Note: This page is no longer being maintained and is kept for archival purposes only.
For current information see our main page.
StoryHarp Kurtz-Fernhout Software
Developers of custom software and educational simulations.
Home ... News ... Products ... Download ... Order ... Support ... Consulting ... Company
Product area
Help System
StoryHarp & IF
StoryHarp & Java
If you already have text-to-speech or voice recognition software installed

If you have ever installed software on your computer that does speech recognition and/or text-to-speech, you need to read this section. If not, you can ignore it. If you are not sure, ask someone to help you.

What Agent requires

Microsoft Agent by itself is more or less a standard way to display animated characters that interface with SR and TTS engines. Microsoft Agent is supposed to work with any 100% SAPI (Speech Application Programmer Interface) compliant text-to-speech (TTS) and speech recognition (SR) engines.

SR and TTS engines supporting SAPI aren
t always 100% SAPI compliant, and if not, they may not work with the Agent system. The safest thing before using a different SR or TTS engine with Agent would be to consult your documentation or contact your speech engine vendor first before trying to use it with Agent to determine if it is 100% SAPI compliant and will work with Microsoft Agent.

You can try Agent alone first

For use with Agent, Microsoft provides the Microsoft Command and Control Speech Recognition Engine and the Lernout-Hauspie Text-To-Speech engine. These should work with Agent and StoryHarp without any problems related to compatibility with each other. However, those are two more packages to download, and two more things to install. A conservative approach might be to first install just Agent by itself (MSagent.exe). You could then see if Agent is compatible with your other installed SR or TTS engines. This may or may not work. If it does not, you could then install those two engines supplied by Microsoft.

If Agent doesn
t work with your installed engines

If you try using your previously installed engines, and you can
t get the Agent SR or TTS functions to work, you should still see the animated Agent character with a speech balloon (like in a cartoon) displaying text. If you try using other SR or TTS engines, dont be too surprised if they generate error messages or in other ways behave unexpectedly. If they do, you may need to install the Microsoft supplied engines.

For the least problems with StoryHarp

For the most trouble-free operation of StoryHarp itself, of course you can download and install the SR and TTS engines supplied by Microsoft even if you have another SR or TTS engine installed. You should be able to have multiple SR and TTS engines installed alongside each other without problems, although we can
t guarantee this. However, installing more software always opens the potential for new problems with your system (although not likely with StoryHarp itself), so that is why we mention you can try using Agent with your existing engines first. But of course your installed engines may not work correctly with Agent, leading to problems when using StoryHarp, so it is hard to recommend the best choice between the two. In general though, we would lean towards trying what you have first, even though StoryHarp will likely perform best and with the least problems if you just install the two engines Microsoft supplies.

Using Agent characters with other speech recognition engines

Whatever SR system you currently use, you can try it with Agent first, choosing the command and control mode if available. If you have problems using your existing SR engine reliably with Agent, then you can then download and install the Microsoft Command and Control Speech Recognition Engine. This may or may not impact your other SR engine or other SR applications though, so you may only want to try it if the other approach does not work satisfactorily.

For example, under certain situations we were able to get IBM's ViaVoice Standard Edition to work with Agent as the SR engine. We did this by setting the Agent SR engine preference to the
IBM ViaVoice Command and Control. To do this, bring up the Agent control notebook by clicking on the Agent icon in the Windows status bar when StoryHarp is running, and then select that choice for speech engine on the Speech Input page. Do not select the option for IBM ViaVoice Continuous Dictation.

Sometimes when trying to use IBM ViaVoice for SR with Agent, we got a popup error dialog. Later that error went away after installing and removing other SR related software. We do not know if that particular incompatibility is in that version of IBM ViaVoice or Agent. If we find out more about IBM ViaVoice SR and Agent, or others vendors
SR engines and Agent, we will post it on our web site.

Using Agent characters with other text-to-speech engines

If you already have a text-to-speech engine installed, like the one that comes with IBM ViaVoice, or perhaps one from FirstByte like Monologue, or maybe even one that came with a specific speech enabled application, you can try to see if it works with Agent before installing the one supplied by Microsoft.

If you try this, you may find that all the characters speak in one voice, or perhaps not at all. Agent characters are usually designed to use a specific TTS engine voice. If they all use the same voice (or none at all), it is because Agent is not able to find a match for the voice for the character. If you want them to speak in various voices, you can create your own differently voiced Agent characters using the Agent Character Editor (currently freely downloadable from Microsoft). Or, you can install the Lernout-Hauspie Text To Speech engine.

Other problems could come up when using different TTS engines. For example, we found we had problems changing characters when using IBM ViaVoice TTS. StoryHarp would load the characters the first time, but would not load a different one when running. If this happens, to change characters you need to exit StoryHarp and modify the character file name in the StoryHarp.ini file in your Windows directory. The different character will then be loaded at startup.

Using the Microsoft supplied engines with other engines in place

You should probably be able to use the speech engines supplied by Microsoft in conjunction with your existing 100% SAPI compliant TTS or SR engines without any problems. However, since SR and TTS engine vendors are not under our control, we can not guarantee this.

Your default SAPI engine could change

One possible problem that may occur (if any) after installing more speech engines is that your default SR or TTS engine used by SAPI programs might be changed to the new ones. Some programs may use the default SAPI device as their first choice of engine for SR or TTS and may not allow another choice. For example of problems that might occur, a previously working SR application might now use the Microsoft C&C engine, or a TTS application might not work with the Lernout-Hauspie TTS engine (which is restricted to use by Agent). The default SAPI device may have to be changed back if you have problems. If you need to do this, contact your speech engine vendor or look at their documentation for details on setting their engine to the default SAPI device.

Make a backup first

If you encounter a problem like the default SAPI engine changing and nothing else works to resolve it, you could try simply reinstalling your original SR or TTS engine in the same location as before. See your speech engine vendor's documentation for details on reinstallation of their product. You should be careful to make a backup first before reinstalling an existing SR engine so you do not lose any training information (depending on how well your other speech engine's reinstall system works). You can also try uninstalling the new speech engines supplied by Microsoft if things no longer work as expected after you install them.

For more information

For the latest information on StoryHarp and its use of Agent and other products, visit our web site at and look for the StoryHarp and Agent sections. Since vendors are continually updating their products, any information we supply here about third parties may well be out of date or may not apply for your particular situation. If you would like your experience to be of use to others, let us know what works or doesn
t work for you, with the more detail the better, via email to

All trademarks are those of their respective owners.

Home ... News ... Products ... Download ... Order ... Support ... Consulting ... Company
Updated: March 10, 1999. Questions/comments on site to
Copyright © 1998, 1999 Paul D. Fernhout & Cynthia F. Kurtz.