At church on Sunday, I was approached by a woman who’d been told I was “good with computers”. She was in distress because she’s no longer able to do any word processing. Her new computer has a version of MS Word that makes absolutely no sense to her. Sadly, Microsoft’s ribbon interface is problematic for many who have learned to use the standard menu structure. (File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, etc.)
Fortunately, there are great free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Later this week, I’ll visit my new friend and help her install either Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice. She should never need to use Microsoft Word again. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are complete office suites with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation programs, and more. Programs are organized around the universally recognized menu structure. Files created in both are fully compatible with MS Office and most other productivity software. Recently, I’ve discovered that free built-in text-to-speech is also available for both OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
Read Text is a an extension that can be added to OpenOffice or LibreOffice to provide text to speech. Once installed, Read Text will read aloud selected text in any of the programs of OpenOffice or LibreOffice. This is especially valuable for someone who needs to work when not connected to the Internet. It’s also a cross platform option because both productivity suites are free downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Once LibreOffice or OpenOffice are installed, it’s not difficult to add the ReadText extension. Here’s a detailed set of instructions for adding extensions to LibreOffice. The process for OpenOffice is similar. The Read Text icon for reading text can be placed wherever you wish on a program’s toolbar, as shown below in ‘Writer‘, the word processor for Libre Office.
Note: When first using Read Text, a settings dialog box will open. This will continue to open each time Read Text is used unless you check the box that keeps this from happening.