by Joan Latchford - May, 2003
I keep a small collection of “Freeware” programs (software you can legally
download and install free on your computer) on my computer desktop, titled
These include a small, neat Thesaurus called WordWeb, an Internet link to
Merriam Webster’s pronouncing dictionary and a new acquisition, (thanks to Fred
Langa of the Langa List) ReadPlease.
ReadPlease will read aloud any text that you paste to its window, from a word
processed document, a CNN news release or a Gutenberg Classic.
To do this it presents you with a small window with the controls, play,
pause, stop and selection, down the left hand side. Play starts reading, pause
halts it till you click on it again to continue, stop does just that but when
you press play it starts reading from the beginning. Selection reads only a
paragraph that you select in the window. ReadPlease highlights each word in
yellow as it is read.
ReadPlease gives you a choice of four voices, two male and two female. You
can speed up or slow down the reading speed. The voices are not bad, definitely
human. I tried it out reading poetry and a lot depended on the punctuation. The
voice dropped and paused appropriately at periods, but a dash vocalized
ReadPlease will read to you in a variety languages – these include UK
English, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian. Being single-tongued I have
not tried out this feature.
Now why, would I as a writer want this feature, for other than failing
eyesight? Believe it or not, it is one of the best proofing tools I have found,
quickly alerting you to failures of agreement in tense or typos that the spell
checker does not show up because your mistake is also a real word in a wrong
context. Take the test ReadPlease offers to see how easily the eye slips over
“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dug” and how quickly you notice this
typo when you hear it read aloud.
ReadPlease can be downloaded from: