and audio effects?
The availability of fantastic free text-to-speech means we've focused on this, rather than digital audio. You can still record your voice and use sound clips, but we've built a completely new sound engine optimised for text-to-speech from scratch.
What kind of backup/sharing/storage is supported?
PhotoVOCA uses your iPad's built-in file sharing so supports iCloud Drive, Dropbox as well as email, iOS Notes etc to share and backup board archives (voca files) to another iPad, computer or storage device.
Sharing boards with another iPad using Airdrop isn't working!
Most functions in PhotoVOCA will work on all iPads (from iPad2) with iOS 9 or later, but not all iPads support Airdrop. If Airdrop is shown as an option when you share boards but you're still having problems, swipe up from the very bottom of the screen and check your Airdrop settings. You need to make sure 'Receiving' is on and might have to set Airdrop to 'Everyone' if you're sharing with someone who isn't in your Contacts.
What symbol systems are supported?
PhotoVOCA is designed to make it quick and easy to create 'concrete' photo symbols for people, places and important objects, but you can (optionally) install the anglicised Arasaac library (10,000 symbols), the Sclera Picto library (11,500 symbols) and/or The Mulberry Symbol library (3,100 symbols) to represent abstract concepts or generic objects when appropriate. These libraries are published under liberal Creative Commons Licenses which allow you to create and share your boards freely.
What vocabulary system/taxonomy/lexicon does it use?
PhotoVOCA uses multiple single screen boards which are linked from a single index screen. You can enable a 'Banter Bar' to provide a small panel of useful phrases which will appear underneath all boards, but the intention is that main board of each screen supports a single communication context only. How boards are arranged and organised is left entirely up to you. Boards can selectively enabled allowing you to have hundreds of boards stored, but show only a handful to communicators on the index page.
Why do you call it a 'VOCA' and not an 'SGD'
We work with severely autistic, emergent and intellectually disabled communicators so PhotoVOCA and our perspective are rooted in mid-tech VOCA, SSE, paper-based communication boards and picture exchange. In version 3 we've added a few more features, including an optional phrase-building window which might help you to bridge the gap to more complex SGD and also provides a good parallel with picture-exchange approaches.
What happened to archiving?
Previous versions of PhotoVOCA allowed you to store compressed voca archives on your device, but they still ate up storage space quickly. We still use the same archive format, but because iPad storage space is always at a premium, we now encourage you to store archives and unused boards off the iPad - either in the cloud (iCloud Drive, Dropbox etc) or by using Airdrop and email to send them to your own computer.
Why doesn't PhotoVOCA support direct/legacy switch anymore?
We removed this after beta testing as it caused a lot of confusion and is now very slow in comparison to iOS Switch Control. PhotoVOCA's built-in scanning options are on the first page of Adjust Settings - you just need a single switch mapped to a 'Tap' gesture to use boards. If you're a touch screen user supporting a switch user set 'Tap Middle of Screen' as your Launch Recipe and toggle iOS Switch Control on and off with the iOS Accesibility Shortcut (3 presses of the Home Button).
What file format does PhotoVOCA use?
Version 3 uses an updated version of the original .voca archive format. Boards from almost all previous versions of the app can still be imported into the latest PhotoVOCA. If you're having a problem importing a board, please email it to and we'll covert it for you. We recommend removing earlier (mp3 rendered) text-to-speech - tap the 'Remove Digital Audio' button in Button Editing and iOS text-to-speech will be used instead.
What format(s) does PhotoVOCA use for transcription and logging?
Transcriptions can be shared and printed as readable html documents and as time-coded text logs compatible with Transana and NVivo. Session summaries can be shared as CSV files and opened directly from PhotoVOCA in spreadsheet apps on your iPad such as Numbers and Excel. Session screengrabs are stored in jpeg image format. All formats can be bundled into a single zip file and emailed as an attachment from within PhotoVOCA - you can also use Airdrop, Cloud storage etc