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Kurzweil 3000

An accessible guide to Kurzweil 3000

Getting started with Kurzweil text to speech:

Kurzweil 3000's most popular feature is its text to speech functions. Text to speech programs are exactly what they sound like: programs that convert written text to audible speech, so that users may listen to their documents and readings. This is useful for users with reading disabilities, schedules that disallow scheduled reading time, visual impairments, etc.

In the previous subsection, users learned how to use Kurzweil to turn an inaccessible PDF into an accessible PDF. In order to use Kurzweil text to speech, users need their files to already have been converted into Kurzweil files with readable OCR text. Luckily, any file imported into Kurzweil already undergoes a baseline level of OCR recognition. It is important to remember, if the text of a document is unreadable as OCR, users will not be able to have it read in text to speech.

Kurzweil text to speech can be used in two ways:

  1. to live read a document at a computer.
  2. to convert entire documents into audio files.

Live reading in Kurzweil:

Live reading is the term this guide uses to describe simply sitting at a computer and having Kurzweil's text to speech software read a document to users. As mentioned before, live reading in Kurzweil requires the document you desire to be already converted into a Kurzweil file format with legible Optical Character Recognition (a layer of recognizable text underneath the image of text, such as in a PDF) or OCR. This is because Kurzweil needs to recognize the text of the document in order to then "read" it out loud. Like the other tutorials in this research guide, this box covers live reading in both the desktop and the browser applications.

Live reading in the Browser Application:

To begin, either open a local file in Kurzweil, or open a file from your Universal Library/Google Drive. If necessary, wait for the file to be converted into a Kurzweil file with OCR.

The browser application has two main components that users need to live read documents:

  1. In the center of the browser application toolbar is a series of four buttons: a back button, a play button, a forward button, and a mute button.
    Main audio buttons browser application

    These buttons functions are used to navigate "Reading Units" of text that Kurzweil uses to sequence the text it recognizes into an order to be read in. Units of text can be individual words, complete sentences, lines of text on a page, or full paragraphs (see below for instructions on how to select reading units).
    • "Back" moves the reader back by one reading unit. 
    • "Play" begins the text to speech, either from the text zone marked as first to be read (see Text Zone Editing in the Accessible PDFs page), or from whatever reading unit the user has most recently selected using the mouse, Back, anf Forward buttons.
    • "Forward" moves the reader forward by one reading unit.
    • "Mute" mutes the reader.​
  2. Users may be wondering how to change the designated reading unit. Some may want a different voice for the reader. Others may want to adjust the readers reading speed. To adjust these properties, users should begin by selecting the dropdown menu "Audio Options" in the upper left hand corner:
    Audio Options Dropdown Menu

    The following options are available in this menu:
    • Reader Voice: Use to select the voice of the text to speech reader.
    • Reading Speed: Use to adjust the speed at which the reader reads the document.
    • Reading Unit: Use to adjust the reading unit as previously described to either individual "Word", "Line" of text, complete "Sentence", or whole "Paragraph". 
    • Reading Mode: Use to adjust whether or not the reader starts and stops. Available modes are "Continuous" where the reader will read continuously until paused, "Self-Paced" where the reader will read to the end of the reading unit and then stop until the played again, and "Word by Word" where the reader will stop reading after each word.
    • Skip Reading Headers and Footers: Check to force the reader to skip reading headers and footers that are separate from the main body of text in the document.
    • Speak as typing: Use to pause text to speech on a document while typing so that the reader may read typed notes as they are being written. Options are to have the reader read "All Characters" as they are individually typed, "Whole Words" after they are typed, and "Whole Sentences" after they are typed. Pressing the space bar triggers the reader. Multiple boxes can be checked at once.

Live reading in the Desktop Application:

Like in the browser application, either open a local file in Kurzweil, or open a file from your Universal Library/Google Drive. If necessary, wait for the file to be converted into a Kurzweil file with OCR.

Also similar to the browser application, there are two primary components to live reading in the Kurzweil desktop application:

  1. Locate the application toolbar (top of screen Mac, top of application window Windows), and select "Read"
    Read toolbar desktop

    This toolbar contains several text to speech functions, including:
    • Start Reading: Keyboard shortcut ⌘R (Mac) or ctrl R (Windows). Directs Kurzweil to begin reading the designated reading unit according to selected reading settings.
    • Stop Reading: Keyboard shortcut ⌘ . or ctrl . . Directs Kurzweil to pause reading.
    • Previous Sentence: moves the reader back one reading unit.
    • Next Sentence: moves the reader forward one reading unit.
    • Set Reading Speed: adjusts reading speed according to numerical entry of words per minute. Launches pop up window where users must enter how many words per minute they want read.
    • Read Faster: Keyboard shortcut ⌘] or ctrl ]. Directs the reader to read faster.
    • Read Slower: Keyboard shortcut ⌘[ or ctrl [. Directs the reader to read slower.
    • Reading Mode: Use to adjust whether or not the reader starts and stops. Available modes are "Continuous" where the reader will read continuously until paused, "Self-Paced" where the reader will read to the end of the reading unit and then stop until the played again, and "Word by Word" where the reader will stop reading after each word.
    • Reading Unit: Use to adjust the reading unit as previously described to either individual "Word", "Line" of text, complete "Sentence", or whole "Paragraph". 
    • Reading Voice: Use to select the voice of the text to speech reader.
    • Read Aloud: Select to have the reader read in audible speech.
    • Read Silently: Select to mute the reader's voice.
  2. Managing text to speech from the "Read" dropdown menu can be tiring for users. Luckily, there is a more expedient way to do so.
    Select the "Window" dropdown menu from the application toolbar, and select "Show Reader":
    Show reader desktop application

    A popup window will appear. This window is the "Reader":
    Reader basic desktop application

    The reader has several basic buttons
    • "Help" opens another window to a tutorial on the Kurzweil 3000 Reader.
    • "Back" moves the reader back one reading unit.
    • "Play" begins the text to speech, either from the text zone marked as first to be read (see Text Zone Editing in the Accessible PDFs page), or from whatever reading unit the user has most recently selected using the mouse, Back, anf Forward buttons.
    • "Forward" moves the reader forward by one reading unit.
    • "Look Up Word" opens a search window for the user to search the document for a specific term or phrase

      Under the buttons, users will see a dropdown tab labeled "Details:" Select it.
      Reader Expanded Desktop
      The expanded reader allows users to adjust the following fields.
    • Reading "Unit"
    • Reading "Mode"
    • Reading "Voice"
    • Read Aloud/Read Silently
    • Words Per Minute

Other tips:

Some users may have problems with documents where large amounts of text from out of the main body of the text is read aloud, disrupting the flow of the piece. This is often a problem with the "Text Zones" created when Kurzweil originally scans documents and converts them into Kurzweil files with OCR. Users should refer to the "Zone Editing" section of the Making PDFs Accessible page of this guide.

Audio file creation in Kurzweil:

The second option for Kurzweil users who would like to listen to their documents through text to speech is converting entire documents into audio files. These audio files can then be listened to on any device that supports the following audio formats:

  • ACC
  • Apple Lossless
  • MP3

Unfortunately, audio file creation is only available through the desktop application version of Kurzweil 3000.

Audio file creation Desktop Application:

To begin, either open a local file in Kurzweil, or open a file from your Universal Library/Google Drive. If necessary, wait for the file to be converted into a Kurzweil file with OCR.

Once the document is scanned and converted, take a moment to review the document's text zones to make sure the converted audio file converts all relevant text efficiently.

Users are now ready to create an audio file from their selected document. to do so:

  1. Navigate to the application toolbar at the top of the screen (Mac) or the top of the application window (windows), and select the "File" dropdown menu. Select "Create Audio File." A popup window will appear.
  2. Create Audio file in dropdown menu
  3. In the popup window, navigate the displayed fields to the specifications of your desired audio file and format.
    Create Audio File Desktop window
    Customizable fields are:
    • Reader Voice: Selects the reader voice that the entire document will be converted to for the audio file.
    • Words Per Minute: alters the spread of the reader in and general length of the audio file.
    • Include: Determines which parts of the text are converted into speech for the audio file. Available options are "Secondary Text" such as headers and footers in the document, user generated "Text Notes", user generated "Sticky Notes", and user generated "Footnotes", with each option followed by a specification of where the converted text to speech will be placed within the audio file, eg. "inline" or "at the end of page".
    • File Format: Determines the format of the audio file from three options: ACC (recommended), Apple Lossless, and MP3.
    • Copy to iTunes as Audiobook Named: Check to automatically save a created audio file to iTunes as an audiobook. Fill in nested fields to name created audio file and iTunes playlist.
  4. If users leave the "Copy to iTunes..." field unchecked, a second popup window will appear.
    save audio file window desktop

    Name created audio file and select the folder where it will be saved. Click "Save".

Note: it may take several minutes for Kurzweil to convert the document into an audio file.

Users can now import the created audio file into their desired listening device.