Konqueror goodies

Le navigateur Konqueror, présent sur les systèmes Linux qui utilisent KDE comme interface graphique, a une fonction de synthèse vocale. Elle est basique et ne fonctionne qu’en anglais pour l’instant. Néanmoins, c’est un outil intéressant.

  • 2004-12-23
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My regular readers may have noticed that I run Debian Gnu/Linux on my home computer. I also use the KDE GUI, or “graphical desktop environment” as the KDE folks call it.

KDE comes with its own web browser, Konqueror. Konqueror is a nice little browser. Its largely standards-compliant rendering engine (the component that displays the web page you are looking at) has been integrated (and improved) in Apple’s excellent Safari browser. Konqueror may not be as pretty and powerful as Firefox, but it is fast, has tabs and a good spell-checker, and blocks unwanted popup windows; it also doubles up as a file manager. I usually have it running and use it to write blog entries (and for a few dozen other common tasks).

After hitting “publish” for my last entry, I found that a recent update of KDE had brought some new features to my Konqueror (version 3.3.1). The most interesting one was a menu entry that read “Speak Web Page”. State-of-the-art screen readers, used by blind people to browse the web, are very expensive. The free tool that comes with Konqueror can’t replace them, but it is still a pleasant tool to play around with. First its shortcomings: The speech synthesis only works for English; any non-ascii letters or symbols are ignored (including curly apostrophes), and words containing them are spelled out, minus the offending characters; there is no indication that an element on the page is a link, heading or date; the tool only works for HTML pages — it is absent from the menu when a plain text file is viewed; worst of all, there is no obvious way to turn it off (you can have it read out only a selection of a page, though); I had to resort to kill -9.

The voice sounds rather tinny, but some effort has been made to include a bit of intonation: the voice respects commas and goes lower and lower towards the end of long sentences. English text is read out in a male voice that sounds like an American English speaking robot with a slight accent and some pronunciation problems that resemble the ones I referred to in my last post (I noticed an error in the word inestimable). It is, however, perfectly comprehensible.

When it tried to read a post of mine in French, the result was a mess, of course. For the English ones, it was a strange experience to hear my written words spoken aloud.

Update: The magic worked by my Konqueror comes from its interfacing with the Festival Speech Synthesis System. I have glossed all the complex chunking and uttearance structuring Festival does. Judge for yourselves: download and listen to the ogg vorbis (960 KB) or mp3 (2.5 MB) sound file of this very blog entry except for the update.

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