Speech Options dialogue box

Penfriend can work with any SAPI5 or SAPI4 speech synthesiser, and includes one as standard. This can be used to pronounce words as you type them, and to help you choose which word on the list is the one that you want.

If you are working in a language other than English, you may be able to download an additional voices to make it sound more natural. Click on the "Download Voices" button to see a web site with a list of suitable voices which you can download and install on your computer. The links are provided as a convenience; the voices are not provided by Penfriend Ltd.

There are a number of options which you can adjust to make the speech more pleasant to listen to. The first of these is the voice name itself; you may see a list including Microsoft Mike, Microsoft Mary, Sam, and others. You may have several speech synthesisers installed on your computer which can be used.

If you are using Penfriend Portable, you may see voices listed which are not available from other applications. These are only on the USB drive, and are not fully installed on your computer.

The speed at which the voice speaks can be controlled quite separately from the pitch. The more experienced you are as a listener, the higher speed you will be able to tolerate.

You may opt to have Penfriend speak the clipboard each time it changes. This allows you to speak text from your word processor easily and quickly. This is discussed further in the clipboard window section.

You may also choose what is spoken automatically by Penfriend. This allows you to set it to speak enough to provide spoken assistance when needed, but not so much that it annoys the user. Most of the options are self-evident from their names.

Speak Letters makes Penfriend speak each individual letter as you type it. This is useful for people who are in the early stages of literacy as reinforcement and to help construct pronunciations.

Speak Words makes Penfriend speak whole words when you have completed them. This refers to either words that you have typed yourself or ones that have been chosen from the list of predictions.

Speak Sentences attempts to remember the whole sentence that you have written and to speak it when you reach a terminating punctuation mark such as a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark. It does not have priviledged access to your word processor so if you move the cursor keys around during the sentence it is likely to become confused.

Letter Phonics can be used with Speak Letters. Instead of saying the proper name of each letter (which sound like aee, bee, sea, dee, ee, eff), it will say their simple phonic version, like ah, beh, keh, deh, eh, feh). This feature works only with SAPI5, and is not compatible with all speech engines. If you do not hear letters being spoken, please switch this off.

Speak Clipboard was discussed above. It makes Penfriend speak a block of text as soon as you copy it to the clipboard in your word processor, so you can typically speak paragraphs by marking them and pressing Ctrl-C.

Screen Reader makes Penfriend speak all sorts of content from other applications on screen, but puts more stress both on the applications and the speech engine, which can cause problems. It communicates with other applications that support Microsoft Active Accessibility, and can only speak text that they provide to Penfriend. Some speech engines, notably SAPI4 ones, may crash when using this feature because of the number of stops and starts.

Predictions allows you to choose one of a number of ways of speaking the predictions in the prediction window. The default is that they are never spoken automatically, and that you must point at a word to hear it.

Predictions: Dwell (hover) will make Penfriend speak a word from the prediction list if you have been pointing at it for more than half a second. This may be useful for people, especially mouse users, who dither over words being unsure which one is correct. It requires no commitment to begin the speaking (useful for people who are afraid of clicking).

Predictions: Immediate point will make Penfriend speak each word in the prediction list when you point at it. If you move down the list then you are likely to cut off the previous word when you begin pointing at the new one, and this may be disconcerting. It is faster, however.

Predictions: First automatically will make Penfriend speak the first prediction as soon as it changes. This, and the following options, can clash with 'Speak Words'. It has the advantage of reading out a word that you can see on screen without having to move your hand to the mouse.

Predictions: First two automatically will, like the above option, speak predicted words after each key press. Unsurprisingly, it speaks the first two words instead of the top one only.

Predictions: First three automatically does something so secret, it cannot be discussed here without your signature in triplicate on a commercial confidentiality agreement.

Predictions: All automatically is a devastatingly efficient way of disrupting a classroom, if you have big loudspeakers turned up full. It only reads the items visible on screen, so be sure to pull the prediction window out to show all twelve items.