Archive for December, 2009

Impressions of Hal from Dolphin

December 19, 2009

These are my impressions of the Hal screen reader from Dolphin in no particular order, as I

continue to test it. I’ll update this as I continue evaluating it and in response to


The installation process went fine, but I had to press the setup button inside a WinZip self

extractor in order to get the talking setup to run.

If another screen reader’s mirror driver is enabled, Hal will break (mainly by not reading

certain list views and combo boxes).

Upon rebooting, Hal came up with Realspeak and walked me through its startup wizard, asking

me to set various options such as speech rate and character echo settings. It also asked me

to update its map files, which I allowed and had no trouble with.

It comes with Realspeak, Orpheus and Eloquence. Orpheus is the most responsive and has the

fewest problems. Realspeak sometimes will start speaking the next phrase while the current

one is ending, while Eloquence isn’t too responsive and pauses in strange places in addition

to the default annoying Eloquence pauses that haven’t been suppressed.

SAM (Synthesizer Access manager) loads every driver it has as separate processes into memory

at the same time, even for devices I don’t have, cluttering up the task manager.

Standard WinForms (.net) apps don’t work. I tested with EdSharp, and got very disappointing

results. The edit field was just read as “control”, while the menus didn’t speak at all.

While browsing the web, the standard control+enter keystroke for opening links in new tabs

doesn’t work. In order to do this, I have to press delete to right click, then go to the

menu item to open in new tab.

Mozilla Thunderbird (either 2.x or 3.0) is not supported at all, and gives no useful

information when tabbing around the interface.

While selecting by lines in notepad, the lines I’m selecting aren’t automaticly read.

List view fields are read in terms of screen text, so anything that doesn’t fit on the

screen gets cut off.

Capital letters aren’t announced by default. If turned on, Hal will announce “capital”

before any word that is capitalized, and mixed before a mixed-case word. There is an option

buried in the menus to change this to beep, but it’s either all or nothing; it can’t be set

to only announce when reading by character.

A distinction is made between the left and right modifier keys when talking about hotkeys.

For example, mute speech is set to left control. In order to use right control for this

purpose it must be added as an additional hotkey.

The hotkeys don’t repeat when held down, whereas every other key on the keyboard does.