About CLiCk, Speak
CLiCk, Speak is an open source, freely available extension for the Firefox web browser. It is part of the CLC-4-TTS Suite of products, it features a mouse driven interface, and it reads web pages - hence its name.
Unlike Fire Vox which is designed for visually impaired users, CLiCk, Speak is designed for sighted users who want text-to-speech functionality. It doesn't identify elements or announce events - two features that are very important for visually impaired users but very annoying for sighted users. It also has a simplified, mouse driven interface that is designed to be easy for users familiar with point-and-click graphical user interfaces. Like Fire Vox, CLiCk, Speak works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux; and Fire Vox has multilingual support, making it great for users who are trying to learn a foreign language and need to hear foreign language web sites read out to them for practice. For a complete description of features, please visit the Features section.
If you're a sighted user who wants to have web pages read to you because you have cognitive issues (for example, dyslexia), because you have literacy issues (like me - I can understand spoken Mandarin Chinese just fine, but reading is difficult for me), because you want to reduce eyestrain and listen to a web page being read, etc., then you are likely to prefer CLiCk, Speak over Fire Vox.
About the CLC-4-TTS Suite
The Core Library Components for Text-To-Speech (CLC-4-TTS) Suite is a set of extensions for Firefox. It consists of a library for doing text-to-speech synthesis (the Core library), a library for navigating the HTML DOM (the Utils library), and an application that uses the libraries to act as a screen reader (Fire Vox).
While it currently only works on Firefox, it would be possible for me to create versions of this for other Mozilla products such as Thunderbird. I would have to rewrite the application portion, but the libraries would largely remain untouched. These libraries can also be used to construct other extensions that are not necessarily aimed at the visually impaired. Both are directions that I am interested in pursuing in the near future, so stay tuned.
If you are a developer who is interested in using these libraries, please see the "Information for Developers" section. The CLC-4-TTS Suite is released under the GNU GPL, but other licensing arrangements for companies that need to accomodate commercial, closed-source products are negotiable.
About the History of the CLC-4-TTS Suite
When I first created this suite and released it in January of 2005, my idea had been to create libraries that other extension authors could use to make their extensions self voicing, either for accessibility or just as a useful feature (such as have talking reminders for calendar extensions or something nifty like that). Maybe someone would even use it to make a Firefox screen reader. Just to prove that my libraries worked and to show how they could be integrated into extensions, I created a barebones demo screen reader. This demo proved popular and people actually started to use it like a screen reader.
Over the following months, I added a feature here and a feature there to the demo just for kicks. After awhile, I had the startling realization that this was a screen reader and not just a demo anymore. Thus I decided to rename it (or rather give it a real name for the first time) and call it Fire Vox. Interestingly enough, Fire Vox has since become better known than the CLC-4-TTS Suite that spawned it. I am constantly evolving the CLC-4-TTS Suite in order to add new features and accommodate changes in Firefox.
For a long time, I have had the idea to create a separate extension for sighted users who would benefit from a text-to-speech program. A large part of this realization came from my own experience with Fire Vox. I am Chinese and can speak Mandarin fluently. However, growing up in the US, I was not exposed to Chinese text on a constant basis, and given the sheer number of Chinese characters, even though I can read the more commonly occurring characters, I still have difficulty getting through articles. After I bought a Chinese voice, I found that a whole new world of Chinese articles opened up for me. Instead of spending hours scratching my head and looking up words in a dictionary, I could know effortlessly get through entire articles by having Fire Vox read them to me. However, I started noticing things about Fire Vox which were not ideal for this purpose. While announcing elements and speaking events are essential features for visually impaired users (or web developers trying to experience their web pages the same way a visually impaired user would), I was a sighted user and those features were simply annoying to me when I was just trying to read the content. I also found myself wishing for a clickable interface so that I didn't have to keep moving my hands between the mouse and the keyboard.
As Fire Vox grew in popularity and more people heard about it, there was a corresponding rise in the number of sighted users trying to use it for their own purposes. I received an increasing number of emails petitioning for features aimed at sighted users or asking for a separate version for sighted users. So finally, I decided to take action and create CLiCk, Speak.
While the CLC-4-TTS Suite was entirely created by me, there are several people who deserve recognition and thanks. Without their support and help, I couldn't have made it so far, so fast.
- Berman, Pamela - for helping me with examples of CSS speech properties and for doing the CSS and HTML template for this new version of my site.
- CAST - for their support and encouragement.
- Finger, D. Hampton - for helping me figure out how to install Fire Vox on Mac OS X.
- Inoue, Kenji - for giving me a bug fix to the CLC_SAPI_DLL code that was keeping the SAPI engine from handling Asian text correctly and for having created a Japanese translation of the CLC-4-TTS and Fire Vox documentation on his website. Sadly, his website has been down for several months now and I fear it may be permanently gone.
- Knowbility - for having me at their events.
- Marcon, Jean-Bernard - for helping me with getting locales to work.
- Levy, Aurelien - for giving me a French translation for Fire Vox.
- The Mozilla Foundation - for creating my favorite browser and for flying me out to CSUN 2006.
- Sabnak, Alexandra - for making that artsy portrait of me on this page.
- Slatin, John - for giving invaluable advice and support throughout this project.