Using the Natural Voice Reader - Page 4.

You need to manually start the Voice Reader by clicking on the desktop icon or select it from the start menu. If you minimise the Voice Reader, it appears as a small blue icon with an N symbol on it, in the system tray area, which is usually set-up at the bottom of screen (on the task bar) on the right hand side.

There are three main ways of converting text to speech: -

Running a 2nd application with the reader software.

Open the other application and highlight the text you wish to convert to speech, then press the Ctrl & F9 keys.

This worked on all the applications I tried including - Word 97, Excel 97, 1st Page 2000, Notepad, Wordpad & Outlook Express. It also worked with Internet Explorer version 6, browsing web page's -, &

As an alternative to using the Ctrl & F9 keys some applications also allowed a right hand mouse click, which opens a menu with a 'Read by Natural Voice Reader' option.

Open files directly using the reader software.

3 types of files are supported: -

  1. Text files (.txt extension). I tested several text files including Caesar's The War in Gaul from Project Gutenberg - free out of copyright books (external link). It read sample sections of this with few problems, the ranks of *'s used to mark end of sections, were simply abbreviated to the word asterisk repeated three times. and it even attempted the Latin quotes!

  2. Word documents (.doc extension). No problems noted.

    June 2005 Update: Directly opening Word documents has been removed from the free version.

  3. Rich Text Format files (.rtf extension). Again no problems noted.

Browsing the Internet using the reader.

This is not using Internet Explorer, Netscape or another browser to view pages which is covered in the first section. It is using the readers own built in browsing function, to view internet pages directly.

I found two main problems using this: -

  1. Many pages are not designed to make sense to a voice reader. To be fair most web page authors never gave reading software a thought when they designed the page. What the page looks like is usually the critical factor.

    It can make reading difficult or even impossible on some pages though especially when reading a whole page.

  2. Getting to the pages you want can be difficult too. In that there are no favourites and only limited history facilities built into the browser.

    Also any new windows opened are opened by the default browser not by the Natural Voice Reader.

On the positive side, when you find a site thats of interest you can use the sites navigation system. Then pick and choose bits to read easily or read the whole page.