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LET IT GET A WORD IN

Talk Back lets your computer read almost any text from almost any Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT4, and XP application. In UK English. It's so good that even the BBC uses it. It does not work in Windows ME, in DOS, or on a MAC.

It has a wide range of of male and female voices, spelling and reading options, and Talking Typing features. You can listen to documents, emails, letters, reports, and presentations, whilst you do something else.

You can download French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese language modules, which integrate into the Talk Back interface. They're free.

It installs in half a minute, and it's so easy to use that even an adult can puzzle it out. And no chance of it messing up your computer, applications, or documents.

It'll help you check letters and presentations, read documents and emails, and has a lot of educational uses, particularly for dyslexia, spelling, reading, and talking.

USING TALK BACK

It's very simple to use. Start Talk Back. Start any Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT4, or XP application such as Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Eudora Email, Adobe PageMaker, or Corel WordPerfect.

The Talk Back button bar, which you can re-position anywhere, has five familiar looking buttons: Play, Pause, Stop, Program, and Eject. Much like your home CD or DVD player.



Select some on-screen text with the mouse or the keyboard, copy it to Talk Back using Copy from the Edit menu, click on Play, and Talk Back talks to you. Until you click Pause or Stop.

The Program button, the down arrow, lets you modify and test the reading options and voicing features. The Eject button, the up arrow, puts it all away.

Talk Back converts text to speech by connecting short recorded fragments of real human speech. The quality depends on the prosody rules applied to the speech fragments as they are assembled in real time.

Talking Typing lets you hear the letters or words as you type, making computer use much easier for anyone with writing, vision, or short-term memory problems.', 'When you type a word and then press SPACE to move on to the next word, Talk Back says the word to you, confirming your typing. If you press ESCAPE, the word will be deleted, without you having to count backspaces.

The Talking Typing feature lets you hear the letters or words as you type, making computer use much easier for anyone with writing, vision, or short-term memory problems.

I've put some audio demos near the bottom of this page. Click the button, wait for the sound file to download, and remember to close the player afterwards. They've been compressed to download quicker, so are not at the original quality.

Talking Technologies is the Creator, Distributor, and Technical Support Centre for Talk Back products.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT

Talk Back has a bit of real-time intelligence, and tries to apply the capricious 'rules' of language to any bit of text you give it.

The voice quality is seriously impressive and is a real advance in speech synthesis. So, why not let your computer get a word in.

listen to your emails - whilst you do something else - enjoy your cappuccino
try out presentations and letters - check them for punctuation, content, and context
sit back and get comfortable - rest your eyes
listen to long internet-based text - make brief notes
listen to that novel or film script you started writing - in 1981
hear those long Read Me files - as you set up your new application
spell words letter by letter, or hear a word at a time - great for English students
help children and adults with reading or speech problems - or give yourself a voice
develop talking applications - chit chat, reminders, help, or instructions
develop talking applications - work more easily
get started with learning English - the easy way
make consistent announcements from typed text - ideal for public services
just have fun - yes, that's OK too

Talk Back 95 and Talk Back 98 were very successful, and we've had hundreds of requests for new features. The most popular have been built in to Talk Back 2002.

WHAT DO I GET

When you buy Talk Back you get a CD, for UK English, an on-disc manual, and free technical support from Talking Technologies, the creator of Talk Back.

WHAT DO I NEED

For Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT4, and XP, Talk Back needs a P90 MMX, 32MB RAM, 256K L2 cache, and a SAPI compliant 16 bit Sound Blaster compatible sound card. It does not work in Windows ME, in DOS, or on a MAC.

So, almost any modern computer will be OK.

SAPI means Speech Application Programming Interface. All modern PC sound cards are supposed to be SAPI compliant and 16 bit Sound Blaster compatible.

Installing and setting up Talk Back is very easy and only takes a few minutes. However, if you need help, I've included a free Talk Back Technical Support page. I've put a button near the bottom of this page.

MORE

Talk Back uses a British English phonetic and context model - so no more US or Taiwanese voices struggling with the inconsistencies of English.

Talk Back has nine female and nine male voices, based on real people. Each voice can have one of nine characters, making 162 different voices. Each voice can be adjusted for pitch, speed and volume, making over 118 000 variations. Each variation can talk continuously, say a word at a time, or spell out the text. If you could try one every 10 seconds, it would take nearly 41 days.

The voices use concatenated segments of real voices. Talk Back pieces it all together, as it talks. If it used whole-word recordings it would either need a massive reference database, or be unable to pronounce new words. Synthesising voices in this way means that it will attempt to pronounce anything - no matter how complicated. Users soon get used to the consistency, and learn to accept the voices, just as they would with new friends.

Talk Back has been designed to read lists, tabbed lists, tables, and internet addresses. It can ignore html coding, to aid proof reading web site construction work, or read those weird webby emails with the message lost in masses of code.

You can position the Talk Back button bar exactly where you want it. No matter which application you're using, it will always stay on top, where you can find it. It has five familiar looking buttons: Play, Pause, Stop, Program, and Eject. Much like your home CD or DVD player.



How does Talk Back know what to say? Simple - you tell it. You have to choose the exact text you want it to read. Although it might seem easier to simply give Talk Back a file name or a whole document and let it get on with it, the text would probably include email headers, titles, contents lists, html coding, letterheads ... all sorts of unwanted things. And often, it's only part of the document you want to hear.

So, highlighting the exact text you want, ith the mouse or the keys, is the simplest and most flexible way of making your selection. Copying the highlighted text, using Copy from the Edit menu, or CONTROL+C, puts the text on the Clipboard where Talk Back can find it.

Click on Play, and Talk Back talks to you using the reading options and voicing features you've chosen. Until you click Pause or Stop.

The Program button, the down arrow, lets you modify and test all the reading options and voicing features. The Eject button, the up arrow, puts it all away. Use Eject - not the Windows Close button.

Let's take a quick look at some of the ways you can change the reading options and voicing features in Talk Back. Clicking the Program button lets you choose:



option what it does
Language Only UK English today
Gender Female or male - or android
Characters Text, lists, tables, internet, beep, dtmf, html - or Talking Typing
Mode They'll spell for you or say a word at a time - or just chat away, non stop
Format PCM, 8 bit WAV, or 16 bit WAV - record their voices
Name Who do you want today - Theresa, Natalie, Louise, Mickey, Charles, Howard ...
Disposition How do they feel - calm, robotic, excited, bored ...
Volume A whisper, a comforting reminder, a conversation - loud from next door
Speed Slow through to fast - what does 200 words a minute sound like
Pitch Attentive, indifferent, party-time, husky, not happy - or telling it like it is

Talk Back includes a short piece of internal text, so that you can test your choice. As soon as you like the way it sounds, click OK to close the Options, and Talk Back is ready to talk.

Without covering every possible option, let's take a look at a few of the reading options and voicing features:

DISPOSITION

Talk Back has nine female voices and nine male. It lets you change the disposition of each of them. Normal, calm, tired, hyper, loud, secretive, automatic, enthusiastic ...

WAV FILES

Talk Back lets you save the voice output as an 8 bit or a 16 bit wav file. This means you can attach their voice to an email, a web page, a document, a computer action, play it later, or build up a script with different voices.

LIST

Talk Back normally reads text just as it finds it. It only pauses if it finds punctuation, or comes to a new paragraph. This is it's basic reading mode.

LIST TEXT

Talk Back can look for single ENTER keys, not new paragraphs, and replace them with pauses. Some text is written as a list or contains ENTER keys at the end of lines. Normally Talk Back would only pause if it found punctuation but, now, any headings or lists of items without closing punctuation will be read coherently.

TABS TEXT

Talk Back can look for TAB keys and replace them with pauses. Some text is written as a tabbed table, or contains TAB keys between words. Normally Talk Back would only pause if it found a space or punctuation but, now, any text using TAB separators will be read coherently.

TABLE TEXT

Talk Back can look for ENTER and TAB keys and replace them with pauses. Some text is written as a headed list with numbered tab-indented items, or as a table. Normally Talk Back would only pause if it found a space or punctuation but, now, any text using TAB separators will be read coherently. This is the best mode to use for general text reading.

INTERNET

Talk Back looks ahead for URLs, internet addresses, and emails. If it finds any, it will read them more naturally, and use dot instead of full stop or point. It includes the Table Text functionality, so is the most comprehensive mode.

BEEP TONE

Talk Back can generate different beep tones for the characters 0 to 9. If you've given it characters that can't generate BEEP tones, it'll tell you, and skip them.

FONE TONE

Talk Back can generate DTMF (telephone) tones for the characters 0 to 9 and A to F, including Star and Hash. If you've given it characters that can't generate DTMF tones it'll tell you, and skip them.

If you want to learn more about DTMF tones, check out our DTMF page. I've put a button near the bottom of this page.

HTML

Talk Back has a special HTML feature. Anyone writing an internet page finds it hard to read the text if it's lost amongst html tags. Talk Back can skip the tags, leaving you with your text. If you've missed out a tag marker, it'll tell you.

Some emails contain masses of html tags, making the message almost invisible. Just select all the text, and let Talk Back deal with it.

KEYS TALK

Talking Typing was included for visually impaired people, although it will help dyslexics and people with reading, writing, and spelling difficulties.

When you press a key, Talk Back says the key name - A, 4, F1, Backspace, Enter - in the voice you've chosen. Talk Back captures each key press and checks for its name in a table, before letting it go to the application you were using. The nature of this process means that you can't type quicker than Talk Back can find the key description and say it.

LAST WORD

Talking Typing was included for visually impaired people, although it will help dyslexics and people with reading, writing, and spelling difficulties.

When you type a word and then press SPACE to move on to the next word, Talk Back says the word to you, confirming your typing.

KEEP WORD

Talking Typing was included for visually impaired people, although it will help dyslexics and people with reading, writing, and spelling difficulties.

When you type a word and then press SPACE to move on to the next word, Talk Back says the word to you, confirming your typing. If you press ESCAPE, the word will be deleted, without you having to count backspaces.

Of course, in a dialog, pressing ESCAPE simulates clicking the Cancel button, so using this mode in dialogs won't work.

SUPPORT

Talking Technologies is the creator of Talk Back, and we want you to succeed. To help you install and use this new and exciting technology, I've included a free Technical Support page. I've put a clicker at the bottom of this page.

If you want to have all the Talk Back pages around when you need them, why not bookmark this page on your internet browser now. Alternatively, bookmark the front page. I've put a button to the front page near the bottom of this page.

THE CUSTOMIZER

So, if Talk Back is so clever, why do you need to customize it?

Talk Back is pretty good at dealing with pronunciation, even for difficult words. But there will always be words that have unusual pronunciations, or you just prefer them to be pronounced slightly differently: places, people, abbreviations, acronyms, retail products, legal words, email prompts, foreign phrases, insect names, scientific symbols, computer codes, school words - even made-up words.

There's an important difference between abbreviations and acronyms. An abbreviation is a short form of a word or words, and is spoken as a sequence of single letters. For example: SNR, ASAP, BBC, PLC, PAYE. An acronym is also a short form of a word or words, but is spoken as a new single word. For example: UNESCO, NATO, RAM, laser, radar.

The Talk Back Customizer allows you to modify pronunciations to make the overall speech as fluid and natural as possible. It's easy to learn how to do this, and you don't have to worry about computer programming. The Customizer is on one floppy, and includes some examples in alphabetical order. You simply copy the files into the Talk Back folder, and read what to do. If you want to learn more, I've put a button near the bottom of this page.

USING A SCANNER

A scanner is a device that scans a document from top to bottom and produces an image that you can look at on screen. It's important to understand that the scanner takes a picture of the document and puts it on screen. It doesn't separate the text and images and rebuild them on screen as if you'd used a publishing application.

If you try to edit the text, as if it's normal typed text, you'll find you can't. But Optical Character Recognition, abbreviated to OCR, software can look at the picture and read the text and turn it into normal text that you can work with it on screen. All scanners come with OCR software, although sometimes it's a getting started version.

Once the picture text has been turned into real text Talk Back will read it like any other on-screen text. To quote from one user I use Talk Back with an HP Capshare 920 portable hand scanner to make my own reading machine. I'd recommend this combination.

DISABILITIES

If you use a desktop computer, you type in whatever you want to 'say' and click on Talk Back's Play button so that the text is read in a voice-style you've chosen.

Of course, you're probably wondering why you can't just type and let people read it from the screen? I guess it's to do with the voice becoming part of your personality. But also, the listener will often find it easier to listen wherever they are in the room, rather than having to sit beside you and watch the screen as you type. You might also find it annoying if they 'read ahead' or get impatient and don't let you finish your typing.
If you like to move from room to room, or you're in a wheelchair, you can take a notebook computer with you wherever you

You could have frequently used phrases or paragraphs held in an always-open document and just play the bit you want to say, to save repeated typing.

LICENSES

Talking Technologies can licence Talk Back to your school, college, university, language school, business, charity, or organisation. The cost per user reduces with quantity.

SPECIAL EDITIONS

Talking Technologies can re-badge Talk Back to promote your language school, business, charity, or organisation.

There would be a production fee and a minimum order. But then you're free to use or re-sell Talk Back in more or less any way you choose, within the terms of the licence.