Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Write:OutLoud from Don Johnston: preliminary review

Write:OutLoud SOLO, Don Johnston Incorporated

Our school asked me to take a look at an old copy of "Write:Outloud" from Don Johnston Inc. This is a text reader and simple word processor application targeted at children with reading and writing disabilities. Kurzweil has a much more ambitious, expensive and more complex application in the same space.

I'd never heard of WOL; Don Johnston Inc appears to be a one person business based in Volo, IL.

The CD I have is version 3.0 - it was released in 2000. The current version, according to the web site, is slated for release 3/05. From the screenshots they look fairly similar.

The CD contains a Mac and Windows version. The Mac installer would not install in OS X. The Windows installer installed in both Windows 98 and XP SP2. Installation was simple; it takes up about 17MB of disk space. That's nothing nowadays, I've installed hardware device drivers that require more resources.

The PC version installs a runtime version of IBM's ViaVoice text to speech generator. Both OS X and XP have built-in text to speech generators with similar sounding voices (that "Flo" got around!), Windows 98 has nothing.

This is a very simple and straightforward application with abundant documentation -- though I just fired it up and started using it. It lets you author text or open a text document. It will open txt documents or .WOL format files. You can copy and paste text from anything else. You can highlight words or paragraphs and WOL reads the text.

Did I mention this was a simple application?

In theory OS X has built-in services to do this, but WOL provides keyboard and mouse interfaces to make this easy. You can vary text size, color and background color to help children with visual disabilities.

I assume the 3/05 version will run on OS X (in Classic emulation probably). I'll ask and post an update here. More experiences to come.

Update: A Don Johnston support person tells me OS X will be supported with the new release. She thought it would run as a "native app" under OS X, that would be nice but a bit surprising. Most small vendors typically revise their "classic" apps to work with OS/X.

No comments: