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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Balabolka settings

Writing.

Balabolka is a simple TTS (Text To Speech) tool that can help authors with proofreading and editing their work. Word has such a feature build in, but if you use Google Docs or another editor / word processor you might want to use something like Balabolka.

I have set up Balabolka in such a way that it monitors my clipboard. When I do a larger copy / paste it will start reading my text.


Why use a TTS tool at all?

It will help you spot errors that you otherwise wouldn't spot because it forces you to pay attention. Yeah, it's hard to explain. Just try it.


Download

This is a Russian program. If that bothers you then don't download it.

http://www.cross-plus-a.com/btext.htm


Configuration


1. Language

Weergave / Taal / Engels

OR

View / Language / English


2. Options / Settings

Options / Settings / General

- Show Balabolka in folder context menus - Off

- Prevent Multiple Instances - On


Options / Settings / Reading

- Reinitialize the voice's engine - On

- Fix pauses between sentences when Bluetooth headphones are used - On

- Keep track on spoken text - On

- Center selected text

- Select spoken text

- Highlight spoken text


Options / Settings / Text

- Remove excess spaces - On

- Remove hyphens at the ends of lines in the text - On

- Remove line breaks inside paragraphs - On


Options / Settings / Skip Text

- Ignore URLs - On


Options / Settings / Hotkeys

1. Use Global Hotkeys - On

2. Clear All

3. Only set Pause

4. Use Ctl+Shft+A as shortcut


Options / Settings / Voice

- Sapi 5 / Microsoft Zira Desktop

(The other voices are horrible.)


Options / Settings / Clipboard

- Clipboard Watch - On

- Minimal number of characters - 500

- Action -  Replace text in the current document and read aloud


3. Dictionary

The following change will treat / pronounce a double dash (the author's equivalent of an Em-Dash) as [comma]+[space], ie. a short pause.


1. View / Show / Panel of Dictionaries [F11]

2. RMB on panel / New / BXD <profile name>

3. Open dictionary (double click)

4. Add

- Read This - Plain text - -- (that's a  double dash)

- Like This - Text - ,[space] (that's a comma followed by a space)

- No Word Boundary Required

- Change and save

5. Switch on the dictionary (tick the box)


4. View

Set this up as is convenient. The settings below are for some far-away screen, allowing me to walk around with a headphone whilst doing other things :-)

1. View / Font & Colors

2. Font: Times New Roman / Size 30

3. Line Height: 60


5. Restart

After all the above restart Balabolka.


Bluetooth eating up words

If you're using a fancy BT headphone, you may find Balabolka 'eating up' the first word of every sentence. This was an issue in Windows 10, which was fixed by switching on 'Fix pauses between sentences' but, unfortunately, the problem has returned with Windows 11.

Windows 11 has slightly different drivers, and it seems the noise floor of Balabolka is no longer enough to keep the link up (or it's something else, too deep for me). However, there is a workaround.

You can have some other audio source play in the background. You can opt for music, white noise, or something else.

I use white noise, as generated by a little app called 'Ambie'. You'll find it on the Windows store. Change the volume sliders in Ambie (there are two, one for overall volume, and one for the white noise volume) until you no longer hear the white noise, but Windows is still fooled in keeping the line open.


Audio quality

Yeah, it ain't great, but the Zira voice is the least annoying. It should be possible to bind it to, for example, Amazon's Polly, but I haven't managed to get that to work.

Still, I advise any wannabe author to use a TTS tool like this, because it will seriously help you to increase the quality of your writing and editing!


(Not) Monitoring the clipboard

Sometimes Balabolka doesn't automatically start reading when something new has been copied to the clipboard. It only happens on Windows 11, when starting Balabolka the first time after a reboot. Exiting, then restarting Balabolka fixes it.

Windows 11 is a rare beast...


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