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JTLanguage Mobile Application Introduction
Welcome to the mobile phone application version of JTLanguage!
The mobile phone application version of JTLanguage (for Android and iPhone) operates very similar to the web version, but allows for offline usage, where no data or wi-fi connection is needed or used for much of the learning mechanism, or only partially needed, if an option is chosen for accessing or downloading missing media files from the web server, or accessing other online services.
In fact, the phone applications themselves are in a form of what is known as "hybrid" apps, meaning that they use HTML pages locally in the phone's built-in browser for the user interface, with a local server for generating the HTML pages, and some light-weight native code to tie it all together. Furthermore, the phone apps use some of the same code modules as the web server version, such that you get the same result, except for some key and needed differences.
This page provides some information about using the mobile phone application version of JTLanguage, in the few cases where it differs from the web version.
Page Layout for a Smaller Screen
For example, one key difference is the size-based page layout. With the smaller screen on the phones, the main window panes will shuffle and resize a bit to a vertical orientation, instead of side-by-side, and the menu changes to a pop-up button.
Note that this is actually the case in the web version too, if you resize your browser to phone size, or visit the web version in your phone's browser. The course navigation tree window and help panes move to be below the main content pane instead of side-by-side. This is because JTLanguage uses the popular "Bootstrap" library to accomodate differing screen sizes.
Scrolling Panels and Tables
In some tables and display panels, if there is too much information, you can scroll both vertically and horizontally by dragging inside the table or panel. To scroll the whole screen, drag outside of the table or panel.
Note that some wider tables are best viewed in landscape mode (the phone held sideways), and might not support scrolling. Switch to lanscape mode on most phones by rotating the phone (unless you've turned off auto-rotate in the phone settings). Note that I've put in a 2-second delay to keep the auto-rotate from kicking in for brief movements.
Hide Unneeded Panels
On some pages you can hide some panels to simplify the screen. For example, when viewing study lists (i.e. Text, Transcript, Words, Sentences, etc.), you can hide the "Content Options" panel, as normally the default options are most commonly used. To do this, click the "Hide Content Options" link at the bottom of the panel. You can later renable it via the "Show Content Options" link at the bottom of the main content area.
Course Download Required
Unlike the web version, where all the available courses are stored on the web server and immediately accessible, in the phone app version you have to explicitly download the courses you want to use. This is because copying all the courses and the associated media files to the phone might use up too much memory, probably more memory than your phone even has.
We'll take a look at how this is done, after we talk first about media files.
Media Files on the Phone
Another difference in the mobile versions is how media files are referenced or stored.
In the web version, when the HTML page references a media file such as an audio or video recording, or picture, the media file is temporarily pulled down from the web server and played or displayed.
In the phone app version, because storing all the media files locally might require too much memory, you have some options:
- The media download can be done as part of the course download. This is an option you can select from the course download page.
- You can download a course without the media files, and then download media files later, as you want them. This is via a "Download Media" link available at the course, group, or lesson level.
- You can download media files automatically when they are first referenced, with no other action on your part. On the Home->Settings page there is a checkbox option labeled "Copy remote media on demand". Checking this will enable this option.
Note that the Home-Settings page also has other options related to the download-on-demand mode. For example, you can set a limit on the total size of the media files stored, causing an error message if an attempt is made to exceed it. You can also set a flag such that older media files are automatically deleted if the limit is reached, without any error message, to keep the total media size to within the limit.
The main course, group, and lesson pages also have a "Delete media" link for deleting the locally stored media files for that course, group, or lesson.
Thus you have a fair amount of flexibility in managing media files, to avoid using too much memory on your phone. However, this comes at the expense of a little more complexity, if you want to manage it yourself.
On the "Courses" page, you will see a "Manage courses" link at the bottom of the main content pane. Following this link will take you to a "Manage Courses" page where you can view a list of available courses and the courses on your phone, and you can do actions like download courses, update existing courses, or delete courses from your phone's local storage.
Like the "Courses" page, the "Manage Courses" page shows drop-down menus for "Languages" and "Teacher", as a way to filter which courses are displayed.
The courses will be displayed in a list using a color-coding scheme showing which courses are already downloaded and up-to-date (green), downloaded but not up-to-date (orange), downloaded but no longer on the web server (red), or not downloaded (black).
An "Actions" column displays buttons for available actions. For courses not downloaded, a download button is displayed. For already-downloaded courses, update and delete buttons are displayed.
To download a course, touch the download button. This will take you to a course install page.
The "Course - Install" page has an "Include media" checkbox option. If not checked, no media files will be downloaded as part of the course download. Just the text in the course will be downloaded. If "Include media" is checked, a "Media languages" fieldset will appear, with checkbox options for selecting which language set of media files to download, in the case where the lesson might support multiple languages. You probably only want to download the media for the languages you are planning to study.
Note that if the media for the course is big (note that the size of the media is displayed in a note below the checkboxes) you might want to uncheck the "Include media" checkbox, and use the "Download media" links on the course, group, or lesson pages, as you need it. The download media pages have additional options for selecting which media to download, such as which child nodes, which type of content, and which languages, giving you more control.
The "Include media files in package" checkbox option has to do with whether the media files are downloaded individually, or included in the archive file package used (.zip format) in the course install. It only applies if the "Include media" checkbox is also checked.
As to what size the media is that would lead you not to use the "Include media" option, it's up to you. There are some practical limits, such how much free storage space you have. If using the "Include media files in package" option, there is also the possiblity that the .zip archive might be too big to handle in memory, or the server might run out of memory or otherwise have an error when creating the zip file. Don't worry if this happens. Just try different options, such as not including the media the package, or downloading the media piecemeal using the "Download media" pages.
Editing Lesson Content
Although the mobile apps support a lot of the course creation and lesson editing features, note that these only edit the local copy of the course data. At present, there is no way to push the changes up to the web server. I might provided this option later. For now, if you want to create a course, or if you encounter a mistake in a lesson you want to fix, it's probably better to create the course or edit the lesson on the web site, and then just download or update the course on the phone via the "Update" button in the "Manage courses" page.
Note that some of the editing features are not (or not yet) supported in the phone apps. For example, media recording is not supported.
Features Unavailable Offline
While JTLanguage is designed so that you can do most things off-line, some of the JTLanguage features do require a wifi or data network internet connection, and can't be used offline.
For example, you need an network connection the first time you start up the app so that it can update a few database items. You also need an internet connection to download courses or media files.
Also, some less obvious features need an internet connection in order to work. For example, the speech recognition in the flash card mechanism requires sending the audio to the web server, which in turn sends it to the Google speech-to-text service. Note that this also makes this feature a little slower than on the website. Commenting on lessons or courses, or sending a email via the contact page requires an internet connection.
Hopefully, the phone application versions of JTLanguage will provide a rich experience comparable to using the web version, albeit with a little more complexity in balancing the media files usage with your mobile storage available.
Let me know if you find things needing improving.