I’m always poking around the Microsoft store looking for Edge browser extensions. Until now, the offerings have been a wee bit slim. But… huzzah … a few new extensions have found their way to the store. I tested out two and, well, I’m impressed. You get one today, maybe the other on the weekend... depends on my mood. Read & Write, from TextHelp (https://www.texthelp.com), gets a nod for the single most useful extension I’ve seen to date. It's also available for Firefox and Chrome if those flavours suit you more.
Read & Write is an excellent piece of assistive technology that reads webpages. People with vision issues, reading or learning disabilities or learning English will find this immensely useful. Once installed, you have a number of options that include reading a page or paragraph, simplified page layout, definitions and reference lookups. The voice is fairly easy to listen to and understand. The odd word is not quite right, but mostly above par for pronunciation and enunciation. One mildly amusing aspect with any software like this is they read literally - if there's a typo on the page, that will be read.
It's easy to use, just click the speech button on the toolbar and then hover the mouse over the text. The software does the rest. I put together a short video of Read & Write in action so you can hear what the voice is like:
It offers a couple of options handy for day to day use, including a built-in dictionary and Simplify. The dictionary is self explanatory.
The Simplify feature is outstanding. It converts the page to a high contrast single page of text only. It strips out the clutter and makes the speech to text option run flawlessly. It’s also handy for anyone who want to print a page, without all the images and ads. As a bonus feature, tap the minus/plus signs to increase the text size for easy reading.
The little picture dictionary is embarrassingly fun to use. If a person is unfamiliar with English, the simple pictograph images are a perfect way to show the meaning of the word. A stroke of genius. Not all words have pictograph definitions and once in awhile it throws up a cryptically funny one:
Not sure why the little stickman looks so angry but he looks like his blood pressure is through the roof.
Occasionally the extension stutters and doesn’t start reading immediately, but by and large, it’s reliable. At worse, all you have to do is turn the extension off and back on again. I was a little disappointed it didn’t read my Outlook email. But there are some pages that simply won’t work with the extension because of the way they are designed, such as Twitter. However, for the majority of webpages, the extension does the job.
If you know someone who might benefit from this extension, pass along the name to them - Read & Write extension for Edge, Chrome & Firefox. I have a number of customers I'm going to install it for. It'll make some pages - the ones with itty bitty type - far easier to manage. Download it direct from the Microsoft Store or use your browser's extension feature to install it.