Though it is not as powerful as some of its screen reader software peers, ZoomText is certainly an adequate option. In fact, its lack of advanced features, combined with the presence of all the necessary tools and a great support system, make ZoomText an ideal option for those who are not already familiar with computers.
To be sure, ZoomText does lack some useful features. Pronunciation correction, menu item narration, text style announcements, and Braille device output are all missing from this screen reader software. But it does manage to cover all of the basic and necessary functions you would want in a screen reader.
It announces applications as you activate them, and it echoes words and letters (though for the latter, you must type slowly to allow the software to recognize your keystrokes). It will announce punctuation as you type, and when you type capital letters, they’re prefaced with a spoken “cap” to alert you. In-document narration is achieved through the application reader or document reader tools that come with this screen reader software.
Mouse hover reading can be customized to instant or delayed, so text is spoken either immediately after the cursor lands on an item or a moment after the cursor has hovered over it. When you're working in a word processor, hovering your mouse over a line of text results in the application reading the entire line. There is a screen zoom option as well, though we noticed that this function slowed down the computer’s speed a bit.
This screen reader software does have hotkey commands, and an astounding 29 different voices. In our testing, however, we felt that some of the voice options, particularly the “TruVoice” and “ViaVoice,” sounded rather eerie or odd.
Other notable features include three different verbosity levels and “reading zones” that allow you to hear only selected sections within an application. One downfall we noticed is that the software doesn’t “hide” passwords by substituting the characters with the word “star” or another placeholder.
ZoomText easily handles applications like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as Adobe Reader. But to read email applications or web browsers, you have to open the application or document reader. ZoomText also works with Java, but it cannot handle electronic book files like EPUB or DAISY files.
One of ZoomText’s best qualities is its incredible ease of use. You must navigate slowly while using this screen reader software, otherwise some of the features like character echo don’t work. But if you take your time and don’t overload the system, the application works perfectly.
Its intuitive design and clearly labeled buttons make in-application navigation a snap, and a good range of reading options means that you can navigate your computer easily, even if you cannot see.
The installation and set-up guide talks you through the entire process, which means you’ll need less help from sighted friends or family members when you first get your screen reader software. And in addition to nearly 30 voices, you can adjust the volume, pitch and speed of any voice to make it fit your needs – though we feel that no amount of adjustments will make some of the stranger voices sound more pleasing.
ZoomText certainly has a great variety of help options. The most inconvenient feature is that you must first register with Ai Squared to gain access to their support email, and there is no phone number for technical support.
On all other accounts, however, this screen reader software really shines. There are video tutorials that you can listen to or watch, as your abilities allow. There are also user forums, knowledgebase articles, troubleshooting guides and a live chat feature on the website. In the application itself, there is a nice user manual.
But the best feature by far is the help tool. When activated, the help tool takes away button functionality, replacing it instead with a pop-up box that explains what the tool does. ZoomText will read these pop-up boxes to you, so you can utilize the help tool even if you can’t read the explanations.
Despite a few deficiencies, ZoomText remains an adequate screen reader software option. In fact, it may be the best choice if you’re not familiar with computers or if you’re not incredibly tech-savvy to begin with, thanks to its simplicity and ease of use, as well as its great help and support options.