On-screen reading made easy


Dictator is a program for on-screen reading of text files, developed with the intention of making it easier to read some of the fine electronic texts available on the net, such as those produced by The Gutenberg Project.

The problem with these texts is that reading them on-screen the conventional way is a drag and printing them out is time-consuming, costly, and wasteful. Dictator provides an alternative approach called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) in which words are displayed consecutively in the same place at a user-controllable rate. This method prevents unconscious re-reading of adjacent text and decreases the tendency of the reader to oralise the text, allowing for increased reading speeds. RSVP also permits the use of larger fonts for text display which improves text clarity. While it does take some getting used to, with a little practise you may find that reading with Dictator becomes faster and easier than reading from a book.


This project is currently inactive. If I ever get time I want to reimplement it inside of a web browser and hook it up to a library of free texts.


Dictator - screenshot


Download and Installation

Dictator is free software, released under the GNU General Public License.

Microsoft Windows

The simplest way of installing Dictator for Windows is to download and run the following installer, built using py2exe and Inno Setup.

Download Windows installer (~3Mb)

If, however, you already have Python and wxPython installed on your system you may prefer to run Dictator directly from the source files, as described in the section below.

Gentoo Linux

Download the latest ebuild for Gentoo from bugs.gentoo.org and put it in the portage overlay directory {portage overlay root}/app-text/dictator/. The portage overlay root directory is defined in /etc/make.conf with a line like 'PORTDIR_OVERLAY=/usr/local/portage'. From the dictator ebuild directory run 'ebuild dictator-0.9.7.ebuild digest' to make the digest files. Dictator can then be emerged like any other program with 'emerge -uDav dictator'.

Running Dictator from the python source files

If you want to run Dictator on other systems you'll need the following installed on your system:

You can download the source release from the sourceforge project page (~50Kb). After expanding the source, run dictator from the source directory with the command:

$ python ./dictator_start.py <options> <textfile>

On Unix systems the binary configuration file 'dictator.conf' will be stored in the directory $HOME/.dictator/. On Windows systems the configuration will be stored in the program directory.

CVS Python source code access

The latest version of the Dictator Python source code is available from SourceForge CVS. If you have cvs installed on your system then to check out the source tree to the current directory you do something like:

$ cvs -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.sourceforge.net:/cvsroot/dictator login
$ cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.sourceforge.net:/cvsroot/dictator co -P latest


Known issues:


Feedback and queries to dictator AT kieranholland DOT com (but read the status report if you are about to suggest anything that involves work - use the source ;)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why are non-ascii characters not displayed properly?
  2. Do you have the Unicode version of wxPython installed? Go to the meny Help > About to find out if Unicode is supported by your version of wxPython. If not upgrade to a Unicode version of wxPython.

  3. Can I preserve character encoding with my "url-open" filter "lynx -dump %s"?
  4. Possibly - run lynx and set your preferred character encoding scheme in the options. From then on lynx should dump in that format.

  5. Why is there no sound coming out of my speakers?
  6. Oh dear, I had a feeling the name would haunt me, I just didn't know why.