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4 Introduction

Emacspeak provides a complete audio desktop by speech-enabling all of Emacs.

In the past, screen reading programs have allowed visually impaired users to get feedback using synthesized speech. Such programs have been commercially available for a long time. Most of them originally ran on PC’s under DOS, and have moved over to the Windows environment. However, screen-readers for the UNIX environment have been conspicuous in their absence. Note that this is now changing with the availability of console-level Linux screenreaders such as speakup. Such Linux screenreaders provide the same level of UNIX accessibility provided in the late 80’s by PC terminal emulators running a DOS screenreader. This means that most visually impaired computer users face the additional handicap of being DOS-impaired — a far more serious problem:-)

Emacspeak is an emacs subsystem that provides complete speech access. It is not a screen-reader — rather, it is a complete user environment with built-in speech feedback. Emacspeak has a significant advantage; since it runs inside Emacs, a structure-sensitive, fully customizable environment, Emacspeak has more context-specific information about what it is speaking than its screenreader counterparts. This is why Emacspeak is not a “screenreader”, it is a system that produces speech output.

A Traditional screen-reader speaks the content of the screen, leaving it to the user to interpret the visual layout. Emacspeak, on the other hand, treats speech as a first-class output modality; it speaks the information in a manner that is easy to comprehend when listening.

The basic concepts used by Emacspeak are simple; all interactive Emacs commands have been adapted to provide speech feedback. Hence, you use Emacs as normal; Emacspeak works behind the scene to give audio feedback in addition to updating the screen.

Emacspeak consists of a core speech system that provides speech and audio services to the rest of the Emacspeak desktop; application-specific extensions provide context-specific spoken feedback using these services. Emacspeak currently comes with speech extensions for several popular Emacs subsystems and editing modes. I would like to thank their respective authors for their wonderful work which makes Emacs more than a text editor1.


Footnotes

(1)

I have now been using Emacspeak under Linux as the only source of speech feedback since 1994.


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