The Deluxe version of Encarta 2000 includes a text-to-speech capability. Users can select entire articles, or highlight text within an article, and have it read aloud by the program. Sound quality is understandable, but still clearly mechanical in origin.
The feature offers three configuration options:
Speed. Speed can be varied from 85 to nearly 300 words per minute. Even at the highest speed, the voice is still understandable.
Pitch. At it's lowest setting, the voice acquires the pitch of an adolescent boy; at the highest setting, it's clearly a female voice pitch.
Volume. This control operates within the range set by your system's master volume controls.
Users activate the text-to-speech feature either by selecting "read aloud" from the options menu, or simply by clicking on the F8 button on their keyboard.
Although it functions adequately, we were hard-pressed to come up with many instances of where the feature would be useful. For example, it might be helpful for those with vision impairments - but only after they found the article they wanted to read, because the feature does not work in the search menu.