Review: Rapid Reader


Author: Softology Idea Network

Version Reviewed: 3.0

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Have you ever watched one of those episodes of Star Trek where Commander Data reads thousands of screens of information in seconds as they flash past like a cheap pop video? Well, now you can read faster than a raster, and that on your Nokia Communicator!

Well, that's the claim made by SoftOlogy IdeaWorks, based on research carried out at the John Hopkins University. The research says that the average human reads from paper at approximately 200wpm (Words per Minute) and 100wpm from a computer screen, and yet our brains are actually capable of reading much faster than this. I suppose it's kind of like the way a computer's processor is actually capable of processing data faster than a Hard Drive can provide it because the bottleneck is in our eyes. Anyway, I digress; the folks at SoftOlogy have taken the research and provided a means for you to read at up to 800wpm.

So far, it sounds like the kind of claim that you'd expect to be made by a crystal toting New Age hippie on the Richard & Judy show. But this software has sold well on EPOC (ER5), Palm, PocketPC and Windows platforms, so the decision to port the software over to Symbian should warrant a little welcome attention.


When you open RapidReader on your Nokia Communicator, you are given an impressive array of sources to start your reading. These include;

  1. Native Rapid Reader Documents
  2. Word Documents
  3. Text Files
  4. E-mail
  5. SMS Messages
  6. Clipboard Contents

The option to read E-mail or SMS actually integrates with the Messaging application and allows you to select messages from the folders into which you may have them organised. SMS Messages can be concatenated, but you may find it more useful with e-mail). The Word Documents option allows you to open files stored in Symbian Word, Microsoft Word and regular RTF formats. Finally, the ability to read from the clipboard is seriously handy and provides an excellent means of reading text sotred on your PC (what with that well cool automatic clipboard contents facility that PC Suite comes with).

Let's Ride This Horse Away

Once you select your source, you simply have to press SPACE to kick it off. You can pause your reading by pressing SPACE and restart by pressing SPACE again. You can navigate to a start point using the Cursor Keys, Page Up and Page Down functions.

During reading, you can accelerate and decelerate the rate at which the words appear in steps of 25wpm by using the Up and Down cursor keys thus letting you find a comfortable pace without having to stop reading and go through the menus. What's missing here, however, is a 'Rewind' and 'Fast Forward' facility which would allow you to just pop back and catch a word you think you may have missed or go on to a less boring passage. Not essential, but it would make the reading process a little more seamless.

Finally, a very useful feature is the annotation facility that has been included. When paused, you are able to make and save notes and a marker is then placed in the main text to indicate that a note has been made. Be careful where you make your notes because the markers appear during the Rapid Reading process as {n001} (where 001 is the number of the note).

How Does it Work?

You get a black screen with the usual status bar on the left. The bottom of the screen contains a progress indicator (which tells you how far into the text you are - and can be distracting), an informative message and a copyright logo. The bulk of the display contains nothing but 'stars' (which do not distract - but make it look cheap), and on top of these stars, words appear, one-at-a-time, in large yellow text.

The words do not scroll, they flash up, one at a time, so your eyes are focused on one spot all the time you are reading.

Does it Work?

My experience is that it does work, and very well too. I'm surprised at how fast I'm actually taking in what I'm reading. It's almost as if the words go into my memory bypassing my brain (which isn't such a big thing - I suppose). I also find that I the more relaxed I am, the faster the wpm I can handle. However, in a busy environment such as a bus or a train where things may not be so relaxed, a lower wpm is to be expected.

I was worried that the text wouldn't have opportunity to display properly due to the nature of the Communicator's LCD, but that is not a problem at all.

Long words appear for fractionally longer, but that is a design feature present in the Windows version, so not a result of any limiting factors of the Communicator - a feature that can prove very welcome.

It's Full Of Stars!

It could be improved by providing an option for a 'Full Screen' display, thus eliminating the status display and left icon bar. Also, it has crashed on me once or twice, but that's probably due to lack of memory. During these crashes, it recovered well without me having to restart the application.

The UI is sensible in that it doesn't take long to work out how to use the damn thing. And it doesn't take up too much memory (616Kb on disk, Approximately 100Kb to run a large document).Cost

At this time of writing, RapidReader can be purchased from the SoftOlogy web site for a discounted price of $39.95 and a if you're lucky, you may be able to take advantage of a limited time offer where you can get the Symbian ER6 version, and the Windows PC version for only $10 more.

But it has to be said that the SoftOlogy web site is not the best designed site this side of Galactic Central Point.

There's no Communicator demo available (yet), but you can download a Windows version (to get a hang of what it's all about) from here should you be so inclined.Verdict

66% - Not good enough for 70% but too good for 65%. It's a good application that does something new, does it well, but with some annoyances that could be worked out in the next version.

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