Don Johnston Reading and Writing programs

The Don Johnston Inc. family of programs for literacy teaching seem at first glance to be a bit of a mishmash. Our organization has been a long time user of the WriteOutLoud program, which employs a speech synthesizer to read printed text that is typed by the student, or pasted in from another source. I was recently asked to add the ReadOutLoud counterpart program to the same computer, and, after two hours of spelunking found out that we had incompatible versions, and were missing a key third-party component, the Microsoft Dot-Net framework version 3.5. Two calls to the tech support lines, verified the following information:

1. As of May 2010, both WriteOutLoud and ReadOutLoud have a current version 6.0.

2. You cannot install the programs side by side if they are not the same version, i.e. both need to be version 6.0.

3. The programs require the Microsoft Dot-Net Framework 3.5. This does not appear in any error message, either on installation or when attempting to run the program. On starting the application, it just gives a message similar to “Application cannot start because is does not appear to be configured correctly. The problem may be fixed by reinstalling the program.”

Once all these ducks were in a row, both ReadOutLoud, and WriteOutLoud appeared to function well. Don Johnston Inc. has a generous licensing policy which kicks in at about four licenses… for an amount more than four they offer an “unlimited” license.

Still, I can’t help think that they need to ride herd on their programming staff; the lack of a transparent installation process is maddening. Virtually all installations on Windows will check ahead of time for prerequisite required third-party bits and direct you to install them separately. Installshield and similar programs include this check as a matter of course.

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