Recently in Desktop Enhancements Category

Text Aloud Text-to-speech conversion software NextUp just released a new version of TextAloud, maintaining its position as my personal favorite text-to-speech tool. The app enables your PC to read virtually any text on your PC using a selection of voices, including the phenomenal Natural Voices from AT&T Labs. Past users of TextAloud should immediately notice the interface is greatly improved, making text conversion more effective. In this latest version, TextAloud improves on the core functionality, adding direct support for reading PDF, Word, and HTML files in the application. A batch encoding tool automatically coverts text in files to audio tracks playable on a portable audio device or burnable to CD. The pronunciation tool offers more options, making the voices even better at handling complicated tech jargon and proper names. A proofread hotkey automatically reads back documents to you, helping reduce mistakes. You can still choose between immediate playback of information, or saving the spoken audio as WAV, MP3, or the more efficient WMA files to playback when you're offline. Instead of wasting precious time reading at your computer, TextAloud lets you catch up on all your important documents and e-mail while you commute, exercise, or clean house. Archive stories from your favorite news sites in MP3 format and play them back no your portable media player, iPod, Pocket PC, or Palm OS device. Using one of those FM transmitters, TextAloud effectively creates a custom version of the morning news on the drive to work. The TextAloud learning curve is minimal, with controls that work just like you'd expect a VCR or digital audio recorder to function.

XP Visual Tools
Tweak the Windows XP interface on the cheap. Add a custom WinXP logon screen from a wide selection of options. Quickly add custom themes to all apps on the system. Create custom wallpapers and rotate them on a set schedule, ranging from every 5 minutes to every 10 hours, or change wallpapers each time you logon to the system. Apply XP visual styles to non-XP apps, giving a fresh face to old favorites. Add transparency to the Start Menu or the taskbar, making it easy to still see what's on the desktop. The trial version includes only one style pack, but registration provides access to the full list of Visual XP Styles, in addition to a free Bonus Style pack, with seasonal updates of styles often provided free to registered users. [Order XP Visual Tools now | Download a free trial]

Say the Time is an awesome replacement for the Windows system tray clock, making it easy to change the font and modify background colors. At prescribed intervals, the time is announced by one of two pleasant voices. Hovering over the clock causes a calendar to pop-up (a feature Microsoft should have included in Windows), including a list of upcoming reminders. For appointment conscious users, Say the Time offers advance warning for upcoming events by announcing the time, at the same time displaying a visual reminder similar to Outlook reminders, and optionally playing audio specific to the message or launching an application. One of the best uses I've found for Say the Time is launching audio files created using TextAloud containing a to-do list of things I need to remember. [Order Say The Time now | Download a free trial]