Texthelp Read and Write GOLD is a popular literacy and study support tool. It’s well-known for providing a very comprehensive range of features, so when version 9 was released in February 2009 it was hard to imagine what could possibly be added!
While some new features have been added, the main focus has been upon improving the performance of existing key features. The new features are: Screen Masking (a colour tint, think of an on-screen ‘coloured overlay’) and new voices developed specifically for Texthelp to work optimally with their software. Both these new features and the enhanced functions are outlined below. Note that product info, pricing, video tutorials and downloadable training guides are available from www.texthelp.com.
A significant difference to note is the addition of two new voices, Tim and Tina, developed especially to work optimally with R&WG. Tim is fairly generic ‘British’ sounding, although Tina has a rather unique accent I can’t quite place right now… I’ll need to get the next group of BRITE trainees on the case!
Those of you who have been using the previous version of R&WG may experience a creeping sensation that something is missing! The RealSpeak voices, Emily and Daniel have disappeared. However, rest assured that they’ve not ran off into the sunset together, but are merely hanging out with some chums from overseas! If your students are firm fans of these two, they are included on Texthelp’s International Voices add-on, along with other RealSpeak voices featuring 10 international languages. Obviously this represents an additional cost though.
Incidentally, if you do have international students, or students studying languages, the Translator tool in R&WG has been enhanced and translates English words into Spanish, French, German or Italian.
This nice feature enables the student to easily tint the screen, or part of the screen. This has two purposes. Firstly, to make it easier to focus on the part of the screen he or she is working on, the student could tint areas not currently active. Alternatively, the student can tint the whole screen to a colour of his or her visual preference. The level of opacity can also be adjusted. A mouse spotlight feature helps to mark off all the areas of the screen except the specific area the mouse pointer or cursor is in.
ENHANCED EXISTING FEATURES
The phonetic spellchecker and word prediction tool have been improved with a view to identifying the correct word-choice with greater accuracy. The dictionary and screenshot reader (enabling speech output from typically-inaccessible formats like Flash) have also been updated. The homophone checker can now refer to one of two databases for potential homophones: basic or advanced. The Fact Mapper has also been enhanced along with the Translator mentioned above.
READ AND WRITE 9 GOLD MOBILE AND VISTA
For this evaluation, I tried out Read and Write 9 GOLD MOBILE, which comes on a USB flash drive and promises to provide users with all the features of RW9G with the added benefit of being able to use it on any computer with no installation necessary. Note that, the first time it is used, the USB does need to install a driver and will ask the student for the product serial number, so this is something you’ll want to check out with your technical support at college.
If you are using the Mobile version with Vista (as I am) you may encounter problems (as I did!) with the voices not installing. Texthelp technical support suggest creating a new user account in Vista for use with Texthelp and ensuring that this new account has Administrator privileges. This isn’t something I’ve encountered with any other assistive software so far in Vista (and my laptop is crammed with titles!). However, the tips provided by the always impressively efficient Texthelp technical support did work and it seems to run just fine in my new account.