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SynPhony Features

Check out these pages for details on additional features.

  1. System-wide features
  2. Word Lists
  3. Readable Texts
  4. Check a story
  5. Literacy Activities
  6. Nonsense words
  7. Reports
  8. Scope and Sequence
  9. My Library
  10. Track a student
  11. Assessments
  12. Settings

Browser Issues

SynPhony runs best in an up-to-date browser. The browser for development has been Firefox on Windows, but it has also been tested on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Opera on Windows desktop. The program should run on Apple computers in an up-to-date browser. The program has not been optimized for mobile devices.

If you have trouble running it or get an error message you should check to make sure your browser is up-to-date and that security settings are not set to block all cookies. SynPhony stores its settings in your browser's storage area which requires that your security permissions to be less than the strictest level.

System-wide Features

SynPhony contains a lot of features. It is a veritable Swiss army knife for literacy. Knowing how it functions and what it can do is important to getting the most out of the program.


Help is associated with each SynPhony page and various parts on the page. You can access the help by clicking on a question mark ( ). You can translate the help pages using Google's translation services provided at the top of each help page. The quality and accuracy of Google's translation cannot be guaranteed. However, it is also possible to translate the Help pages themselves manually. If you are interested in doing this work please contact the developer.


The user interface can be localized into other languages to make it more accessible. Currently there are several translations available, however, not all are complete. The languages available are: Dari, Pashto, German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Nepali and Urdu. If you are interested in either providing a more complete translation or translating the interface for a new language please contact the developer.

The Control Panel

Control Panel

There are several features in SynPhony that are available almost everywhere. These are found in the area called the Control Panel, usually on the left side of the screen. (For languages written from right to left the Control Panel is on the right side of the screen). The Control Panel is customized for each language and can contain different options.

Letter Buttons

The program provides you with a collection of buttons that represent the letters used to write the language. These buttons can consist of single or multiple letters and each of them represents a phoneme in the language. The buttons are not arranged in an alphabetical order but rather in a productivity sequence; a sequence of letters that will result in a rapid increase in the number of words that become available. However, you are not obligated to follow the provided sequence. You may select the letters in any order you wish. You can also unselect any letter at any time. You have complete freedom in which letters you select and in which order.

In some languages a certain letter may occur more than once in the collection of letter buttons. This occurs in languages that have deep or opaque orthographies, like English or French. For example, in English, the letter button "th" will occur twice. One button will be coded to find all of the voiceless "th" letters (as in the word "with") and the other will find all of the voiced "th" letters (as in the word "the").

Search Modes

Search Modes

SynPhony can search for words in 3 different ways, each providing completely different results for different scenarios. In the Control Panel there is a section with a slider that lets you change the search modes by clicking on the numbers 1, 2 or 3. You can easily switch search modes without changing any other parameters. It is absolutely critical that you understand how these 3 modes work and how they are different from each other.

Search mode 1 - target letter search mode

In this mode, when you click on a letter, that letter becomes the "target" letter. SynPhony searches through its database of words and finds all the words that contain that letter (or letters) and completely ignores any other letters in the rest of the word. If you are interested in finding all words with a certain letter, be it frequent or rare, then this is the search mode to use. The other search options, such as syllable length and vocabulary group, still apply. That means you can search for words with a particular letter that are only 1 syllable in length or appear in a particular vocabulary group.

Search mode 2 - cumulative search mode

In this mode SynPhony searches for words that consist only of the letters that have been selected. Thus, if you only have 1 letter selected, it will try to find words that consist completely of only that one letter. Obviously, there will not be a lot of words in any language that are written with only 1 letter. In English you have two, "a" and "I". If you select 2 buttons then the possibilities increase. If the two letters are "a" and "m" you could get results such as: "a", "am", "ma", "mama", "ama", "amam", "mamam", or other such combinations. Notice that all the words can contain only those two letters, in any order, with no other letters allowed. If you select 3 letter buttons then the words displayed will contain any of the 3 letters, in any order, and some may contain only 1 or 2 of the 3 letters. For example, if the letters you select are "a", "m" and "p", then the words may include "a", "ma", "pa", and "map". They do not all have to contain every selected letter, but they may.

This mode can be useful to identify words that represent the cumulative reading ability of a student at a particular stage in their curriculum. Thus it could be used in creating a lesson in a curriculum or an assessment tool. It could be used to find phrases, sentences or passages in texts that most closely match the list of the cumulative words to provide additional reading materials that are within the capabilities of the student. Because the letter buttons can be selected in any order this also means that you can customize the output to a reading disability or a speech disorder in which a student has difficulty hearing or producing certain sounds. Or you can avoid any phonemes that a student has problems with and find words that they can pronounce.

Search mode 3 - focused search mode

The third search mode is like the second except that there is one letter that is the "focus" letter. This is always the last letter you clicked in the Control Panel. In this mode SynPhony ensures that all of the words consist of any of the selected letters and it must contain at least one instance of the "focus" letter. So the results for this search mode are a sub-set of the words in the cumulative search mode. In the cumulative search mode some words would not contain the “focus” letter; in this mode each word must contain a focus letter. For example, if you have selected 5 letters, and the last letter you selected is the letter “b”, the letter “b” is the “focus” letter. The resulting list of words will all contain the letter “b” and any of the other selected letters. This results in lists of words that are useful for a particular lesson when a new letter is introduced. SynPhony will ensure that all of the words will only contain letters that have been covered in previous “lessons” and that they contain the letter which the current lesson is focused on. In this mode, the program finds the “signal” and removes the “noise”. You can also look through this list of words to find a suitable key word for the lesson.

Syllable length

Syllable buttons

Shorter words are easier to read than longer ones, especially for beginning readers. Languages differ in how many syllables a word can contain. SynPhony lets you restrict the search results by how many syllables the words may contain. This option can easily be changed without changing any other parameter. SynPhony calculates the number of syllables by counting how many vowel phonemes exist in a word. This is more difficult to do for abugidas (or aksharas) such as Indic scripts (languages in which consonants also represent a default vowel sound that doesn't get represented separately).

Vocabulary group

This option can be useful to restrict the search results to an arbitrarily defined set of words. During the creation of a SynPhony database a user has the option of defining up to six different groups of texts. The recommended way to group the texts is by grade level. So all texts for grade 1 would be tagged as level 1. Another method could group texts by children's texts, adult level texts and a dictionary. Please note that this is not a rigorous and scientific categorization; it is a quick and subjective attempt to distinguish vocabulary that is easier to understand from that which is harder. This is based on the assumption that when people either speak or write for a younger audience they modify their language to make it easier to understand.

Few languages have attempted a scientific analysis that categorizes words by an age of acquisition criteria. (Which words can be understood by a 6 year old, an 8 year old, etc.) One of the problems is that children differ from each other in their language development. The other problem is that it is difficult to measure what is meant by "understand". Children's receptive language is larger than their expressive language. For English I'm aware of Prof. Andrew Biemiller of the University of Toronto who did a study called "Words worth teaching" which attempts to identify which words a child understands at various grades. In SynPhony you can restrict a search to any group which has been classified. Hopefully this comes close to achieving for other languages what Prof. Biemiller has done for English.

Parts of speech

If a database has incorporated a list of words which include parts of speech information then this option becomes visible. Selecting one or more parts of speech will restrict the search results to that category (or multiple categories).