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Sounding Off!

Screen Readers.

— My basic requirements: works with Word 2000, now (Word 2003, but that’s another story), and can be operated from the Keyboard, and is blooming well cheap.

Now, none of them say they work with the old version of Word. Word 2007 seems to the the basic word processor they support.

‘TextAloud’ the first program I saw working, reads out your text and allows you to correct the story. Version 2: I saw has some major errors in using it. Namely it destroys the Word format as it only works in plain text format. Put the file back into Word and its a major re-write with extraneous C/Rs [carriage returns] all over the place. I needed to hear, and edit my books, in Word itself.

Enter ‘TextAloud3’ It’s a major upgrade and there’s is an option in for you to setup a ‘Menu-Toolbar’ for Word. Even though it doesn’t say it works with Word 2000: It actually does, but even that wasn’t adequate for my needs. I’m constantly using the keyboard and have Macros’ set up for everything. I found that using the mouse became a pain to the point I couldn’t really use the program. Interestingly I found from using their forums, that this option was the most requested, but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t provide it.

I tried to write a Macro for the Toolbar, but without the internal knowledge of its procedures and call backs [methods and events] It can’t be done. I did find about writing a Macro for the speech options in Excel. That works, but the sound quality isn’t as good as TextAloud even with one of their voices, but it is a free solution [ the Article is here ]

Also with ‘TextAloud’ you have to buy voices and they’d don’t include any with their trial version, but they are available in several ‘Torrents’. So you can get a feel for them. ‘AT&T’ seems to be the preferred voices for most of the text reader companies.

The voices Crystal and Mike are OK, but definitely robotic.

Cost wise not a problem for own use! — Prices start from about £28.00p each to buy, but for me to distribute my work. It would cost me a fortune! — Are you ready for this – try a commercial license from AT&T for £1,500:00p (per eBook!) — Gasp!

So, anyhow: a breakdown of what we want, we’re looking for a Text-Reader that works with Microsoft Word, and can also be operated from the Keyboard.

{ That as it proved. Isn’t as easy as it sounds. }

A Google search provided me with three main programs.

TextAloud Namely extraneous  carriage version equate 3 — speech preferred see above.

NaturalReader – they have a free version. It’s basic and no free Voices. Prices from little: to lots, but still no commercial program license. There is a Menu-Bar, but doesn’t work in Word 2000.

  • Now commercial they all suffer the same constraints of TextAloud.
    • ie: put it on the clipboard first: B4 you could hear your test being read allowed.
    • And that’s no good to man nor beast.
  • So I kept digging, and eventually came up with this little pearler. (Ozzy slang for a gooden.)

ClaroRead Standard and at £157.00 is dammed expensive for what it is, but that does include a brilliant spell checker, and eight Real-voices(c) voices.

  • And! – A load of junk I’d never use – Like a screen ruler? – And placement holder? – I still can’t find a use for that?

But even they didn’t specifically state that the program supported Word 2000, only 2007!

  • Anyhow: I could download a trial program for 15 days. — Interesting Option!
  • Now, you have to read the help and extensive documentation that comes with it.
  • When you do: you’ll find that it will work from a Mouse, and Keyboard.
    •  You can change the assigned speech key by pressing F6 , otherwise it interferes with Words F7 spell check.
      • Toggling F6 puts it in speech mode, and that’s where the pain starts: because it doesn’t tell you what mode its in.
      • That said: it is an improvement from being forced to use the Mouse only.

ClaroRead works by plonking itself over any open window, then catches any Mouse or Keyboard inputs.

  • It copies the text to a buffer and reads it out, but that’s all done in the background, and it’s very good.
  • But, as I say: I really do consider the price to be far too steep.

ClaroRead also does several version of their screen reader program.

  • The most basic, Word Read does what it says.
    • But it has no Pronunciation Editor, and that is a key component.
  • The next version up is called ClaroRead SE: and it does have a Pronunciation Editor.
    • – But that brilliant spell checker isn’t included.

At £70:00p: it is an expensive improvement for what it is.

–  Now Terry. The chap who runs my web site emailed their Support Dept: to ask for a deal. Namely. Cut out the stuff not needed, and then just purchase a Vanilla version of the program. No Support. No Voices. No Upgrades. He’s a cheeky sod.

  • As you can expect, the response from them was droll.
    • It’s the Standard at £157.00, or SE at £67.00 – No Compromise – No Deal!
  • Makes me wonder if these people really want to sell their stuff.

Anyhow: back to “TextAloud” and their web site called ‘Next Up’. On it, is an option to Buy ClaroRead ‘Standard’ for £97.00p and it includes two Real voices, but its at version 5.0 – Currently ClaroRead stands at version 5.7.

  • At this moment in time, 13/12/17: it’s up to [ version 7.2 ] link provided to see what the new one does, Libra office is now included, but I can’t stand it, and the program is still expensive at £154.00p, and that’s eye watering.

Solution: suggest by Terry [ the cheeky sod! ] was to download version 5.0 for that price.

  • And update it immediately for version 5.7.
  • As a bonus: it would be upgraded without the junk supplied with the official version.
  • It’s just the Reader program with the Spell checker and two Voices.
  • So I did this.
  • And it worked.

So we’ve got our screen reader program.

Now for the Voices. You need them to make the process of turning words on the screen into a more Human Experience.

  • Microsoft Sam, and that slapper Mary supplied with the operating system are awful!
  •  I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for these two voices Microsoft supply with their OS.
    • – BTW: Voices are only available in XP with service pack 3 installed.
    • That obviously includes Vista and Win-7.
    • Still haven’t played with that, but one day when I need to get a new portable, but not yet!
  • Since Microsoft have seen the error of their ways
  • I’m now using Windows 10, and its very good.
  • Never did even try to use Win 8.0 and 8.1 – what a blooming mess.

Anyhow, back to ClaroRead.

  • The ones supplied with the program are OK, if a little tiring.
  • But I’ve heard AMY speak to me in Devon.
    • And from moment on, I was hooked.
  • She’s made by a company called IVONA.

The final Google search turned that up as the forth option! – Is anyone counting?

The voice of AMY from IVONA is absolutely brilliant, and all the voices they sell are way better than At&T and Reals feeble offering.

  • IVONA is a Polish Company and they’re kosher, update: now being brought out by Amazon.
  • Their commercial license is reasonable costing £349.00 per year.
    • I haven’t looked into what’s involved with the License, but it looks promising.
      • The new and improved IVONA (since the sell off), is a nightmare to wade through on their site: yes, it seems cheaper, but you have to put your work on the cloud, and only pay for what’s downloaded: and seeing as my works free, that’s me buggered up then, ho-humm!
  • They, IVONA -> HARPO: also allow you to try before you buy, and give you 30 days to test the voices.
  • I’ve downloaded their screen reader program along with AMY and DAVE? – It does look good.
    • update: it is good.

{ BTW }

All the programs mentioned here, allow you to export your text files to WAV/MP3 format using the voice of your choice: brilliant!

{ In Conclusion }

If you want to proofread your work, then you definitely need a reader, you just can’t catch those double words, the incorrect use of full stops, and over use of comers: and not forgetting, quiet and quite.

A reader allows you to hear the flow of your work, and pick that one up above, but nothing’s perwfect.

  • So, we have a text reading program in ClaroRead that works with Word 2000, and Word 2003.
  • Along with the voice of an angle called [ AMY ].
    • And as I say: she’s unbelievably [ REAL  ] to listen to.

Update: the AMY link above will now take you to the [ HARPO Web Site ] and straight trough the AMY voice.

  • [ Harpo ] took over IVONA’S Customer base.
  • When IVONA foolishly sold themselves off to Amazon on the 24th Jan 2013.
    • And that was the day that I upgraded: then went straight back to the old version.
    • There’s something about the HARPO fork of their (mini-reader) that doesn’t quite sit right on my PC.
    • Maybe you’ll find it OK.
      • But you don’t need to use it, because all you need are the voices installed on your PC.

Thanks for reading, Jessica: Praise be the ORI.

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