Read&Write GOLD 4 for Mac review

Read&Write GOLD 4 for Mac is a text-to-speech converter designed for learners with reading difficulties. Packing a number of assistance features into its unobtrusive toolbar, it integrates with Microsoft Word 2008 and Safari. You select words, phrases or whole sections of content, then use the toolbar to select one of Read&Write’s helpful features.

The program’s key capability is text-to-speech conversion. It’s easy to use – simply select text then start playback using intuitive transport controls on the toolbar. To read text from programs lacking direct integration, you’ll need to copy the text to the clipboard. The feature doesn’t seem to understand syntax or inflection quite as well as some screen readers, including the Mac’s own built-in capability, but it does have a British accent. When reading PDF files there’s a separate, bundled PDF reader called PDF Aloud, with its own toolbar, which uses the same engine to read out textual content.

The built-in dictionary, which provides definitions and Thesaurus capabilities, gives users the option to read or hear words and descriptions spoken. Just click on a word to select, then click on the dictionary icon. There’s also an online translator, which returns selected text in Spanish, French, German or Italian. Of the text-to-speech tools offered, Screenshot reader is the most impressive. It reads text embedded in images, locked PDF files and even Flash movies where the text is rendered as imagery. You just select a section of text, Read&Write scans it and, with a sprinkle of OCR fairy dust (powered by ABBYY FineReader), reads it back to you.

Read&Write GOLD’s not just about speech tools though. There are text-highlighting features, a screen-masking feature that enables readers to concentrate on a line or paragraph at a time, and ‘Fact Mapping’ – a mind mapping tool built into the main interface.

OUR VERDICT

A full kit of reading and writing aids, Read&Write GOLD for Mac is very supportive educational software. Its origins on the PC are betrayed a little by the interface design, but its usefulness transcends these minor aesthetic concerns.

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