This program uses the built-in Microsoft speech engine and animated characters to read documents out loud to you. The Microsoft voices are perfectly intelligible, but not particularly pleasant, especially the female ones. We tested only the reading capabilities of Speak, which are fun but not revolutionary. The interface could be improved by adding hot keys to stop reading or control speeds. To read e-mails, you can set the program to skip some symbols, such as quotations. Besides its basic speech functions, Speak can remind you about important events and tell the occasional funny joke. The program doesn't consume much memory, which makes it well-suited as a diversion for home users, especially kids.
What's new in version 1.8.84
ReleaseNovember 8, 2008
Date AddedJuly 11, 2003
Operating SystemsWindows 95, Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows, Windows XP, Windows NT
Speak will use Microsoft Agent animated characters to read your text for you. You can tell Merlin (as a character example) to read your documents, e-mails, Web pages, or any text in the clipboard. Just keep the cool animated character on top of your desktop and click on him whenever you want him to read for you. Control the speed and pitch and enjoy many characters with different expressions and animations. In addition, Speak features voice-recognition technology, enabling your computer to accept spoken commands. Voice recognition can be used to launch applications and Web sites, play music, shut down or restart your computer, or just reply. Speak also will remind you of appointments, and the character will try to entertain you by telling jokes, singing, or just yawning and sleeping. You can play WAV files and change voices or languages with the download of extra speech engines.