Monday, August 01, 2005

Read it to me!

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Many years ago, too many to remember, IBM developed a Document Markup Language that eventually became known as PostScript. As a language, it was cryptic and complicated, but, with just a few lines of code, an entire document was transformed from a ‘plain Jane’ into a ‘beauty Queen’. Suddenly, you were able to use several different fonts, character sizes AND charts and graphs in a portable document. Marketing types went wild and Postscript programming was the rage. For a short time, anyway. The user community was limited to commercial printing companies, but the results were fantastic. Instead of having dozens of hardcopy pages to show what the customer wanted, it was delivered in one file, document AND instructions. Massive amounts of time were saved and, more importantly, production costs went down. It was one of those win-win situations.

As the process became easier and the language was refined, it became evident that the general public would benefit from PostScript files. The thought became ‘Why not let the end user receive and translate the file on their own. That way we won’t be killing trees by the score printing material that some folks won’t read.” PostScript became a ‘Standard’ for document processing. PC’s were common by this time and printer manufactures started installing PostScript in printers that were attached to those PC’s. A competing Document Formatting Language had been developed around that time known as HyperText Markup Language. (Oh, oh! Do you see what I see? HTML!) Well, HTML didn’t catch on as a serious Document Production language until the Worldwide Web came into view and browsers were invented. You know about that. If you’re reading this you see and use HTML daily.

But, PostScript kept getting better and more capable. A call went out to make it possible to display the PostScript documents on the PC monitor and not have to be printed to be viewed (saving trees again). A few companies tried to accomplish that task. Adobe succeeded with AccroRead. What made it the defacto ‘Standard’ was that Adobe decided to sell an authoring toolkit and give the Reader away for free. Talk about locking in! The direct result of all this activity was that Adobe ‘introduced’ the PDF document. Since then, the language was further refined and graphics were introduced, then photographs were imbedded in documents. Adobe continued to improve the Reader (as it is now known). The current version (at the time this was written, anyway) is version 7. This release is a boon to those of us that are vision impaired on several fronts. Reader has, for a long time, been able to change displayed print size to a larger size at he click of a mouse button.. NOW, in version 7, the application can vocally read the PDF file to you. At install you can select the voice you want to use. It won’t be ‘sultry’ or a realistic voice, but it will be understandable (I think English only, I don’t know for sure, though.). It’s actually sort of cool to sit in front of your computer and have it ‘read’ to you. If you haven’t gotten it yet, get it. It will install on your system, attaching itself to your Browser(s) so you will be able to view Web based PDF files without downloading them.

I do realize that most of you already have the Reader installed but if you don’t…

You will find it on my favorite download sites, Downloads and Tucows. Enter ‘Reader’ in the search box and hit enter.

Have FUN!