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Interface easy to use but could be improved for visually-impaired; Global hotkeys a handy feature; Pronunciation correction a useful functionality; Comes with an assortment of basic voices; Internet Explorer plug-in handy but could be improved; Some other nice functionality as well.
To get good voices, need to purchase pricey third-party voices; Should also offer support for other browsers; Would be handy if was integrated directly in other apps; Reminders feel like an afterthought – Buried in options.
The application is fairly easy to use for the most part; The main application is split up into a few portions; The tabbed text-based area, the Outlook-style buttons on the left of that, and above that is the voice controls as well as a large button bar. There is also typically a Mini Toolbar that has a few of the playback buttons to make access quick and easy to this application, which is a plus. I am a bit concerned about a few things for the visually-impaired; While the few largely-colored icons are pretty handy, I feel that these could be a little less ‘pretty’, make them larger color area, as well as color the icons for Backward/Forward/Prev/Next differently and not all blue (I found them hard to glance at even). As well, the icons which reside at the top of each text tab are quite small and may be awkward for those who are visually-impaired to figure out quickly; There should be some options for icons in general, if not choices for themes in general (Such as a high-contrast black/white theme or otherwise).
There is a lot of functionality that makes this application very appealing. The developer of this application did attempt to make the application as easy to access as possible from different aspects. As mentioned above, the Mini Toolbar is pretty handy to quickly get files open for easy reading without opening the application. There is also global hotkeys as well which will work in any application; While there are a default set covering some of the functionality, you can customize these, as well as apply hotkeys to many other in-application functions.
A fairly powerful feature I did see was the pronunciation correction functionality. With this day and age and having many abbreviations, contractions and various other English variations, as well as some inherent weaknesses in the Text-To-Speech engines, this is a handy way to build a substitution library for words you would like pronounced differently. Adding new words were very quick and easy in the Preferences , though I must admit it could have been better and removed the currently-entered Word/Pronunciation when you click Add.
A nice difference with this application is that while the application does support SAPI4 and SAPI5 voices, the application does come with 10 of its own built-in voices, some of which are better than Microsoft Sam and the other common voices. However, to get rich and clear voices, you have to buy them separately of this application, starting at around the $30 price point. I have previously used these voices and many are a significant improvement, not only in quality of assembly of words, but also in their pronunciation as well.
Included in this application is a toolbar plug-in for Internet Explorer as well. It allows for the basic reading functionality as well as quick access to the main application, as well as some control over the voice as well. This is great, however, with Firefox’s usage being relatively high now, I feel that it was a weakness limiting themselves to Internet Explorer. As well, I do not find any hotkey functionality for the plug-in to allow for quick playback.
There are a few other functions in this application that does add to the value of this application. The capability to save the speech to not only a WAV but also an MP3 is a great add-on and does make this useful for people on the go who may wish to take a body of text with them or similar. There is also the capability for an automatic clipboard monitor, meaning that while there is no other embedded reading functionality for other applications such as Word, you can theoretically simply copy what you want read to the clipboard and it will bring up a handy dialog box as well. There is also an ‘Alarm’ feature, which is honestly more of an hourly (Or portion of an hour by the minute) announce feature than an alarm, since you can’t set a time to announce; Rather you set how often to announce in minutes. If nothing else rename it to ‘Announce’ or ‘Time Announce' or similar.
The feature I feel that needs work is the Reminders feature. The concept is great, its implementation is poor. First off, it feels like an afterthought; To access it, you must go into the Preferences, and it is the very last option in the list. The only options you can set is the date, time, and message with no other options such as dialog box, snooze options, voice repeating (To make sure you hear the message), alarm repeats (To do a daily, weekly or other repeating alarm/reminder notice) and so forth. As well, when the alarm goes off, you are simply greeted by a dialog box with an ‘Ok’ button on it showing the date/time and the message as well as speak the message; No snooze or other functions. I feel that this could be a powerful feature and may do well to feature it on the front page, with the possibility of a calendar view as well and some snooze and repeat options at a minimum.
Converts any text into spoken words or even MP3/WAVE audio files. 2nd Speech Center is a text-to-speech player that lets you listen to documents, e-mails or web pages instead of reading on screen.
Pros: 2nd speech center is capable of converting ant text into spoken words as well as MP3/WAV files. It lets you listen to documents, e-mails or web pages instead of reading on screen. In addition to text, 2nd Speech Center also allows you to convert text to MP3 or WAVE files for listening later with a portable MP3 player may be. The application can directly open Plain Text files (.txt), Microsoft Word files (.doc), PDF files (.pdf), Email files (.eml), Rich Text files (.rtf), HTML files. For Microsoft Internet Explorer users, a handy toolbar plug-in for Internet Explorer is supplied. There are dozens of male, female and robotic voices for over 11 languages supplied with the package. The user interface is very simple, built in the style of the MS Outlook. Main play back toolbar is the standard/tape deck/VCR player like set of buttons. One can place the set of buttons near the system tray. Speed and pitch control controls the way the selected voice sounds. There's a choice of a whole set of male and female voices. A large set of voices also can be supported. These include American English, British English, Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, etc.
The application is integrated with many useful and timesaving features, such as talking alarm clock, talking reminder and powerful command lines for advanced users. Anything copied to the clipboard is read automatically. .This feature makes it easy to read web pages, e-mail messages, documents and so on. Pronunciation corrections is an useful feature that can help correct typographical errors. Sometimes text files contain characters that need not be read. One can notify the software to ignore such characters in advance. Hotkeys make operation easier for more experienced users.
Cons: Some of the voices do not produce very good quality speech, does not sound very natural always.
Overall: a nice application, has useful features and easy to use. It is of 3 star quality.
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