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177 Chapter 6. Working with Sound
In this chapter, youll learn
When you create a document in Nisus Writer, there are several ways of outputting it. The usual way is by printing, but you may also choose to simply view it on the screen (for example, if youre keeping your diary or class notes in Nisus Writer), or you might mail your document electronically. But there is another kind of output availablesoundand it is one of Nisus Writers best-kept secrets. In this chapter, youll learn how easy and useful it can be to add sound to your document-processing toolkit.
178 The Sound Bar
The starting point for Nisus Writers sound features is the Sound Bar (Figure 6.1). You can display the Sound Bar by clicking the
Display Sound Bar button on the Vertical Button Bar or by choosing
Sound Bar from the Display submenu of the Tools menu. When the Sound Bar is visible, the Sound menu appears on your main menu bar (Figure 6.2). Together, the Sound Bar and the Sound menu give you access to all of Nisus Writers audio controls. Well discuss each of these, but Ill point out an important one right now: the Volume control. This slider adjusts the volume of both recorded 179 sounds and text-to-speech. It is identical in function to the Volumes control in your Sound Control Panel (not to be confused with your Alert Sounds control). If you change your system sound volume, Nisus Writers Volume control will change to match it, and vice-versa. Before you use the sound features, make sure this control is set high enough, and that the Mute checkbox is not checked in your Sound Control Panel.
Figure 6.1.The Sound Bar.
Figure 6.2.The Sound menu.
Nisus Writer includes its own text-to-speech engine, licensed from Berkeley Speech Technologies Inc. This means that Nisus Writer can read your text to you even if you dont have Apples PlainTalk text-to-speech software installed. Well compare the two methods in a moment. But first lets look at the basics of using text-to-speech.
Listening to Your Text
Using text-to-speech is easy. Simply select the text you want to hear and click the
Speak button on the Sound Bar. Nisus Writer will read the text aloud. While text is being read, the cursor will change to moving lips
Stop button on the Sound Bar or press
Command-period. (You can also click the
Pause button to stop the speaking, but you cant un-pause it and pick up where you left off;
Pause is equivalent to
Stop for text-to-speech.) Nisus Writer plays sounds asynchronously, which means that you can do other activities (like scrolling or playing a QuickTime move) while a sound plays. However, you cant edit your document while listening to it. If you make any changes to your document or open a new file, the speech will stop.
Nisus Writer can only speak a contiguous selection of text on the text layer. If you have a noncontiguous selection and click Speak, only the last block of selected text will be spoken. Similarly, if you have a vertical selection, only the bottom line of the selection will be spoken. Text on the graphics layer cannot be spoken at all.
180 Other Voices
Nisus Writers default text-to-speech voice uses American English pronunciation. However, if you have text written in French, German, Italian, or Spanish (or Japanese, if you purchase the Japanese CD-ROM version of Nisus Writer), Nisus Writer can still speak it back to you with the proper pronunciation. To use a different language, select the voice you want from the Speech Voices submenu of the Sound menu (Figure 6.3). If the Info Bar is visible, a small flag will appear above your Volume control to indicate which language is currently active (refer to Figure 6.1). Once youve chosen a voice, select the text you want to hear and click
Speak. Nisus Writer does not translateit only pronounces what is selected according to the conventions of the language chosen. In addition, Nisus Writer cant tell which language your text is inthe language must always be set manually. So if you have, say, a French sentence embedded in an English document, the pronunciation wont switch automatically as the text is spoken. (It can, however, be fun to read text in one language with another languages pronunciation!)
Figure 6.3. The Speech Voices menu.
Although Nisus Writers speech engine doesnt require PlainTalk, if you have it installed on your computer, you can use your existing Apple text-to-speech voices. They will appear on the Speech Voices submenu of the Sound menu 181 below the five built-in language voices (Figure 6.4) and are selected in the same way. In general, PlainTalk voices provide better speech quality than Nisus Writers built-in voices. However, there are some reasons you might prefer Nisus Writers voices. The first is that Nisus Writers pronunciation and inflection are often better than PlainTalks. A second problem with the PlainTalk voices is that the improved sound quality comes at a cost: it takes a lot of system RAM to process the voicesin addition to what Nisus Writer itself needs. Finally, be aware that you cannot combine a PlainTalk voice with one of Nisus Writers non-English pronunciations (which is too bad, because I can think of several good uses for having Nisus Writer sing or whisper in French!).
Figure 6.4. The Speech Voices menu with PlainTalk voices installed.
One last note about text-to-speech. Remember that when your Sound Bar is active, youre still on the text layer; you just have sound controls visible instead of formatting controls. Theres nothing to keep you from editing your text 182 while the Sound Bar is active (as long as text isnt being spoken at the moment). Likewise, while the Text Bar is active, you can use text-to-speech if you have defined a Keyboard Shortcut for the
Speak control (see Chapter 9).
Fine, you say. This is all very high-tech and impressive-sounding, but whats the point? Why would I want to hear my text when I can just read it on the screen? I, too, asked this question at first, but Ive found some very practical uses for text-to-speech. Here are my favorites:
Speak, then follow along on the printed copy and make notes of any changes that need to be made.
The enclosed CD-ROM contains macros that will read your document to you, one word or one sentence at a timehighlighting each block of text as it is spoken.
These are just a few of the ways text-to-speech can be put to good use. More examples are found in the sections on multimedia documents (Chapter 14) and instructional materials (Chapter 17).
In addition to Nisus Writers synthesized text-to-speech capability, you have the ability to put recordings of your own voice (or any other sound) in your document. To do this, youll need to have a microphone connected to your Mac. Most new Macs include a microphone input, and many even have microphones built-in. If you have a microphone input but no microphone, you can purchase one from your Apple dealer for about $20. (Be sure to check your manual to see which type is appropriate for your Macintosh model.) For older Macs without sound input support, a product called MacRecorder will allow you to add a microphone via a serial port.
184 Sound Annotations
The simplest type of recording you can do in Nisus Writer is called a sound annotationan audio sticky note, if you will. A sound annotation can either stand alone in your document or be attached to text or character graphics on the text layer. To record a stand-alone sound annotation, make sure you have no text selected and that
Record Annotation is checked on the Sound menu, then click
Record. As you speak into the microphone, you will notice that the cursor changes to an ear
Stop. A sound annotation icon
Shiftand arrow keys on the keyboard, then click
Commandkey and click once on the selection.
The first two methods use the
Play button and therefore can only be used when the Sound Bar is visible (unless you have assigned a keyboard shortcut to
Play). The third and fourth methods are normally available only when the Sound Bar is visible, but if you choose
Click Playback from the Sound menu, they can be used even when the Sound Bar is not showing. The last method is always available (except, of course, when you are on the graphics layer).
185 Naming Sounds
As you continue to record sounds, theyll be named sound 2 , sound 3 , and so on; these names will appear in the Sound Name pop-down menu. To rename a sound, choose the sound from the Sound Name pop-down menu, select the name in the Sound Name box, type in a new name, and press
Enter. To remove a stand-alone sound annotation, simply delete the sound annotation icon just as you would any character graphic.
In addition to stand-alone sound annotations, you can have annotations that are attached to text. To create an attached annotation, select some text (which can be as little as a single character or as much as your entire document) and/or character graphic(s) before clicking
Record. Sounds recorded in this fashion will appear in the Sound Name menu as usual, but no sound annotation icon will appear. To play back an attached sound annotation, do any of the following:
Commandkey and click once in the active area.
Command-click the active area.
An important thing to keep in mind when attaching sound to text is that it is perfectly OK for sounds to overlap. You can attach 10 different sounds to the same word, if you like. The Sound Name menu will display a check mark beside each sound that is attached to the currently selected region of text. 186 You can pick out any individual sound simply by choosing it from the menu.
How Sounds are Stored
Each sound you record is stored in a separate file on your hard disk, rather than as part of your document. The sound files get their names from the sound names in your Sound Name pop-down menu. If your documents name is Blue Meanies, there will be a folder in the same location named Blue Meanies Snds that holds your sound files. (If you have not yet named and saved your document, sounds are stored in a folder inside your Nisus Writer folder called Nisus Writer Temporary Sounds.) If you delete a sound from your document, the associated sound file will not be deleted from your hard drive; you must manually drag it to the Trash.
For the curious: Nisus Writer sounds are stored in AIFF (Apple Interchange File Format) files. This means that they can be opened and played or edited in any application that supports the AIFF format. They are not stand-alone snd sounds like the Finder uses, even though the folder name <document> Snds may lead you to suspect they are. If you double-click a Nisus Writer sound file in the Finder, it will launch Nisus Writer and play the sound, but it will not open the associated document.
If you move your document to another location on your hard drive (or to another volume), you must move the Snds folder along with it, or your sounds will not be available when the document is opened from the new location.
Recording sound annotations is handy, but Nisus Writers capabilities go even further. You can automatically attach sounds to a series of characters, words, sentences, or paragraphs in such a way that as the sounds play back, the selected portions of text will be highlighted automatically. For example, if you record a range of text by word, then select it and click
Play, each word will highlight, one after the other, as the sounds associated with each are played in sequence.
To create an auto-highlighting recording, first decide what units of text you want to separate your recording into and choose the appropriate option from the Sound menu
Record by Character,
Record by Word,
Record by Sentence, or
Record by Paragraph. Place your insertion point to the left of the first segment of text to which you want to attach a recording. Click
Record to highlight the first segment and begin recording. When youve finished with the first segment, click
Stop. The next segment will automatically highlight, and you can repeat the process as many times as necessary. If clicking
Record and 187
Stop repeatedly seems like a lot of bother, never fearthere are two additional levels of automation you can use. If you choose
By Command Key from the Recording Cue submenu of the Sound menu, your
Command key will act like a press-to-speak recording control. Position your insertion point as before and click
Record. This time, however, notice that your
Pause button is depressed. Recording does not begin until you press and hold the
Command key (causing the
Pause button to be released). When you release the
Command key, the
Pause button is depressed again and the next segment is highlighted automatically. When youve finished recording, simply click
Stop. For even more automation, choose
By Voice from the Recording Cue submenu. Now when you click
Record, Nisus Writer will pause until you start speaking and pause again (highlighting the next segment) when you stop. The level of sound needed to activate and deactivate voice-cued recording can be set in the Recording Options dialog box (see below).
Sound Menu Options
Weve already seen some of the options on the Sound menu, like the Speech Voices submenu, the Record by options, and the Recording Cue submenu. The remaining commands offer additional control over the way sound is recorded, played, and stored in your document.
First is the Sound Catalog. If you choose
Show Sound Catalog, a window appears (Figure 6.5) that is in many ways like the main Catalog well discuss in Chapter 8. It lists all the sounds in your document, just as your Sound Name pop-down menu does. However, the Sound Catalog also gives you the ability to group or delete sounds (even sounds attached to text). At the top of the window is the Sound Groups pop-down menu, which is identical to the one on your Sound Bar. Below that is a list of the sounds in your document. If you select a sound name and click
Play (or double-click the sound name), Nisus Writer will highlight the text associated with that sound in your document and play it. If you click
Jump To, Nisus Writer will take you to the location of the sound in your document without playing it. If 188 you hold down the
Jump To becomes
Jump Next, which will take you to the next sound in the list (clicking
Jump Next repeatedly will cycle through all the sounds in your Sound Catalog). And clicking
Delete removes the selected sound from your document (but not from your hard diskyou must still drag the sound file to the Trash manually). Note that using the Sound Catalogs
Delete button is the only way to delete sounds that are attached to text without deleting the text as well.
Figure 6.5. The Sound Catalog.
Although the Sound Catalog looks similar to your main (file) Catalog, there are some important differences. For one thing, you have access only to the sounds your current document uses and not to any other files. You cant change the font, size, or style used to display sound names. And the Group, Delete, and Jump To buttons have no Command-key equivalents as do the buttons in most other dialog boxes.
The most important control in the Sound Catalog, though, is the
Group button. All sounds in your document appear in a Document Sounds group, but additional groups can be added at any time for easier organization of your sounds. Clicking
Group displays the Sound Group dialog box (Figure 6.6). To add a new sound group, type in a name for the group and click
Group. This name will then appear in the Sound Group pop-down menus on your Sound Bar and in the Sound Catalog. To add sounds to a group, first select one or more sounds in the Sound Catalog. (Command-click to select multiple noncontiguous sounds.) Click the Sound Catalogs
Group button, then in the Sound Group dialog box, choose the group you wish to place them in from the pop-up menu. Finally, click the Sound Group dialog boxs
Figure 6.6. The Sound Group dialog box.
It would be nice if you could select some sounds in the Sound Catalog and place them into a new group just by clicking the Group button. No such luckyou cant group sounds and create a group name at the same time. You must first create the new group, then go back to your Sound Catalog, select some sounds, click Group again, choose the group youve just created from the pop-down menu, and click the Group button again. This awkward procedure is a disappointing departure from Nisus Writers typically intuitive interface design.
Once youve created a new sound group, its name will appear in the pop-down menu both in the Sound Catalog and on your Sound Bar. If you choose a group from one of those menus, only the sounds in that group will appear in the Sound Catalogs sound list or in the Document Sounds pop-up menu. You can rename a sound group in one of two ways. The first is to click
Group in the Sound Catalog, select the group you want to change from the pop-down menu in the Sound Group dialog box, type in a new name, and click
Rename. The second to is choose the group you want to change from the Sound Groups pop-up menu on your Sound Bar, highlight the name, type in a new name, and press
Enter. You can even rename the Document Sounds group, but it will always contain a complete list of the sounds in your document.
Sound groups make it easier to keep track of sounds when you have a lot of them in your document. The only sounds that can be played at a given time are those that belong to the currently selected sound groupso you can control which sounds will be used depending on what your needs are. Sound groups can also be handy if several people are attaching voice comments to a file. Each persons comments 190 can be placed in a different group so that only one set of comments at a time will show up in the Sound Name menu. In fact, several people could attach recordings to exactly the same piece of text, but as long as the recordings are in different groups, you have an easy mechanism for playing only the ones you want at any given time.
The next set of options on the Sound menu concerns playback method. If you select a range of text that includes multiple attached sounds, each sound in the selection will appear with a check mark next to it on the Document Sounds menu.
Sequential Playback determines how these are treated when you click
Play. If it is unchecked, then only the first sound (or the one currently selected in the menu) will play. If it is checked, then as soon as one has played, the text associated with the next sound will be highlighted. (This setting has no effect on playing sounds by clicking and/or dragging.) The command
Automatic Pause Playback is intended to give you a further option. When this is checked, playback is supposed to pause after each segment of a recording by character, word, sentence, or paragraph; when unchecked, the sounds are supposed to play in sequence without interruption. However, I have been unable to achieve any change in behavior by changing this setting, and I suspect that it was never properly implemented.
Normally, to play back a sound when the Sound Bar is not displayed, you must hold down the
Command key and click on some portion of the highlighted text with sound attached. When
Click Playback is checked, you can play a recorded sound simply by clicking once (for sound recorded by character), twice (for sound recorded by word), three times (for sound recorded by sentence), or four times (for sound recorded by paragraph), even if the Sound Bar is not visible.
Practice Recording allows you to record as many practice attempts at a sound as you like without creating lots of new sounds in your document. With
Practice Recording checked, every sound you record will be named Practice
and will replace the previous practice sound. 191 When you have a recording youre satisfied with, simply rename the practice sound and it will not be overwritten the next time you make a recording.
Recording Options displays the dialog box shown in Figure 6.7.
Figure 6.7. The Recording Options dialog box.
Quality. The Quality setting determines the sampling rate used to record soundthat is, the number of times per second the pitch and intensity of the sound are captured by the computer. The more samples per second, other things being equal, the higher the quality of the sound and the more disk space required to store it.
Goodquality corresponds to 7 kHz,
Betterquality to 11 kHz, and
Bestto 22 kHz. Some Macintosh models allow you to choose other sampling rates via the Sound Control Panel. To use that setting, set the quality to
Compression. Nisus Writer can automatically compress sounds as they are recorded, saving space on your hard disk. However, compression decreases the sound quality. Choose
Nonefor no compression and best quality,
3:1for moderate compression with moderate quality, or
6:1for maximum compression 192 with poorest quality.
System Defaultuses the compression setting chosen in your Sound Control Panel (if applicable).
Quality and Compression both affect sound quality, but in different ways. In general, compression is the more important setting. A compression setting of None with a quality setting of Good is sufficient for most voice recording, and will usually sound much better than a Compression setting of 6:1 and a quality setting of Best. But remember, your results will vary with the type of sound youre recording and the type of Mac youre using.
If youre using Nisus Writer on a Power Mac, you must choose a compression setting of None. Other settings create unacceptable levels of distortion.
Automatic Gain Control. Click this checkbox to have Nisus Writer automatically boost the input level during quiet periods of recording and lower it during loud periods, for the best overall recording. This option is checked by default and in general is a good idea. If it is unchecked, the input level will remain at medium, meaning that soft sounds may not be picked up and loud sounds may be distorted.
Background Sound Levels. These settings only apply to voice cueing, which can be used when attaching sounds to characters, words, sentences, or paragraphs. The
Activation Levelis the volume (on a scale of 0 to 255) at which recording begins automatically, and the
Deactivation Levelis the volume to which the sound must drop before recording stops.
Time Before Deactivateallows you to accommodate brief pauses in your speech by setting the number of milliseconds that must pass with the input volume below the deactivation level before recording is stopped. In general, the quieter your surroundings are, the lower these numbers should be (for maximum sensitivity); the louder the ambient noise, the higher the levels must be to avoid accidental recording. It can be hard to determine ideal activation and deactivation levels directly, so Nisus Writer can set them for you. If you click the
Auto Setbutton, Nisus Writer will listen to the background noise coming through your microphone for 10 seconds and set the levels accordingly.
Sound quality can be a problem if youre using the built-in microphone on a PowerBook, because it will inevitably pick up the sound of your hard drive spinning. If your PowerBook (or dock, if you have a Duo) has an audio input port, consider using an external microphone instead. Normally you cant spin down your hard drive while recording, because Nisus Writer records directly to disk. However, if you have enough RAM to create a large RAM disk, you can put both the Nisus Writer application and the document youre editing on the RAM disk, spin down your hard drive, and then record direct to silicon. (Be aware, however, that with some configurations, your system may try to access your hard drive anywayfor foolproof results, you may need to boot from your RAM disk before attempting this.)
Why Sound Recording?
Fine, you say. This is all very high-tech and impressive-sounding, but whats the point? (And is there an echo in here or is it just my computer talking to me?) Why would I ever want to include sound recordings in my document? I suspect that the reason sound features are so little used is 193 that most of us still think of a word processor as merely a way of getting words onto paper. But if you think of Nisus Writer more generally as a tool for processing information, all kinds of possibilities arise. Heres a list of 10 great applications for sound recordings.
Recordwhenever you need to catch your breaththen transcribe your recording later.
You cant officially import sounds into Nisus Writer, but unofficially you can do it with a bit of effort. First, record a sound in Nisus Writer of roughly the same duration as the sound you want to import. Take note of its sound number, or give it a unique name. Then, make sure the sound you want to import is in AIFF format (if it isnt, you may need to find a sound conversion utility). Rename the sound exactly as the original sound was named, and drag the file into your <document> Snds folder, replacing the old one with the same name.
If you record sounds in your document and then mail it using PowerTalk, the recipient will not be able to play the sounds when reading the document from the In Tray, because Nisus Writer will not have access to the documents Snds folder. For best results, send both the folder and a copy of the original file as enclosures to your message. The recipient can then copy them to another location on the hard drive before opening the document.
Using sound in a word processor takes some getting used to. But it can add convenience to your work, put some pizazz in your presentations, and open up new teaching and learning possibilities. Well revisit Nisus Writers sound features in Chapter 14 when we discuss multimedia documents. But having taken this brief hiatus from text to talk about graphics and sound, its time to return to the land of the conventional. In Chapter 7, well talk about printing your document, then in Chapter 8 well discuss managing and mailing your files.
Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1999 by Joe Kissell
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