|REPORT CARD |
|Overall Rating:||5 Stars|
|Ease of Use:||A-|
Company: Texthelp Systems Ltd., based in Antrim, Northern Ireland, with a U.S. office at N. Ireland Technology Center, 545 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. Phone: 888/248-0652; Fax: 866/248-0652; E-mail: info@Texthelp.com; Internet: http://www.texthelp.com/.
Price: $645—single computer use.
Audience: Read & Write 7.1E Gold provides help for students of all ages with reading and writing difficulties, including those with severe physical handicaps. Given the complexity of the program, younger students will need some training or adult supervision.
Format: Read & Write 7.1E Gold provides a floating palette or toolbar that works with many Windows-based applications, including word processors, spreadsheets, databases, e-mail, and the Internet. Basically, Read & Write 7.1E Gold is a second program that runs simultaneously and in partnership with other Windows-based programs.
Minimum System Requirements: For Windows systems only. Requires a 350 MHz Pentium processor, 256 MB RAM, 400 MB hard disk space, Windows 98/SE/2000/ME/NT/XP, sound card, good quality speakers, and a microphone for speech input.
Generally speaking, bigger and newer is better. More RAM and a 17-inch or larger monitor would help as well.
Description: Read & Write 7.1E Gold provides reading and writing support for individuals with problems in reading and writing, including those with dyslexia, memory problems, or physical handicaps such as mobility impairment.
The program supports commonly-used programs with writing or reading features (including Internet Explorer) and provides a variety of cutting-edge functions. The most impressive features are sophisticated text to speech functions that enable the computer to read to the user and speech to text functions that enable the computer to type what the user says.
Installation: I used this program on a 966 MHz Windows computer; it installed automatically in a few minutes with no difficulty. Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: Read & Write 7.1E Gold is an exciting program with an impressive number of features that should help nearly anyone who experiences problems reading or writing for nearly any reason. With this software, some users will be able to access computer programs and get information that might otherwise be inaccessible to them.
For example, passages or entire pages from the Internet can be read aloud by highlighting a passage or selecting a page and clicking a button. In addition, the dictionary feature expands functions found in dictionaries included within word processing programs, enabling the use of the dictionary with the Internet or a spreadsheet program. The definitions can be read aloud in a pleasant, customizable voice.
Writers are aided by a function that can suggest the next word or phrase, as well as an improved spell checker. The homophone function works with words that are commonly confused because they sound alike. One setting allows the text to be read aloud while it is being typed.
The beauty of Read & Write 7.1E Gold is that it works with commonly used programs, eliminating the need to learn a series of completely new software programs. The Read & Write floating palette can be started either before or after running a program such as Microsoft Word. The customizable palette bar offers a single row of buttons that represent various functions; the bar can easily be moved around the screen.
The specific functions include a spell checker with an alternative meanings function and an "auto correct" button. Users can develop their own list of frequently misspelled words that will be corrected automatically as they type. The Word Prediction function provides a list of words that will complete sentences being typed. A click on the listed words can have them read aloud or can bring up the Dictionary for definitions.
The Dictionary button enables users to find basic definitions with synonyms, advanced definitions, and even provides pronunciation help. In addition, Web definitions from the Dictionary.com Web site are available. An interesting feature of the Dictionary is the Word Wizard that helps users find words or phrases they can't remember.
Three of the bar's buttons are activated only when using Microsoft Word; these allow homophones and other words that sound alike and are commonly confused to be displayed or spoken aloud.
Standard or scientific calculators are available from a link on the toolbar. The appearance of the calculators can be changed, speech functions can be enabled, and the calculators can leave an "audit trail" or record of calculations, if desired. Among other uses, the calculators can be used to convert values in documents or evaluate calculations in documents.
Five buttons on the toolbar are allocated to reading text. With these buttons, text can be read as it is typed or after it is typed. In addition, text on Web pages and other documents, including PDF files, can be read aloud. A "Daisy book" reader is included, as well. "Daisy" is a standard for the Digital Talking Books used worldwide for the blind and others. The Speech Maker tool enables documents to be read into sound (WAV) files and saved. These features are extremely powerful and useful.
A scanning button is available on the toolbar, as are two desk research buttons that enable users to capture text and graphics from any application and organize them into a study aide. A Fact Finder, including a Web search function, enables finding facts and saving them; a Fact Folder allow users to work with previously-found information.
Additional buttons enable speech input, a translator with Spanish translations for English words, a Help window, and functions that may be more difficult to display due to size.
The speech input function requires a microphone and works well, if not perfectly. Users can talk to their computers and have their speech converted to text in a document. Some setup is required; a simple training program shows what should be said into the computer with audible Help prompts. This feature works well, but words must be spoken carefully and not all words are recognized.
In general, the powerful functions of this program were a bit slow on my 966 MHz computer. I recommend a much faster computer for use with this software. Also, the toolbar is a bit large and was occasionally in the way on my 14-inch monitor. The toolbar worked fine, but would be nicer on a 17-inch or larger monitor.
Despite these concerns, Read & Write 7.1E Gold is an excellent program that generally performs well and is very useful, especially for those with reading and writing problems. When considering this program for school districts or indviduals, make sure the computers are adequate and/or get the most powerful computers possible. Content/Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: In some respects due to its many features, Read & Write 7.1E Gold is a complicated program but, once the functions are mastered, it is easy to use. Users should not expect to install and use the software without some study. Ease of Use Rating: A-
Product Support: Technical support is available by calling the company's toll-free phone number or by e-mail at support@Texthelp.com. Online support includes forums, answers to frequently asked questions, guided tours, a help desk, and downloadable PDF training guides. In addition, the program comes with an excellent manual and has a good online help component. Certified trainers are available as well. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: Read & Write 7.1E Gold is an excellent, useful program. Due to its expense and complexity, as well as the power of some of the required computer features, this software will be most appropriate for well-funded school settings.
This program is very good for home use and would help those with reading and writing problems meet public school requirements. Read & Write 7.1E Gold also could be a real lifesaver for some college students. Highly Recommended.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, Elementary Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Central Elementary School, 509 S. Broadway, Hastings, MI 49058; 616/948-4423; email@example.com.