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1  Other Software / Found Deals and Discounts / Re: RecentX for only $9.95 today - BitsDuJour.com on: January 15, 2008, 08:11:40 PM
Hello Dear Members,

RecentX is available at 50% discount once again today [January 15, 2008] at http://www.bitsdujour.com/
Price after discount - $9.95.

In addition, NoteZilla is available also today at 40% discount at http://www.bitsdujour.com/  (Donation Coder discount is 30% available until January 31, 2008).  Price after discount $17.95.

You can use the same key on NoteZilla Portable. Two hours and 50 minutes left.

Best wishes,
Marjorie
2  Special User Sections / GOE 2007 Challenge Downloads / Re: Interruptron - GOE Challenge 2007 Entry on: January 15, 2008, 07:31:48 PM
Thanks, that is where it is!
3  Special User Sections / GOE 2007 Challenge Downloads / Re: Interruptron - GOE Challenge 2007 Entry on: January 15, 2008, 06:03:58 PM
Hi URLwolf,

I just installed your program, Interruptron, this afternoon.  I would like to know if it would take very long to make a way to browse for the programs that automatically stop the timer and chalk it up to an interruption?  I find it complicated to find the path to a program and would find it more user friendly to be able to browse and click.

In my work, I use the Internet, read the pages (often with a text-to-speech program), check references and write.  Your documentation says that the program assumes you're not working after a time you set has passed without activity on the mouse or keyboard.  I guess I will have to work out the time to set.  I guess that even when I am using text-to-speech, I am doing some mousing, so it will work out.  If I am looking up something in a reference book, will I be able to move the mouse periodically to let the program know I am working?

I am looking forward to using the program and watching my productivity.

Thanks,
Marjorie

PS:  The program I want to list in the automatic section is Free Cell.  I have not been able to find the path to it, but I can start it!  Wink
4  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Searching for the best read-aloud software on: January 03, 2008, 05:00:59 PM
In my thanks, I left out Mouser who gave me a link to this thread in an email.

Thank you all,
Marjorie
5  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Searching for the best read-aloud software on: January 03, 2008, 04:51:18 PM
I owe some thanks here to the people of this forum.

nosh has introduced me to Loquendo Voices (excellent at http://www.loquendo.com/en/demos/demo_tts.htm), DSpeech, and G.O.T.D.  At the site for DSpeech I learned that Windows XP does not have SAPI4, which explains why all those free voices have not been available to me.  I installed the SAPI4 file given on the DSpeech page (http://dimio.altervista.org/eng/), but maybe I have to restart for it to take effect.  G.O.T.D. turns out to be a wonderful source for reviews of software that was given out free.  I have made a note of it so I can remember to check there in the future (http://www.giveawayofthed.../textaloud-2266/#comments).

muntealb introduced me to Balabolka (http://www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm) which is now installed on my computer.  It was listed on TUCOWS (http://www.tucows.com/Win...Video/Audio/TextToSpeech/), but was not rated so I did not check it out previously.  DSpeech is also there not rated.  In my brief look at Balabolka, it seems up to the competition.  As it reads the text, the letters change from black to blue so it is easy to track where the reader is.  I'll report more later.  muntealb also introduced me to Expressivo, which is on the TUCOWS list and is rated with the highest 5-cow rating.  I don't have any good reason for not noticing it before other than overload (for $49 at http://www.expressivo.com...deas_and_description.html).  I really like the Jennifer voice.  Maybe I can get the voice to use.  In time I will check out the program more fully.  By the way, at TUCOWS you can get the program for $29 (http://www.tucows.com/preview/514550).

muntealb also introduced me to Nuance, which was reinforced by Doc Savage's comments.  But I am in total overload now so I need to digest some of this.

neel spoke of wordtalk, a MS Word macro, but I have not been able to get into the web site given (connection timed out http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/).

curt is a person who uses very few words to give lots of links to voices and additional TTS programs.

Jock Snow, Vellu (the Finnish guy), and I agree that Audrey is probably the best AT&T voice.  It is not because she has an English accent.  It is because Audrey has a clear voice with very pleasant tones.

And thanks to Grorgy for introducing me to Bits du Jour.  I bought the planning software that was offered today (http://www.bitsdujour.com/).  I am hoping it will help me with lesson planning in my teaching job, which has become very complicated of late.

In short, I am happy to be a part of this community.  I have learned a lot!

Best wishes,
Marjorie
6  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Searching for the best read-aloud software on: January 03, 2008, 02:49:42 PM
I was just looking at TextAloud again.  The basic version that I got with the Heather voice for a $5 discount can change voices and insert pauses just like the Natural Reader's enterprise version that is available for a special price of only $99.50!  In TextAloud, you have to have the settings to SAPI5 only to change voices in a document.  You access the controls in the Edit menu's sixth section from the top or probably more easily, the third section from the bottom.  The commands, Insert Pause and Insert Voice Change, automatically insert the XML to do your bidding.  Of course, be sure the cursor is located where you want the change to occur.

I am still debating if it is worth $99.50 to get sentence by sentence navigation.

Best wishes,
Marjorie
7  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Searching for the best read-aloud software on: January 03, 2008, 11:48:34 AM
Maybe it is too long for people to digest.  Sorry.  I do hope that people with experience of other text-to-speech software will be able to answer some of my questions.

Because of CodeTRUCKER's seconding the usefulness of Natural Reader, I have reinstalled the free version on my computer with TextAloud still running.  I discovered some errors in what I said before.  Natural Reader will record both a .wav and a .mp3 file in the professional version.  It also shows an .mp3 record button on the free version, though I have not used it yet. 

I can now be specific about the annoying graphics that block the view of the last few lines:  4 buttons:  two for hearing the NeoSpeech voices of Paul and Kate, one labeled "more voices," and one labeled "go to miniboard."  The miniboard is a way to easily access the program while the main program is minimized.  Also, I tested Natural Reader's ability to read from the cursor.  All you have to do is insert the cursor where you want to start and click the play button.  Nice!

Well, I just got some answers to my questions.  Somehow I had missed the demo page on the Natural Reader web site.  Wow!  While the voice is reading to you from text copied inside the program, you can click a back or rewind button (there is also a fast forward button) and the highlighter will move back to the previous sentence each time you press that button.  So it is very easy to have the program repeat the previous sentence when you want to check what you just heard.  I find that as I am reading, people or even my own thoughts distract me and I need to go back to hear the previous sentence.  I really like this feature!!  I'll have to write Vellu to tell him.

Best of all, in the demos, they show the software tracking the words outside of the program.  In all cases shown (Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and pdf), there is tracking.  In some cases (Word), It appears to also be highlighting the sentence and tracking.  That may be an illusion as they highlighted the text to be read first.  Unfortunately, when I used the miniboard to proofread this post, I found that the words were not tracked as they were read.  Maybe there is no tracking because I use Firefox.  Also, Natural Reader did not read the entire post that I had highlighted.  I remember reading somewhere that the reading selection in Natural Reader was limited to a certain number of characters.  That character limit possibility was reinforced by Natural Reader stopping in the middle of a word the second time I had it read part of this post.  It seems that when I highlight a section, that is put in the "memory" of the miniboard.  I can undo the selection while it is being read and there is no change in the reading.  Maybe I should limit the length of my posts to what Natural Reader will read for me!  cheesy

Also, in the demo, instead of 4 tacky buttons at the bottom, there is only 1 for the miniboard.  At least it is located on the far right and is not as tall as the other buttons.  Hopefully, the three additional buttons are only a feature of the free version.

The reason that XML is a benefit in the enterprise version is that Natural Reader has buttons that insert the XML code so that you can use different voices or pauses in reading a selection.  This is a nice touch for dialog, especially if you are making a recording to add to a PowerPoint presentation.

So, Armando, I have been studying these types of programs for the past few weeks as I have a real need for them in graduate school.  I would prefer not to buy all of them, but I want what will really work.  Also, I would like to correct the lack of good reviews of this type of software that seems to be the present case on the Internet.

Best wishes,
Marjorie
8  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Searching for the best read-aloud software on: January 02, 2008, 11:03:49 PM
The best reviews I have found of speech synthesizers (the voices) is by a Finnish guy, Veli-Pekka Tätilä, who has limited sight: http://www.student.oulu.f...ews_of_speech_synths.html

He also has a review of TextAloud:  http://www.student.oulu.f.../review_of_textaloud.html
This may be a proxy server that I have access to because I am also a student.  If you have trouble accessing the links, let me know.

When I tried the free version of Natural Reader, I did not like that they had some graphics at the bottom of the page that would obstruct the last few sentences of text when the voice was reading.  I did like that they highlighted the sentence being read and also the individual word that was being read. 

I also object to their pricing.  They have three or four levels of software.  They are running a special price now, which makes their software more in line with other programs.  The free version, like all free versions, does not include any voice that has to be licensed.  All licensed voices have a cost.  The Microsoft voices are free.  The voices that are licensed are generally better sounding. 

Their next version called the Professional ($49.50) can record .wav files only, has 2 voices (voices often cost $25 to $30 each so that is included), and I believe there is a file size limit.  The Professional version also includes a Microsoft Office add-in that appears in the menu bar of Office programs.  I did not get to see how it works and wonder if the sentence and words are highlighted as they are in their reader.   I hope one of you who is using the program can shed some light on this question.

The enterprise version ($99.50) includes 2 more voices,  an audio recorder and editor, a way to combine audio files into one larger file, XML support, and a batch file converter.  I did not try this version.  I only tried the free version.  You don't need the audio recorder and editor or converter.  Audacity does a wonderful job of all these tasks and more.  But then what you are really paying for is the four voices.  They push the AT&T Natural Voices but also have the NeoSpeech voices.

When I compared this data with TextAloud ($29.95 with only the free Microsoft voices, you pay for any addtional voices you want), I found that you get just about everything that Natural Reader has in their enterprise package.  After checking all the sound files that the Finnish guy, Vellu, made of different synthesizers (voices), I knew I wanted Acapela's Heather voice.  The AT&T Audrey voice is also nice.  By the way, he had each voice read the same section of literature for his comparisons.  Most of the voices that TextAloud offers on their web site will work with any software once you install the voice on your computer.  The Acapela voices, however, are only licensed to be used with TextAloud.  If you want to use them with other software, you have to make another arrangement with Acapela.  I downloaded the free version, then decided to hear it with Heather.  When I purchased the Heather voice, I was offered the opportunity to buy TextAloud with the voice with a $5.00 discount.  Nice touch!

When I downloaded the Free version of TextAloud, I also downloaded the manual which comes with audio-recorded files that read the whole text.  By the way, the free version is the same as the paid version with a time limit.  TextAloud saves files as .wav, .mp3, and .wma right out of the box.  You select the speak-to-file button to record.  Again, if I need a recorder/editor, I would use Audacity, which is an excellent open source program.  TextAloud installs itself on the browser menu bar with a speak and stop button, making it very convenient.  You highlight what you want read and hit speak.  Other controls such as speed, volume, pitch, and selection of voice are set within the TextAloud program where you go to make changes.

When you listen to a reading inside TextAloud, the only thing tracked is the word being spoken (the sentence is not highlighted as in Natural Reader).  When Text is spoken from the browser, there is no tracking.  I sometimes lose the place, so I miss this.   If a lot of distracting action is going on around me, I copy the text, a pop up box asks me if I want to put the text in TextAloud as a continuing or new document.  Then I listen inside of TextAloud to take advantage of the tracking.  Also, TextAloud has a feature where the reading will begin at the cursor.  This is a very handy feature when you are proofreading, as you can stop the reading, make corrections, and put the cursor where you want to pick up and continue listening.

If one of you has been using Natrual Reader or any other reader, I would like to know if they track the words outside of the main software.  Also, do other programs highlight the sentence as the reading is going on with the individual word also being highlighted (as Natural Reader does).  The Finnish guy Vellu, also suggests that a good program would have easy navigation for moving through a paragraph sentence by sentence and moving through a document paragraph by paragraph.  I liked his suggestions and recommended them to  NextUp.

The business of picking voices takes some study.  Not only do different voices come from different companies, but also they come as 8 or 16 kHz.  TextAloud says you should use an 8 kHZ voice if you will be using the voice over the telephone, such as for delivering your answering message.  Also, the voices come as SAPI-4 or SAPI-5 compliant.  TextAloud handles both SAPI standards.  You can set the SAPI to be only 4 or only 5 or both.  SAPI-5 voices are supposed to be pitch adjustable, but Heather is not.  I am not sure why, but maybe that is part of the licensing arrangement with TextAloud.  Since the synthesizer voice is what you will be listening to for long periods of time, you should take some time to study the voices.  The TextAloud voice page is http://www.nextup.com/Tex.../SpeechEngine/voices.html
At the beginning of this entry, I gave the site of Vellu (Finnish guy), but I noticed today that I had to give my proxy server info to access his page.  Since I usually already have the proxy info in the browser, I had not realized it was necessary before today.

One thing I definitely do not like about TextAloud is that they offer multiple readers for various content.  Crazy!!  If it reads, it should read everything:  news, weather, stocks, RSS.  I should not have to purchase separate programs by content.  A person who needs to have the software to speak for them should not have to buy a separate software.  Natural Reader also writes that their software can be used by people who need to be able to speak and can't.  In this case, to speak over the telephone, it appears that an 8kHz voice needs to be purchased.

Because of what was said in this forum about Experssivo [http://www.expressivo.com/experience/ideas_and_description.html], I looked at it today.  It is very impressive.  I have not heard the voice Jennifer before, but it was very pleasant.  I will have to look at it later so I can spend more time with it.  All three of the programs mentioned here have a good rating of 5 cows at TUCOWS.  However, TUCOWS does not have the latest version of TextAloud.

I look forward to hearing what some of you have found in using other programs.

Marjorie

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