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Free Audiobook Reader

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TomTom
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Free Audiobook Reader

Postby TomTom » Fri Apr 24, 2015 5:19 pm

I seldom listen to audiobooks on my PC, as my attention drifts or I fall asleep, but every now and then I do (or at least try). Most audiobooks can be played in nearly any media player, but a specialized audiobook player has various controls optimized to enhance it's use for that purpose. The main desired feature is bookmarking of your position, so you can come back later - even weeks later - and resume where you left off. Ideally, this should be automatic when you either "stop" playback (not really needed for "pause"), and when you exit the program. It is preferable to also include the ability to manually assign multiple bookmarks to allow you to return to sections that you may wish to repeat or reference, even saving these for books you are NOT currently playing. It should also allow the saving and loading of playlists, which is a fairly standard feature for most media players anyway.

For me, other features may be considered lagniappe, such as display of cover art, text-to-speech (TTS) to read text files, and more.

Previously my favorite audiobook player was "My Audiobook Reader". It was fairly simple but had most of the features I wanted. It was freeware, but I liked it enough to pay for a licensed version. I think this was originally made for XP, but I was able to use it in Windows 7. However, despite multiple attempts at tweaking, I never could get it to completely work in 8 or 8.1. I could load files and play them, but could not save or load playlists or bookmarks, which pretty much made it useless. So, reluctantly, I looked for a replacement, and checked out several candidates.

I may just have found my new favorite - Free Audio Reader - aka "FAR" (also on Softpedia). I'll start with one of my favorite features in any program -- it requires no installation. Just unzip and run. Note that it is not exactly truly portable, however, as it creates folders and files in your Documents directory ("..\Documents\FAR").

FAR features both automatic and manual bookmarks, playlists, cover art (both display and even automatically fetching art), tag editing, slideshow playback, and text-to-speech capabilities. FAR enables you to load and play MP3, WMA, WAV and MIDI audio files. It displays information such as author, album, track number, title, year, genre and the attached comment. With the audio files loaded, you can create playlists and shuffle them while playing. In case some information is missing or incorrect, you can use the applications’ tag editor to correct all of that. There are even more features, but that is enough to give it my endorsement.

Sounds great so far, so what's not to like?

One quirk/feature I have found is that it does not automatically restore your last open file or playlist, and when you do open a file or playlist, it automatically starts playback at the very beginning -- the beginning of the first file in the playlist, NOT at the point where you last left off. Of course there may be options in the settings to change that (it may help if I read the docs!), but I found what works for me. Don't open a file or playlist when you start the program. Instead, open a bookmark - either the "Autosave.fbm", which is automatically (re)created whenever FAR exits and media is paused or playing (but apparently not when stopped?), or a bookmark that you have manually created (Ctrl+B), which saves the file and playlist position of the currently paused or playing file. You can go back (Ctrl+G) to that position anytime thereafter. Bookmarks are auto-named <artist>-<album> (prg%[,v#]) but can be given any OS-legal name. The current volume setting can also be saved as part of a bookmark (Alt+B, V). Using Autosave.fbm will automatically open the last file at the last played position and start playing at that point. Opening any other bookmark will do the same for any previously bookmarked file, even if it was NOT the last file played. If you "associate" the file extension "fbm" with FAR, you can even start the program with that bookmark loaded.

I still have not found a setting to prevent it from automatically playing a loaded file/playlist/bookmark, however, but I can live with that, and it is my only complaint.

Try it and see if you like it.
A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.
- Tyrion Lannister

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