ClaroRead Plus for Mac OS V6.3 Review

ClaroRead for Mac

ClaroRead for Mac works on Mac OSX V10.11 and above. ClaroRead V6 for Mac is a highly effective literacy software solution for supporting people who struggle with writing, editing and reading text. It has been created and designed with maximum simplicity and flexibility. Users of any age and ability level, when dealing with text and documents, now have the opportunity to employ numerous powerful literacy support options and assistive technology features to help them handle information and data when using ClaroRead.

ClaroRead for Mac is a simple to use literacy support tool designed for Mac users. The MS Windows version has the same features. ClaroRead can read any on-screen text out loud. By design, it is perfectly integrated with Microsoft Word but you can use it with any word processor such as Pages or Open Office, presentation or mind-mapping tools or with text editors. It is extremely handy when reading, researching and accessing text from the Internet or from within stuffy or work documents in PDF format.

ClaroRead for Mac Overview video

With ClaroRead Plus, users or educators can easily scan pages or entire books and documents (i.e. within copyright regulations and permission). Omnipage OCR (Optical Scanning Reader) software is embedded in ClaroRead Plus and is an accurate and powerful scanning technology in its own right. Scanned documents, locked PDF files, eBooks and even text embedded in photos can then be edited and annotated.

Text can be spoken aloud using human quality voices and this directly helps non-readers or struggling readers. Some students find researching and studying difficult or impossible as they struggle when reading text from their assigned novels or curriculum materials, especially in hard print books and handouts. Parents or teaching assistants (or School Support Officers) can scan pages of books and convert them quickly into accessible text or straight into MS Word documents. This allows the student to access materials that would have been frustrating to study. In addition, they can convert the scanned text into audio using ClaroRead Plus. They can then opt to listen to the text at any time in any environment on their Smartphone, iPad or MP3 player for pleasure or for study.

ClaroRead for Mac voices

Karen and Lee, two Australian voices, are included. Up to 80 MAC voices can be downloaded from the Claro Software web site, at no cost. All of these voices are clear and many are foreign languages, so the program sits very comfortably in ESL (English as a Second Language) as it does in LOTE (Languages Other Than English).

A diverse range of visual tools is included.  Text colour, highlight colour and a focus on the text while spoken by the computer provide multi-sensory support. This provides useful and practical options for users who have Irlen Syndrome (or Meares-Irlen Syndrome), often described as Scotopic Sensitivity Disorder. It is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem.

It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families. It is not currently identified by other standardised educational or medical tests. 

If users suffer from any of the following, Meares-Irlen Syndrome might be their problem:

  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue
  • Print or text moves ‘swims’ or looks different
  • Environment looks different
  • Slow or inefficient or students fall behind in reading proficiency and skills
  • Poor comprehension
  • Headaches and lack of concentration
  • Having difficulty with maths computation

ClaroRead Plus improves written accuracy with an enhanced spell check, a very handy and useful homophone check and an integrated thesaurus. Words and sentences can also be spoken back as they are typed. To conform to Universal Design standards, ClaroRead is easily customised to cater to meet individual needs. Users of all ages and abilities can use it gainfully for learning and working. 

People with dyslexia or learning difficulties often despair, especially younger students. One in ten students has been the quoted number of users who struggle with text. As students progress through school, they ‘dumb down’ their written content as the bigger or more complex and confounding words are too difficult to write or type correctly. So, they use smaller and less complex words. They are usually very intelligent and divergent thinkers but are constrained by their lack of ability with phonics or word recognition. Their brains cannot adequately process text and may have reading and or writing difficulties. Every child or adult is different.

If they are provided with the necessary literacy supports, they can attack and handle classroom or workplace documents, Internet research or study or research materials with increased confidence and success. They are able to work with text and operate at a much higher level and demonstrate their abilities and understanding of content. Many are visual learners and require aids to help them process information so the mind mapping tool in ClaroRead Plus will assist them in organising their text in meaningful ways.

Schools tend to overlook these students, labelling them as lazy or not trying. This further frustrates them and often leads to disengagement and poor behaviour. It compounds as they grow older, losing confidence and falling behind their peers. They are often articulate and quite eloquent and have a range of extra curricula hobbies, yet the restrictions of classrooms and curricula inhibit their skills.

Programs such as ClaroRead Plus (and others) provide Universal Design features that are inclusive and promote well-being and equality in the classroom or workplace. Young people can be more resilient and independent when given appropriate tools that accurately meet their needs and assist them in developing other skills. It’s not a cure or a quick fix. More often, the provision of literacy support tools removes the stigma of learning difficulties and students see themselves as achievers, not failures.

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects written expression. Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia can be a language based, and/or non-language based disorder. Students with dysgraphia require products such as ClaroRead Plus so that they can type their stories or research with tools that help them edit their work. Handwriting can be a huge dilemma and impediment. School should not insist that these students write by hand (for the majority of their work) as it is slow, laborious and even often painful. Using a keyboard and a computer, notebook, laptop or iPad with a keyboard provides them with the necessary tools to complete their work.

ClaroRead Options

  • The software is available in Standard, Plus and SE versions along with a portable USB edition
  • ClaroRead provides the perfect integrated text-to-speech tool for use with Microsoft Word or Pages or other text entry programs (including Google Docs, Open Office, MS PowerPoint and Inspiration)
  • ClaroRead Standard – Contains all the core features of ClaroRead for Mac.
  • ClaroRead Standard supports users who struggle with reading and writing with text-to-speech, save text to audio, homophones/spell-checking and word prediction. It includes very useful ClaroIdeas, ClaroView, ScreenRuler, ClaroCapture for Mac and ClaroSpeak Mac apps.
  • With ClaroRead Plus, you can also scan any paper documents or convert any locked or unlocked PDF file into accessible formats for text-to-speech, editing with complete and full accessibility. Study guides, lesson or lecture notes, user manuals, encyclopaedias are all accessible for non-readers or people struggling with text.
  • ClaroRead Standard for Mac USB provides users with a portable 24/7 solution, to be used anywhere and at any time on any computer (Mac OS or MS Windows USB versions). Rather than buying a separate USB version now, users can make their own USB version using Claro’s USB creator and inputting their licence key. This will create a USB Standard/Plus/SE version and users can select which voices to install onto the USB also. See https://www.clarosoftware.com/usb for more information. This means that users can use ClaroRead in any environment and are free to access all of the powerful features whenever they are required. The USB edition includes ClaroRead Standard and runs directly from the USB – no files require installation on the host’s computer, notebook, laptop or tablet. The USB solution includes two popular Nuance Vocaliser Australian English Karen and Lee voices.

 

Main Features of ClaroRead Plus

Text-to-Speech

ClaroRead Plus is displayed onscreen as a single toolbar for use in conjunction with any text-based program, including the ubiquitous MS Word as well as other word processors, text creation programs, mind mapping and presentation tools as well as any website. It combines a homophone and dictionary checker, font and spacing commands, thesaurus and spell checker. In addition, a very handy and useful “save to audio or video” function provides auditory and visual supports to learners who have auditory difficulties. The coloured icons are intuitive in design and created for ease of recognition.

It provides a text-to-speech facility that works with any text in almost every context of computer use. There is a range of voices included within the software as well as many others that are free to download from the Claro Software website. There are 80 human quality voices for the Mac OS computer platform in 25 languages.

The speech is natural and users can elect to have text spoken aloud at any rate they wish be it fast or slow. In Settings, Speech dialogue box, voices can be changed as well as the rate (or speed) of speech.

The first button on the horizontal toolbar is the Play button. Speech can be played back upon text entry by character and or word or sentence. Speech feedback is available at any time using highlighted text and clicking on play. The Stop button is next. It stops the speech feedback. When text is read aloud, the user can elect to have pauses between words and stop after every sentence or have continual playback. Speech can also be used with a click of a mouse on a word or as the mouse hovers over text. When text is scanned, it can be spoken immediately as well.

A ‘pronounce text’ option is available in Settings. Users or educators can type a place or person’s name or an unusual word and the pronunciation can be added. Words that are more familiar to the user can be pronounced according to the local speaker and reader. Words can be added or deleted in the list at any time.

As text is read aloud, synchronised highlights can be used to assist the user track each word as it is being spoken by a male or female Australian, English UK or English American voice. Other non-English voices are available and the speech feedback is spoken in that language. Dual colours of text and text background are available to accommodate users with the coloured highlighting synchronised by word, word trail, sentence, paragraph or on a focus sentence. This works in MS Word.

Scan from Screen

The third button is the Scan button. Users can elect to select any text on the screen in any application to have it scanned then they can hear it read aloud – from Google Books, inaccessible PDFs and web pages. The text is OCR’d to enable users to read anything they need to study, research or memorise. Text can be scanned from paper, from a PDF file or from the screen. The text is spoken immediately after the scan has been performed.

Scan from paper, PDF/screen or from screen

Scan and Convert Files

With ClaroRead Plus the powerful OCR technology means that any paper document, handout, leaflet, user manual, book or PDF file becomes fully accessible. Curriculum or textbooks, photocopies and handouts are easily converted into Microsoft Word documents, Pages documents or accessible PDF files. The text can be spoken out loud by ClaroRead or edited. Most critically in tertiary settings, PDF files can also be unlocked and edited. Any text is accessible and this ensures that no student or worker is disadvantaged by not being able to read.

Font and Spacing

The fourth button is the Font option where text can be increased or decreased in size. Or the font can be changed to Comic Sans MS, Trebuchet MS or Arial, all non-serif fonts that are easier to read on screen and/or in hard copy. The font colour and highlighting can be set as well from this drop-down menu. The fifth button is Spacing. Users can change character, line and paragraph spacing. This is so important for many users who need to have the text spaced out so that they can ‘see’ the individual words instead of a muddle of text.

Homophones

Homophones

This button will reveal or show all homophones in selected text. The second option is to clear the homophones.

Check

 

Spell check

 

The seventh button is the spell check. Users select or highlight text and then click on Check. Words that are incorrectly spelt will be underlined. People are able to spell check any text in any application, whether it be a web page, MS Word document or PDF file. ClaroRead provides a single Check button that combines a homophone dictionary, thesaurus, reference dictionary and spell checker, making the checking of the text and documents easier and more comprehensive. The program can learn new words or users can add words to the dictionaries  at any time.

Predict – Word Prediction

 

Word Prediction settings

 

The eighth button is Predict, which brings up the word prediction option. In settings, users can select from one of five built-in dictionaries, each with thousands of commonly used words in UK or USA dictionaries. Users or educators can have new words added automatically, spell the word before adding it, learn word frequency, learn word order or save the dictionary upon exit. These are all selected and ticked or unticked in Settings. The Word Prediction feature can be useful for certain computer users. With constant use and practise, users can become more fluent and faster with text entry, using correctly spelt words.

ClaroRead uses a base prediction consisting of the most frequently used words in the English language. The dictionary learns as words are entered from the conventional, onscreen, external mini or enlarged keyboard and rejects words that do not pass the automatic spell check.

  • Word Prediction list automatically appears by cursor during typing
  • Prediction Window can be docked anywhere on the screen to use as a reference
  • Creation of multiple Prediction Dictionaries – this provides for creating subject and curriculum specific dictionaries
  • Ability to rename and delete prediction dictionaries
  • Export word lists and turns off spell check when adding words
  • Learning words as the user enters them adding them automatically to the prediction dictionary

Save to Audio

People of all abilities are able to convert any text into an audio file using a high-quality voice. They can then play the file back on a music player such as an iPhone or iPod Touch. The audio format used is the .aiff standard. It is so easy to use. Simply select and copy some text then click on the ninth button Audio. It offers users the opportunity to save text from documents and web pages so that they can listen along with the written text or on the move going home on the train or bus.

Extras

The last button is the Extras buttons. A collection of additional Apps are available as stand-alone programs.

Speaking Calculator

This is a handy speaking calculator as the first option under the Extras button. It launches the Mac calculator and is speech enabled.

Claro Capture

ClaroCapture

The second extra feature is ClaroCapture. Once selected it runs in its own small window. Users can capture text, highlighted text in MS Word or be captured from the screen. The captured text can also be revealed when the user clicks on the third option, Show.

ClaroCapture is used to collect and gather text from any document or web page, then it groups it as a project file. This research file can be sent to MS Word Google Docs or MS PowerPoint. It can also extract highlighted text from Microsoft Word documents. ClaroCapture is an ideal study skill and research tool.

ClaroView – Screen Tinting Program

ClaroView

ClaroView runs as a stand-alone program. The entire background of the screen display can be lightly tinted in one of eight colour options. It caters beautifully to people who have Meares Irlen Syndrome or for users who wish to avoid eye strain from bright screen displays and require colour tinting to read more effectively and efficiently.

The common use of black-on-white text is not always the best option for some people. It is hard to read for some users and they prefer or critically need off-white colours. ClaroView provides a coloured overlay for the whole screen so everything is tinted and easier to read. A user can select any colour he or she prefers or requires and then quickly change colour and intensity depending on the time of day, the light conditions in the environment in which they work or study and then ascertain the most ideal combinations. This visual support may help users who have vision impairments or have Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem but a disorder with the brain’s ability to process visual information.

ScreenRuler

ScreenRuler allows part of the screen to be highlighted or underlined depending on the user’s preference. ScreenRuler assists users when viewing text on-screen. It provides a strip or ruler across the screen, which can have the contrast changed and have the background coloured or greyed out. Users can use ScreenRuler to highlight or underline text depending on the user’s preference. It can assist users when viewing text on-screen (particularly web pages). Users can change or alter the contrast and have the background coloured or greyed out. 

ClaroIdeas 

 

ClaroIdeas

 

This is a very useful and simple to use and learn mind mapping program or App. It allows users to create mind maps or charts to break down complex ideas into smaller tasks or pieces of writing. It has many of the features of other popular mind mapping tools and text and graphics can be used to generate idea maps and assist users who need to clarify or arrange information diagrammatically. Visual learners will thoroughly enjoy this extra but important tool. Ideas can be lined to each other as well as hyperlinked to URLs on the internet.

There are 12 non-serif fonts from which to choose, ranging from 6 to 18 point in size. The background can be an image imported from any hard drive, USB or external drive or memory card and used as a background or as integral to a fact or idea.

Claro Mac App

ClaroSpeak Mac App

This App is a simple but very useful text-to-speech reader for PDF (Portable Document Format), Microsoft Word Docx files, RTF (Rich Text Format) as well as HTML and plain text files. 


Setting Up 

The installation was very straightforward. After downloading the .pkg file from the web (for a MAC OS installation. The MS Window file would be in .exe format, I then double clicked on the file. After launching the software, the ClaroRead plus was installed into my applications folder. I typed in my registration code and the software was ready to use.

Licences for MAC OS

When purchased from Spectronics in Australia, the following MAC OS licences are available. It is NOT a subscription. Once purchased, the user can use the software indefinitely without having to subscribe and pay each year. Subscription software is a hassle for everyone, the school or University technicians, parents and users themselves.

ClaroRead SE (MAC) – A Single User Licence that includes two Nuance Vocalizer Australian English voices (but does not include scanning or proofing/checking features). AUD $100.00

ClaroRead Standard Single User Licence
It includes two Nuance Vocalizer Australian English voices (but does not include scanning features). AUD $260.00

ClaroRead for Mac on USB

ClaroRead Standard USB – Portable Licence Edition  
This licence includes a USB drive stick together with two Nuance Vocalizer Australian English voices (but does not include scanning features). AUD $300.00

ClaroRead Plus Single User Licence
Includes 2 Nuance Vocalizer Australian English voices & paper as well as PDF scanning/conversion ability. AUD $370.00

 

Site Licences

(e.g. schools, institutions of learning and tertiary campuses)

ClaroRead Standard (MAC) – School Site Licence

AUD $2,000.00

ClaroRead Standard (MAC) – Tertiary Site Licence

AUD $4,000.00

ClaroRead Plus (MAC) – Tertiary Site Licence

AUD $6,000.00

Other Claro Software programs and Apps

 

Other Claro softwares

 

ClaroRead for PC

ClaroRead for Windows PC also caters to people with dyslexia and learning difficulties, especially in writing, editing and reading of text based material. ClaroRead is a simple and friendly feature-rich software program that helps users to write, read, study, sit exams and increase their confidence and ability to handle text. Users can access any on-screen text and have it spoken out loud in a variety of human quality voices.

ClaroRead Plus and Pro have a tool to scan paper books, PDFs, photos, onscreen ‘graphics’ of text (e.g. the rules of an online game) and text in documents. As with ClaroRead for Mac, it is feature rich with all of the necessary literacy supports to ensure users are comfortable and confident when handling text-based programs, PDFs and the contents of web pages.

 

ClaroRead for Chrome

ClaroRead for Chromebook supports writing, reading, research and study on Chromebooks. It assists users in their text creation and works within Google Docs.  Users are able to read, listen to and research PDF files and web pages, and then organise their thoughts together with inbuilt mind mapping. ClaroRead is used worldwide in schools by hundreds of thousands of users with and without dyslexia and print impairments.

Google Docs is a great innovation but lacks the support for users who struggle with text creation and proofing/editing of text within their documents. Collaboration with other students (or with colleagues in the workforce) is easier.  They can have confidence in that their contributions, using all of the literacy supports within ClaroRead, are able to be corrected and edited. Users can opt to have their text spoken aloud and spell checked, together with homophone support.

ClaroRead for Chromebook is provided as a free download. Once students become accustomed to the features that provide greater independence and freedom when working with Google Docs, the school, institute or workplace can elect to purchase a site licence to unlock its powerful premium features.

Cloud Solutions

ClaroRead Cloud gives schools and tertiary institutions the capacity to provide Claro software’s text-to-speech, reading support, and document conversion (OCR) across any device – MS Windows machines, Mac OS devices, Android phones and tablets, iPads and iPhones as well as Chromebooks. ClaroRead Cloud consists of two web apps, ClaroRead Cloud OCR for document conversion and ClaroSpeak Web for text-to-speech. These two program extensions run a user’s web browser. This means that the student is fully supported (or worker) when using his or her preferred learning or productivity device. It might be a desktop, notebook, MacBook, laptop, tablet or Smartphone. The beauty is that it does not require installation. Managementis easy and access is universal.

Specifications for MAC OS

  • Mac OSX 10.11 (or later versions including Mac OS V10.14)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1.3GB hard disk space (ClaroRead Plus with Readiris Pro)
    • 920MB hard disk space (ClaroRead Standard and Plus)
    • 620MB hard disk space (ClaroRead SE)
    • 200Mb – 650Mb per high quality voice (e.g. Karen or Lee Australian voices)
  • Optional and recommended software: Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac or MS Windows

This software review was written in October 2018 by Gerry Kennedy © running MAC OS 10.12.6 with 12Gb RAM using MS Word 2008 and ClaroRead Plus. The author acknowledges Claro Software and Spectronics for providing a copy for review purposes.

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About Gerry Kennedy

Gerry began using using IT in Education in 1980 and started exploring Inclusive or Assistive Technologies in 1985. He has been IT coach and mentor at 4 special schools in Melbourne as well as teaching Junior Secondary Boys and at a Girl’s Secondary College. Gerry worked in the computer industry as well, including 3 years at Spectronics in the late 1990’s. He has worked since 2000 as an Independent Assistive Technology Consultant, presenter and trainer. He has specialised in the areas of special needs, rehabilitation and inclusive technology support in education and employment for over 32 years. He has worked with early years, primary and secondary schools, TAFE, lectured at Universities, advised hospitals and consulted for individual clients of all ages and abilities. Gerry worked for many years as a consultant for the TAC for clients with acquired brain injury.

He still frequently publishes articles and software reviews on numerous web sites, particularity on the Spectronic’s Blog. Gerry promotes leading practice in the implementation and deployment of innovative ICT and Inclusive Technology in education and training. He has consulted, trained and advised parents, speech pathologists, physical therapists, Visiting Teachers for the Education Department in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia and the 4 dioceses of the Catholic Education Office in Victoria as well as other education and therapy related organisations. He now enjoys writing articles about how best to utilise and harness the features and functions of mainstream and specialised software as well as assistive device implementation for people with different needs.

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