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By Thomas Baekdal - September 2006

Tip for self-editors: Use a Narrator

Many write and publish on a daily basis - like the journalists at newspapers. But, whereas the journalists have an editorial staff, we have to do it all by ourselves.

And, trying to edit your own stuff is very hard. You cannot edit your own words. You will read what you think is there and not what it really says.

Wouldn't it be great if you could have someone else to read your articles? Well, you do.

Microsoft's Narrator and Apple's VoiceOver

Both Windows XP and Mac OS X includes a built-in person. This person can read all the things you write back to you.

This is a very handy way of finding irregularities in your text. You can hear when a word is missing, or when you have added an odd punctuation mark. You can hear odd passages, or sentences that is either too long or just messy.

It is like having your own Personal Editing Assistant.

Note: Mac OS X's VoiceOver utility has much better sound than Windows XP's Narrator, but they still sounds like a computer. It is something that takes a little while to get used to. The new Mac OS X Leopard is going to feature a much better voice, and so is Vista.

How to use?

Windows XP' Narrator can be found in the start menu under Accessories - Accessibility. It is not the easiest tool to use. It will speak back every time you hit a key on your keyboard, or when a Window receives focus.

The problem is that it cannot read the content of your browser - or the content of Word 2007. Personally I copy the final article into Notepad and have it read back to me from there.

Mac OS X's VoiceOver Utility can be found in the Application - Utilities folder. It is a much more complex application - and is even harder to use than Microsoft's.

It too cannot read the contents of the browser or whatever text tool you are using. But you can set it up to read text you highlight with the keyboard. I usually copy the article to TextEdit and hit Select All (Command+A).

I must admit I am amazed how user-hostile these tools are. I wouldn't want to be a blind person. But as a tool for self-editors they are very useful.

 
 
 

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Thomas Baekdal

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