Speakup FAQ 1.2, May 2004


The document below is designed to answer the most frequently asked questions about Speakup, the screen reader/speech access system for the Gnu/Linux Operating System, used by people who are blind. Speakup is primarily developed and maintained by Kirk Reiser.

Kirk Reiser

It was developed initially by Kirk along with Andy Berdan, with additional coding by John Covici and Brian and David Borowski. Speakup was first announced on October 29, 1998 at: 08:55:28 -0500 Most of the current development work is done by Kirk and David Borowski along with contributions from other speakup users.

This is version 1.2 of this FAQ. As Speakup is developed, this FAQ will change.



Q. Why should I use Speakup?

A. If you are blind and want to use Gnu/Linux as your operating system, and if you want to know what is going on with your system from boot-up to shut-down, then Speakup is for you. Speakup gives you full access to all console programs in the Gnu/Linux OS. It works particularly well with applications such as Lynx and Pine.

q. Where do I get speakup?

A. Speakup can be obtained by going to:



q. What kind of computer equipment do I need to run Speakup?

A. The Gnu/Linux OS can be placed on any PC from a 386 on up. One will receive best results from using a 486 or better machine, however. The bottom line is, if it can run windows3.1 or better, , it can run Gnu/Linux.

q. What speech synthesizers are supported by Speakup.

A. Here is a list of what is currently supported. The list below contains the name of the synthesizer plus its designation for commands used to get it running at the linux kernel command line.


Instructions on installation for each synthesizer can be found at the URL listed above.

q. I have heard about Emacspeak. How does Speakup differ and which is better, or do I need both?

A. Emacspeak, developed by T.V. Raman and currently at version 20, is a verbal output system for Emacs, the customizable editor for Unix/Gnu/Linux. It is a complete desktop system for the OS, and works well with any console application that has been linked to it. It is designed to be a full desktop system containing:


It also includes a complete set of sound icons which make this application wonderfully suited for the user who is blind.

However, Emacspeak has some significant drawbacks. It does not work well with applications which are not connected to it, e.g. Lynx and Pine. The learning curve may be steeper for some as well because one has to learn Gnu/Emacs itself. Because this program is so powerful and versatile, it does take some time to learn, but the rewards are great.

Speakup gives one complete access to console applications running in Gnu/Linux. It does work well with pine and with Lynx. Speakup is part of the GNU/Linux kernel and works equally well with all console applications.

There is a way to install both Speakup and Emacspeak on one's system. This allows full access to all console programs plus the desktop environment of Emacs.

Emacspeak can be downloaded from sourceforge via HTTP or FTP:



q. What versions of speakup work with what kernels?

Currently, speakup works with kernels 2.6.18 or later. speakup version 2.0 works with 2.4 and older 2.6 kernels. There is a tarball of this older version in the ftp area of the site. However, it will not be supported.

Q. What is the best way to download the appropriate file from the site.

A. FTP is the quickest way to do this, although you can use the web site's download facility. One caveat, MSIE users be sure to type in the address for the archive with ftp: in stead of http. Some MSIE users have trouble downloading the files because MSIE puts line-feeds where they should not go. If you do not have an FTP client, then try using the Windows FTP client from a DOS box. Be sure to type bin before starting any transfer.

q. How do I install Speakup?

A. As mentioned above you need to have either the latest, CVS version, or one of the the recompiled kernels for your synthesizer if your kernel is lower than 2.4.18. Instructions on installation can be found at the linux-speakup.org site or on the Debian or Slackware CD's.

Q. I've just used rawrite to make a boot disk for my system, and it will not talk, it will not do anything. Why?

A. Your speech synthesizer probably got in the way. Before typing the command again, turn off your speech program.

q. why doesn't speakup come up talking when I use bla bla bla distros boot disk?

A. There are many reasons for this including: a bad rawrite image, the wrong comm port setting in the command line, an improperly downloaded file. For more specific information consult the documentation file or ask on the Speakup list.

Q. I hate documentation, and find it difficult to use because I do not understand it. How can I contact live human beings for help?

A. The simplest way to contact us is via our mailing list. To subscribe to this list, send a message to:


In the body of the message, simply write subscribe. when you have done this, you will receive information on how to send directly to the list. Please keep this information for future reference.

We can also be reached via Internet telephony by using the speakfreely program. this program can be downloaded at:


When you have installed the program, consult the documentation for the needed commands to access our reflector. The address is: lwl.braille.uwo.ca port 4074

To see who is on the reflector, go to:




Ann K. Parsons

Hey! Including yourself, this page has had
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