Sounding Off!

Screen Readers: My basic Requirements: Works with Word 2000, can be operated from the Keyboard. And is cheap.

Now, none of them say they work with the old version of Word. Word 2003 seems to the the basic word processor they support. [Why I use Word 2000]

‘TextAloud’ the first programme 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 programme. 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.

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 licence 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 ‘Word 2000’ and can be operated from the Keyboard.

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

A Google search provided me with four main programmes.

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 programme license. There is a Menu-Bar, but doesn’t work in Word 2000.

Now commercial they all suffer the same constraints of TextAloud. So I kept digging and came up with this little pearler.

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’ 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 programme supported Word 2000. Anyhow I could download a trial programme for 15 days. Interesting Option! — Now you have to read the help, and documentation that comes with it. When you do you’ll find that it will work from a Mouse. And the Keyboard! — You can’t change the assigned keys. but it’s an improvement from being forced to use the mouse. 

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. It’s very good! But as I say, I consider the price to be too steep. ClaroRead does several version of their screen Reader. The most basic ‘Word Read’ does what it says, but it has no Pronunciation Editor. This is a key component. The next version up is called ClaroRead SE: It has a Pronunciation Editor, but that brilliant spell checker isn’t included, and 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 just purchase a Vanilla version of the programme. No Support. No Voices. No Upgrades. He’s a cheeky sod! — Anyhow 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.x – Currently ‘ClaroRead’ stands at version 5.7: Solution suggest by Terry [ the cheeky sod! ] He suggested I download version 5 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 programme with the Spell checker and two Voices. I did this. And it Worked!

So we’ve got ‘our’ screen reader programme.

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! – One day when I need to get a new portable, but not yet!

Anyhow:

The ones supplied with ‘ClaroRead’ are OK, but I’ve heard ‘AMY’ speak to me in Devon, and from moment; 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. Its a Polish Company and I think they’re kosher’.  And 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. They also allow to try before you buy and give you 30 days to test them. I’ve downloaded their screen reader programme along with AMY and DAVE? – It does look good.

BTW all the programmes mentioned here allow you to export your text files to WAV/MP3 format using the voice of your choice. Brilliant!

So we have a text reading programme in ClaroRead that works with Word 2000, and the voice of an angle: Called AMY and as I say she’s unbelievably ‘real’ to listen to.

Thanks for reading, Jessica : Praise be the ORI:

Copyright © Mrs Jessica Simpson.
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