Reviewed: Geetesh Bajaj
Date Created: December 20th 2004
Last Updated: February 26th 2009
- Open PowerPoint and create a blank presentation
with a title and text layout or any other text based layout.
- Enter any text for the title - I just typed "Exploring
PowerTalk" without the quotes. Similarly, I typed in "Adding
Speech Abilities to PowerPoint" for the text. Save the presentation
and close PowerPoint.
- Open PowerTalk and choose to play the presentation we just created - you'll find Microsoft's Speech API will narrate all the text on the slide. Once your presentation has been viewed, both PowerPoint and PowerTalk will automatically exit.
We just explored how easy it is to use PowerTalk with text based presentations. However, we all know that PowerPoint presentations contain so much more than plain text - you'll find images, animations, charts, diagrams and more.
The key in associating text content that PowerTalk can narrate along with these non-text elements is something we call the 'Alt' text. Right-click any element (WordArt, image, clipart, AutoShape, etc.) and choose Format. This will open a multi-tabbed interface that includes a Web tab. Within this Web tab, you have an option to include any Alternative text.
Create a sample presentation that includes several non-text elements with Alternative text associations. Save the presentation and exit Powerpoint. Now, play the presentation with PowerTalk.
Let me introduce Glenna Shaw, who made me aware of PowerTalk. Glenna is an expert in the field of electronic presentations and training and she's often called the "PowerPoint Magician". Her current focus is on PowerPoint accessibility. Here are some of Glenna's thoughts about accessibility, PowerTalk and more:
The whole point of accessibility is to ensure that distributed information is available regardless of any limitations, including software, age, etc. The reason I love PowerTalk is because it allows accessibility of PowerPoint presentations to the maximum extent possible and retains the original format of the PowerPoint presentation. PowerTalk is great for persons for whom English is a second language, persons with cognitive limitations, older persons and it's also great for catching spelling and grammatical errors. And, of course, PowerTalk is great for persons with visual limitations. I found PowerTalk through a Google search and was thrilled. PowerTalk gave me a tool that allows me to check my presentations for accessibility by screen readers and it's free!! Before PowerTalk, the only way I could verify the accessibility of presentations was to find someone with screen reader software (which is very expensive) and ask them to check it for me.
Glenna recommends another product that works great with PowerTalk:
Another accessibility product you might want to look at is the Accessibility Wizard for PowerPoint located at:
which is also free. Here's the beauty of using the two products together:
- Run the Accessibility Wizard on your presentation. By doing this,
your PowerPoint presentation is automatically retrofitted to appropriately
label all images, etc. Save the presentation.
- Run your presentation with PowerTalk. PowerTalk will read the
presentation the same way a screen reader does and you can immediately
verify the accessibility of your presentation. The really great
thing is that PowerTalk catches the anomalies of a screen reader
and PowerPoint exactly.
- I prefer to post a presentation in multiple formats so persons can choose the format that best suites their needs: PPS, PDF, HTML and include links to PPT Viewer, PowerTalk and Adobe Reader (but Adobe Writer isn't free like PowerTalk and the Accessibility Wizard).
Steve and Simon helped me add some more info to this review to make it more interactive.
Steve adds that "...Speechmaker's was going strong before I joined and the team have since developed several programs that may be of interest..."
Also a review of PowerTalk was featured in Ability magazine. It was written by Ross Gravel who kicked the whole thing off with his letter. The review is available in PDF format here...
Another review can be read here...
Simon adds that he "intends to reinvigorate
the whole Speechmakers
project in the near future - we have had a lot of interest from new volunteer software engineers recently and we want to produce a range of new software... so if any of your readers are coders and want to volunteer...".
Sometimes, there's so little to conclude. I don't have to justify the price of this product, nor do I need to make a case of its value. PowerTalk is a rarity - a free product that really works and stands up and shines brighter than any commercial application out there.