6.1 Emacspeak Overview

Emacspeak provides a small number of core services around which the remainder of the audio interface is constructed. These essential features of the software are briefly outlined in the following paragraphs; the commands by which they can be controlled will be described later in the manual.

Apart from providing a fluent spoken interface to all of Emacs’ basic editing functions, Emacspeak also includes software modules which add speech feedback to a range of applications that can be run from within Emacs. In this sense, Emacspeak amounts to much more than a talking text editor; indeed, it can more aptly be characterized as a true “audio desktop”, in which speech is treated as a first-class output modality.

Emacspeak implements a special minor mode, known as “voice lock mode” (see Voice Lock Mode) which uses distinct speech characteristics to provide aural highlighting of specific textual constructs, such as comments in program code, quoted strings and reserved words See Voice Lock. This facility is further extended when Emacspeak is used with the EWW and W3 Web browsers, to enable the semantic and structural distinctions captured by the HTML markup to be communicated efficiently See Web Browsing.

It is often desirable to exercise control over the pronunciation of a word (E.G. a technical term or a reserved word in a programming language) within specific contexts. Emacspeak maintains pronunciation dictionaries for this purpose, which may be customized by the user. Moreover, individual dictionaries can be activated selectively, depending for example on the current major mode or the name of the file which is being visited See emacspeak-pronounce.

In addition to spoken feedback, Emacspeak can generate “auditory icons” — short sound cues which alert the user to significant events, for example the opening or deletion of a file, the completion of an action, the arrival of an electronic mail message or the creation of a completion buffer. Sound cues act as a supplement to the spoken interface, and are especially valuable to the experienced user in facilitating rapid interaction. Note that in order to support auditory icons, the computer must be equipped with sound hardware for which the operating system has been correctly configured See emacspeak-sounds.