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posted 2 Feb 2018, 23:11 by James Holgate   [ updated 3 Feb 2018, 08:56 ]

The Document Foundation announced the release of version 6  of LibreOffice productivity software on January 31, 2018. The foundation recommends this version for technology enthusiasts, early adopters or power users. The most recent version of Read Text works fine with LibreOffice 6, as well as other versions listed on the download page.

The newest version of LibreOffice includes an ePub export option that allows you to export simple ePub 2 or ePub 3 books. The exported books currently are produced without a cover or personalized metadata. However, Windows 10 users of Edge can use Edge's  built-in ePub reader with a speech synthesis tool that highlights words as the computer reads them aloud.

You can read the release notes to find out more about the new features and issues of the LibreOffice 6, and read a variety of documentation on-line.

MacOS High Sierra - OpenOffice extensions

posted 30 Sep 2017, 12:49 by James Holgate   [ updated 30 Sep 2017, 12:58 ]

MacOS High Sierra was released in September, 2017. It includes security and performance enhancements for Apple branded desktop and laptop computers.

If you update your computer to use High Sierra, you may find that Apache OpenOffice 4.1.3 crashes when you try to install an extension. 

JNI_CreateJavaVM called _exit, caught by abort_handler in javavm.cxx
[Java framework] sunjavaplugin.dylibCan not create JavaVirtualMachine, abort handler was called.

If this is the case, try disabling Java in OpenOffice before installing the extension.

  1. Start Apache OpenOffice
  2. Under the OpenOffice menu, select Options or Preférences.
  3. Click the Java tab
  4. Uncheck the Java (JRE) checkbox.
  5. Quit and restart Apache OpenOffice
  6. Install the extension.
  7. Quit and restart Apache OpenOffice.
Apache OpenOffice functions that use Java may not work properly with the version of Java that you used in the previous version of MacOS for your computer.

What is Java?

Java is used to create program packages that can run on different computer platforms like Apple, Linux and Windows. To run Java programs, you need to install a Java run-time environment that is compatible with your computer platform.

Is Java up-to-date?

If Java is installed, you can verify the version of Java by opening the Java pane in your computer's System Preferences. and comparing the version to the version shown in the on-line Java documentation.

Is LibreOffice affected?

LibreOffice version for MacOS does not appear to be affected.

Installation seems slow?

posted 1 Aug 2017, 08:04 by James Holgate

With the current versions of LibreOffice, the application displays a dialogue that asks Restart Now? The installation will not complete until you dismiss the dialogue.

Depending on what you are doing, the window might be under other windows on your desktop. To check for this, move or minimize other windows if the installation seems to be taking a long time.

Still have problems? Check out "How do I get it to work?".

Apache OpenOffice 4.1.3

posted 3 Nov 2016, 19:00 by James Holgate

An Apache OpenOffice security bulletin was announced on July 21, 2016. The October 28 release of Apache OpenOffice addresses the security bulletin and includes updated dictionaries and bug fixes. This update is recommended for users of previous versions of Apache OpenOffice and legacy OpenOffice.org software.

Apache OpenOffice security update

posted 4 Sep 2016, 21:11 by James Holgate   [ updated 4 Sep 2016, 21:27 ]

Update Apache OpenOffice 4.1.2 security

The official Apache OpenOffice security bulletin was announced on July 21, 2016. Affected is Apache OpenOffice 4.1.2 and older on all platforms and all languages. OpenOffice.org versions are also affected. The Apache OpenOffice project recommends to update to the latest version 4.1.2 and then to download and install the Zip file...
~ Apache.org "Apache OpenOffice Hotfix"


Installing the 'hot fix' requires administrator privileges in most cases and involves renaming a library file and installing a replacement for it in the Apache OpenOffice program directory.  The hot fix only works with Apache OpenOffice 4.1.2.

Download hot fix


Depending on your situation, it might be simpler to download and install LibreOffice. LibreOffice is an office program that is based on OpenOffice. It is managed by the Document Foundation.
  1. Choose the version of LibreOffice to download. The still version is infrequently updated and is suitable for enterprises like schools and businesses. The fresh version is stable, and updated frequently. The testing version is only recommended for developers.
  2. Save any templates that you have created.
  3. Make note of any extensions that you have installed. Some extensions may require a different version for LibreOffice or may not be available for the LibreOffice platform. 
  4. For Read Text Extension, the correct version is listed at the LibreOffice extensions site.
  5. Uninstall OpenOffice.
  6. On Windows systems, you need to install a help file installer after installing the main program. On MacOS systems, you may need to install a language installer after running the LibreOffice application once if your language and region are not US English. 
  7. The LibreOffice program package may be bigger than the OpenOffice package, if it includes fonts, extensions and other resources that are not included with OpenOffice. On Windows systems, you can manage the resources to be installed by choosing a custom installation.
  8. In LibreOffice, clicking the New presentation button opens a plain blank presentation. To use a presentation "wizard" or "assistant", use File - Wizards - Presentation.
  9. Currently, LibreOffice might not advise you if an extension is out of date. Periodically check the LibreOffice extensions web site to check for updates.

Extension download update

posted 4 Sep 2016, 15:44 by James Holgate   [ updated 5 Sep 2016, 08:28 ]

The Read Text extension download pages have been edited to make them easier to use.

Obsolete versions of the Read Text extension are no longer shown on the Apache OpenOffice extensions page or on the LibreOffice extensions download page. The links that remain allow you to download a version of the extension that works with your office suite. Check the compatibility column of the download links table to choose the version that works for your office suite. 

You can access the release history of the extension using the project's GitHub source repository. 

Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS compatiblity

posted 8 Aug 2016, 10:34 by James Holgate

The updates to Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS make LibreOffice more compatible with current versions available on MacOS and Windows. If you share documents between LibreOffice on a different platforms, you can install several resources to make sure that the appearance and format of documents match and that you have the same tools.

Open Fonts

LibreOffice for MacOS and Windows include several specific fonts with open licenses. You can embed these fonts in exported documents without additional licensing.

Ubuntu repository

The repository includes some of the fonts that are included with the MacOS and Windows versions of LibreOffice. You can install these fonts using the package manager. Anyone who has an account on the computer can use these fonts.

  • Go on-line.
  • Make sure your system is current using System Settings – Details – Install Updates
  • Open a terminal.
  • Use sudo apt-get install [fonts-family-name] to install a font set.

Ubuntu manual install

  • Download the most recent release of the source-code-pro archive.
  • Download the most recent release of the pt-serif archive.

You can install fonts locally by downloading a font set and double-clicking each font, then clicking Install.

If you have administrator rights, you can also manually install the fonts for all users. Restart or open a terminal and enter fc-cache -f -v

File import and export

MacOS and Windows versions of LibreOffice include an extension to export MediaWiki files.

Install the extension using sudo apt-get install libreoffice-wiki-publisher

Installing the extension using apt-get automatically installs a compatible Java run-time. If you need a developer version of Java for developing programs using Android Studio or Eclipse, you can install the developer version before installing the extension to avoid downloading extra packages.

Speech synthesis

Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS does not include a speech synthesis package by default.

  • Make sure you are on-line.
  • Click the Ubuntu icon and type terminal.
  • Choose the terminal program. In the terminal window, type:
    sudo apt install espeak libttspico0 libttspico-data libttspico-utils
  • Enter your password.

Edge 14 supports speech synthesis API

posted 3 Aug 2016, 11:10 by James Holgate

Web Speech API (synthesis) shipped August 2, 2016 with EdgeHTML14, as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary update. Windows Edge joins Chrome and Firefox in supporting browser powered speech synthesis. Edge's support of standard speech application program interface makes it possible for web developers to support accessibility technology for all Windows 10 users in the Edge browser.

Read more about the web speech synthesis API on the MDN developer site.

Code sample

function speak(b) {
This is a simple implementation.  One could add gadgets to 
change language, rate and pitch or pause the reading.
    var a=new SpeechSynthesisUtterance;

Ubuntu WriteType Speech Synthesis

posted 1 Aug 2016, 13:04 by James Holgate   [ updated 1 Aug 2016, 13:07 ]


WriteType is a simple word processor available on the Ubuntu Linux platform. According to the description in the Ubuntu software centre,

WriteType is a simple word processor designed to help young students write more easily and accurately. It offers spelling suggestions as students type, making the process easier and less frustrating. It also provides the ability to read back text through either an eSpeak or a Festival backend. In addition, there are special tools for teachers, and the entire application is easily translatable.

Ubuntu WriteType window

Auto fill

WriteType includes a sidebar that dynamically fills with correctly spelled words as you type each word in the main window. You can press a function key or click a word to automatically complete each word you type. It works a lot like the Android Google keyboard or the most recent version of the iPhone keyboard. This function of WriteType is useful as an accessibility tool for people who use wands, joysticks or other adaptive keyboards to type.

Speech synthesis

If you select some text, then using the Speak Text button or using Tools – Speak reads the selected text. If no text is selected, then it reads the whole document. Reading text aloud is available using pytts, Festival or eSpeak. In the default configuration, it does not use Pico speech synthesis. You can adjust the rate of speech output to make spoken text easier to understand using File – Settings… – Other.

File formats

The application can save files in three formats:

  • WriteType document
  • Formatted text
  • Plain text

WriteType and Formatted text are essentially identical, the only difference being that the file is saved with a .wtd extension when you save as WriteType and with an .htm extension when you save as formatted text. The program uses a subset of html that does not include semantic markup like headings, quotes, and program code. It uses inline formatting. If you open a WriteType file using LibreOffice, then LibreOffice will simplify and compress the the formatting so that it will not show the formatting correctly when you reopen the file using WriteType even though it appears the same in LibreOffice.

Plain text files use the .txt extension. They normally do not include formatting. Since they are saved with UTF-8 encoding, they can use most international character sets seamlessly. If you are writing for publication using WriteType, I recommend that you use a standard text formatting scheme like CommonMark, Markdown or MediaWiki, save as a text file, then use pandoc to convert the file to the format that your publisher needs.

To save as a PDF file in Ubuntu, choose File – Print – Print to File (PDF).

Teacher tools

  • Teachers can add custom words and proper names to the list of words in the auto fill list. Use File – Settings… – Custom Words.
  • Teachers can highlight words by clicking the Highlight button.
  • Teachers can evaluate document statics including readability. Use Tools – Statistics. The on-line documentation does not show the program’s criteria for the readability rating.

Translating the application

In Ubuntu, the program stores language translations in /usr/share/writetype/translations. You can copy the qt_es.qm file in this directory to your home directory and edit it using the Virtaal language resource editor, which is available for free in the Ubuntu software centre. If you have administration rights, you can rename the file with the appropriate language code for the language (i. e.: qt_de_DE.qm) and copy it to the translations directory. You can also create a custom word list for your language. Consider contributing your language translation to the developer.

Assistive technology - Windows 10 free upgrade

posted 31 Jul 2016, 16:43 by James Holgate   [ updated 31 Jul 2016, 17:06 ]

The Microsoft Accessibility Blog states that the deadline of July 30, 2016 for a free upgrade for users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 to Windows 10 does not apply to assistive technology users.

For the general public, the free upgrade offer for Windows 10 ends on July 29. However, if you use assistive technologies, you can still get the free upgrade offer even after the general public deadline expires as Microsoft continues our efforts to improve the Windows 10 experience for people who use these technologies.

The August 2016 update to Windows 10 includes improved accessibility features including improved screen reading with Narrator as well as new languages and regions for speech synthesis voices.

  • Arabic (Egypt)
  • Catalan (Spain)
  • Danish (Denmark)
  • Dutch (Belgium)
  • Dutch (Netherlands)
  • Finnish (Finland)
  • French (Canada)
  • Norwegian (Norway)
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
  • Spanish (Mexico)
  • Swedish (Sweden)
  • Turkish (Turkey)
You can get the free upgrade at the Windows 10 upgrade for assistive technology users page.

What's assistive technology?

Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.
~ Wikipedia

About Read Text

Read text is an extension for Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice that lets an external program or web application read selected text from Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, Web Writer or the system clipboard. Windows users can use it with installed speech synthesis voices to read text aloud or use it with external programs or services that provide a variety of assistive technology solutions. 

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