screen reader software – Supernova Screen Reader

In our review, we found few screen reader software applications that could truly be helpful by both low-vision and no-vision users. Most applications favored one group over the other, and with good reason: It’s not easy making an application that suits both audiences. Supernova Screen Reader, however, may be the sole exception to this theory. Its features are designed to bring the best of both worlds together, without bogging users down with tools that may be unnecessary. That is why we’ve given Supernova the approval.

Features

Perhaps the best part of Supernova’s features is how customizable they are. This allows you to fine-tune your screen reader software to perfectly match your needs. The most notable of these customizations is the eight verbosity levels available; most other applications only offer three verbosity levels, if any at all. But Supernova’s eight means that you can set your computer to speak absolutely everything on the screen, just a few specific items, or any combination in between.

Other noteworthy tools – many of which are quite uncommon – include the “Where Am I?” function that tells you your current active window title and document name, and even the line of text your cursor is in if the document is a word processing item. Supernova is also one of the few screen reader software applications that reads spelling and grammar errors out loud. And if you have vision or partial vision, the document reader tool makes reading text, or following along as the computer reads it, easier than ever, thanks to user-specified color, background and size settings.

The only major features Supernova lacks are the pronunciation correction tool that lets you change how a word is spoken and the screen zoom tool. (Though you should note that there is a Supernova Screen Reader/Magnifier application available that combines some features of this screen reader software application with some features of a screen magnifier application.)

Other than that, Supernova pretty much does it all. For navigation, a variety of hotkeys makes the mouse almost unnecessary, though you can still enable the “read text under mouse” function to make the software read items as your cursor hovers over them. The screen reader software will announce applications and file names as you activate different windows. Additionally, it reads menu items as you open the menus, and it narrates documents or web pages. The narrate feature even includes a “read from here” function that starts reading wherever your cursor currently rests.

You can choose to have the software echo characters, words, or both, and it also announces punctuation. The inflection on capitalized letters can be turned on or off as desired. Likewise, the text style announcements that let you know whether your copy is bold, in a certain font family, etc., can be turned on or off as needed. Certainly, this screen reader software will help you ensure your documents turn out exactly as you want them to, even if you can’t physically see the details yourself.

Compatible Applications

There are two available voices, one male and one female; both have British accents. We found both voices to be about as pleasant as a digitized computer voice can be. And if you have a plug-in Braille device, Supernova supports a large number of various Braille output tools, and there are a few interesting Braille import/export options, as well.

With a near-perfect score, this screen reader software lacks only the dedicated compatibility for electronic books. We suspect the document reader may allow you to read EPUB or DAISY files, though we were unable to confirm this specifically.

For browsing the internet, Supernova works well with many versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox. Microsoft Office suites are also well supported. The 2003, 2007 and 2010 (32-bit) versions work beautifully; the 64-bit version of Office 2010 has limited support, but does retain some functionality. The Dolphin Computer Access website insists that this is one area that is being improved.

Adobe reader is also supported, as is email through Outlook or Windows Live Mail. Interestingly, Supernova is the only screen reader software we reviewed that supports Skype for chatting or web calls. There is also limited functionality for Corel WordPerfect, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, among other applications.

The Supernova Screen Reader software has a great user interface. The graphics are clean and simple for sighted or low-sighted users, but navigation is still easy for non-sighted users. The high level of customizability in this software also makes it much easier to use than an application that cannot be adjusted as much. All the features work just as they are supposed to, and we were quite pleased to note that the installation and setup guide for Supernova does have a spoken element.

You can adjust the speed and volume of the computer voices to achieve a more pleasing combination of effects if the built-in voices aren’t quite to your liking. There is a slider to adjust the voice pitch as well.

Ease of Use

This screen reader software includes a wonderful variety of help and support options. The website’s support page offers a contact email address, a contact form and a support phone number. There are also FAQs online, as well as a user forum and message board area for user-to-user communication. The online knowledgebase provides a wealth of information, as does the user manual that comes with the software. Finally, a long list of written tutorials – and a smaller selection of video tutorials – provide step-by-step instruction for using your screen reader software.

We should note as well that Dolphin Computer Access provides a more personal training, via regional Dolphin Accredited Trainers. You can opt for private one-on-one training, private group training, public group training or telephone training. Our search returned just one U.S.-based trainer, in Maryland, and more than two dozen U.K.-based trainers. There are also trainers based in Kenya and Norway.

Help & Support

In all, Supernova Screen Reader’s near-flawless integration of low-vision and no-vision tools makes it the ideal, versatile option for screen reader software. We especially recommend this application for those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, as the document reader is designed to be customized to fit each individual user’s needs. And with a simple main window and a wealth of support options, any user will find this software to be a great choice.

Summary