Free Audio Reader - audiobook/text reader / audio player
Version 1.78 for Windows
Open-Source Freeware
Full Changelog


Free Audio Reader is a Windows audio player featuring bookmarks (position and optionally volume), playlists, tag editing, tag-based file/folder renaming, cover art, jukebox, slide shows, soundbites and TextReader with limited Text-To-Speech. Accessibility guidelines are followed with a resize-friendly GUI and multiple input equivalencies.

For Windows XP/Vista/7
Audio format: mp3, wma, wav, midi (tag support for mp3 only)
Playlist format: generic m3u
Bookmark format: #Commented m3u / fbm
Cover art format: jpg - no resolution or image count limitations

Text-To-Speech requires the TTS portion of the MS 5.1 Speech API:

Freeware, Delphi 2010 source included

Basic Usage

After initially loading, click Play (CtrlP) or File->Open (CtrlO) to browse for media and begin playing. The Play button becomes a Pause button. Use < to rewind 15 seconds in the current file or << to go back an entire file (for active playlists); >> and > similarly move forward. Click Stop to quit playing and auto-rewind the media and active playlist.

Volume can be controlled with the top-most trackbar or with AltPgUp and AltPgDn. If the trackbar has focus (keep pressing Tab until it is outlined), then all navigation keys can be used to set the position (Left-Arrow, Right-Arrow, Home, End, PgUp, PgDn).

File position can be set using the second, longer trackbar, located beneath the player buttons. The position pointer can be dragged by mouse, set with AltLeftArrow or AltRightArrow, or given focus and controlled with the normal navigation keys mentioned above.

For finer control of audio properties, use the Mixer option (Ctrl+M) to launch the MMSys control panel applet, allowing access to all sound settings.

The Shuffle (CtrlU) option can be used anytime to rearrange the playlist queue and replay the contents. If the Repeat (CtrlR) option is checked, the playlist will loop over (begin again after it finishes).


Create a bookmark (CtrlB) to save file and playlist position of the currently paused or playing file. You can go back (CtrlG) 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). Slideshows and textfiles can also be bookmarked.

Whenever FAR exits and media is paused or playing, an automatic bookmark named Autosave.fbm is (re)created.


A playlist is just a list of files in the order they are meant to be played. Sometimes a lot of files are involved, and may not sort correctly because of the way they are named or lack of tag info. If you have more than a few books or cd's then having the tag info present will be advantageous, as the program relies heavily on it and doesn't try very hard to get it correctly from the filename (if artist album tags are blank, ...\LastDir Filename is used). If files sort naturally by virtue of their names, then tag info is not as important.

Use the Playlists->New option (Ctrl+N) to clear the current queue and be prompted for the base folder of the new book or cd. Normally a playlist involves a single work, but feel free to choose a base folder that includes any number of artists and their works. The queue will populate with all supported audio files found.

To continue adding to the playlist queue, use Playlists->Edit->Add (CtrlAltA) or click the Add button.

To rearrange the play order, use the Move Up and Move Down options (CtrlAltU) and (CtrlAltD); the highlighted track will move up or down the list and remain highlighted in case it needs to move further. Only a single track can be moved at a time. The column headings of the listview may also be clicked to sort by that column; repeated clicks will alternate the sort order between ascending and descending.

Eliminate unwanted tracks with the Remove option (Del or CtrlAltR). This option acts on all highlighted tracks. No files on disk are deleted - only the reference is removed from the playlist queue. To also permanently remove the file(s) from disk as well, use Alt+Del instead.

To save the completed playlist, use one of the save options: Playlists->Save (Ctrl+S) or Playlists->SaveAs. The first option will save the playlist with its current name, asking for one if it hasn't been given one yet. The SaveAs option will always ask for a new name, supplying no default.

To load and begin playing a playlist, use the Playlists->Load (CtrlL) option. The File->Open (CtrlO) option can also be used if the file filter is set to files of type m3u.

If you want to migrate the playlist to an mp3 player or anything that maps to a folder, use the Copy button or Playlists->Copy (CtrlAltC) option. You will be asked if you want to 'Create tag-based folders?' - reply Yes if you want multiple folders given artist names and respective contents; otherwise, everything is put in the chosen base folder.

If you have Artist and Album tags filled for the highlighted track (as well as an active internet connection) you can use the Cover Art (CtrlAltV) option to collect images for the work. Also if these requirements are met, the Google option (CtrlAltG) will launch a search for Artist + Album; the application home page may be visited; or you can add to your library by visiting the official LibriVox or Gutenberg sites.

Prior to creating playlists, all audio files should be more or less organized, preferably with audiobooks in their own base folder and all tag info populated. Neither is enforced, but results may not be as orderly or aesthetic. If a clean-up process turns iterative, the playlist builder can be run as many times as needed - thousands of lists can be written in seconds, deleted, rewritten....

Tag Editing

Having tag info is an organizational plus, but not generally enforced. FAR reads and updates v1.1 tags; this does not effect later version info within the mp3 file if it happens to have it, so lyrics, etc. are preserved.

To view or edit a track's mp3 tags, highlight the track in the playlist queue and use the Tags (Ctrl+T) option to switch to the Tags view.

To edit a single track, follow the above steps, make any changes, and click the Save option (F11) or press Enter. You will be returned to that track in the listview. Your changes will reflect in the queue, although the actual tag may have been truncated.

To edit all highlighted tracks, use the same process except with the SavePlus option ((F12) or by tabbing to the SavePlus button and pressing Enter). For the initial record all fields are saved. Not all fields are carried forward to subsequent records, however; only the Artist, Album, Year and Genre fields are updated, as the remainder are generally specific to each file. Use the Save++ option instead to extend all tags.

To edit all highlighted tracks for a single tag only, first place the desired text in the system clipboard and then use the Playlists->Tags->PasteToAll-><tag> where any tag but Track# can be mass-populated. You will be prompted first for confirmation.

To undo any edits you made prior to saving, use the Reload option (F10).

To resequence the Track# tag for a group of selected tracks, make the selections (not necessarily contiguous) and use the Playlists->Edit->Resequence Track# option. You will be prompted for an initial track number and the new sequence will be applied to the selected tracks.

Tag-Based File/Folder Renaming

Tag values may be used to reconstruct the mp3 filenames and housing folders, locating them in a more logical structure on disk, even having their natural sort order equal the preferred order, resulting in playlists that require no rearranging.

To access the option, highlight all tracks of interest in the playlist queue and switch to the Tags view (CtrlT); then, use the now-enabled Rename option (CtrlAlt+N). Use the drop-down list to choose a common mask, or create your own. You can reference all tag fields; case is insensitive. Click the Refresh button (or press Enter) to display what the resulting filenames will be if the Execute option is used.
A full list of proposed rename operations is presented in a listview for preview before any operations take place. The filemask can be edited and refreshed as many times as necessary before using the Execute option.

To cancel, press Escape, use the Rename option again (CtrlAltN), or click the Cancel button.
While executing the rename/move process the playing track (if any) is paused. Any *.jpg files will move with the mp3 files. After the process, any now-empty folders are deleted.

Collecting Images - Cover Art

This option is less than precise and images acquired are not guaranteed to be relevant or non-offensive.
Images are stored in the same folder as the audio files. Files are named <artist - album#.jpg> where # increments for each successive image. Each time the option is used ~20 uniquely-named images are created, so a folder can turn messy fairly quick (covered by the image management options a few paragraphs down).

Click the Images tab to list all images for the current work. Clicking the image itself will load another random image from the current media file's folder (except in an art view, in which case the view is exited).

A listview displays the track folder's *.jpg files, sortable by the image's height and width or by name. While viewing the image list they can be renamed, copied, moved or deleted (Del) with the buttons beneath the listview. A splitter control between the image and file management area can be used to specify how much room to give each.

If no images are returned, try temporarily altering the Artist and/or Album tags and performing the collection (CtrlAltV) again. If you are using the Build version of the option, artist + album tags are expected to be populated beforehand. The Build version will disregard any folders that already have at least a single .jpg file.

The application will be mostly unresponsive while collecting images with the non-Build version of the option. Track changes and track position updates will be suspended.

No single image is used to represent the work; a random image is chosen from all available (*.jpg) images within the playing file's folder whenever the track changes.

See further down for the Build option related to cover art.


The jukebox feature requires playlists to draw from; if none exist yet the playlist builder process begins (see the Build options below). Up to 99 tracks are drawn from the music playlists and an ad hoc playlist created to hold them. Any current track is then stopped and the jukebox playlist begins.

A sampling variant (File->Sample) creates a new jukebox playlist and plays random 12-second segments from each track. An option to view random slides is presented if any slideshows (*.fss) have been created (instead of the track's cover art being displayed) .

View Modes & Wallpaper

The interface can be configured to some degree to suit personal preference. The View menu contains persisted, predefined arrangements and related options.

The first several View menu options offer alternate methods of selecting the Playlist, Tags, Cover Art, Slideshow, Soundbites and TextReader tabs.

The View->Normal option will redisplay any hidden controls, but doesn't resize or relocate the window.

View->Minimal shrinks the window to a few basic controls and docks it to the upper left.

View->Floating Art (CtrlAltF) hides everything but the image and docks it to the upper right. Height and width will adjust to changing image resolutions; if the image resolution exceeds the screen resolution, the image will be clipped.

View->Full-Screen Art (Alt+Enter) hides everything but the image and maximizes it. The image will stretch as far as the aspect ratio allows. Enable dynamic wallpaper to let the OS do a superior job of stretching.

Except for Normal, the views act as toggles; the same option used twice is equivalent to using the View->Normal option (either way, size and position may be lost). If the main window ever vanishes entirely, press CtrlAltN to restore the view.

When enabled, the View->Dynamic Wallpaper option will update the desktop background with currently selected or playing cover art images. If the image height is less than 300 or the width is less than 400, then there is a 50% chance of tiling the image.

View->Menubars->etc will hide or display the various menubar panels.

Build Options

To copy playlists to a named folder without volume references, use the Playlists->Build->Make Portable Playlists option. Any device or player should locate the media relative to the playlist file.

The Playlists->New (CtrlN) option will assemble a single playlist of any directory depth. To instead create multiple playlists from multiple works, where each work resides in its own folder, use the Playlists->Build->One Playlist Per Folder option. Results will be better if tag info is present for the files involved. Two dialogs will appear, the first asking for the location of music (press Escape for none) and the second asking for the base folder for audiobook files (again, press Escape for none). A status bar message will indicate when the process finishes, and the playlists can be viewed with File->Open (CtrlO) or Playlists->Load (Ctrl+L).

The Playlists->Cover Art (CtrlAltV) option can be used to get images for the currently highlighted work. To instead get images for all works, use the Playlists->Build->Playlist Cover Art option. You will be prompted for the base folders of music and audiobooks and these will be scanned; any lacking at least a single .jpg image will be included in the collection. If no results occur then all folders have at least one image or the search did not return anything.

The Playlists->Build->Populate Durations option will either overwrite or append the track's duration (mm:ss) to the Comment tags for all *.mp3 files within the selected base folder. If appending, the track duration will be placed in parentheses after the existing tag content, and may not always fit. If overwriting then existing Comment tags are completely replaced with the mm:ss track duration format. The player is unusable during this process.


FAR can create and play various types of slideshows based on cover art or other images.


File references are used instead of actual audio slices.


FAR implements MS SAPI 5.x Text-To-Speech for reading textfiles aloud. Bookmarking the audio stream position is not supported, only the text being viewed.

Launch Options

Files can be dragged from Windows Explorer and dropped onto the player; supported audio files will be added to the playlist queue as well as any references found within m3u files. Also accepted are the other supported filetypes: bookmarks (older .m3u or newer .fsb), slideshows (.fss), soundbites (.fsb) and textfiles (.txt).

To register a different global CtrlFKey instead of the CtrlF12 default, use the /hk# parameter:

far.exe /hk7

To use the application path as the data path for bookmarks and playlists instead of the Windows \Users folder structure, launch FAR with the /approot parameter:

far.exe /approot

Arguments can be mixed with any filespecs or folder names:

far.exe /approot c:\adir
far.exe c:\adir /approot
far.exe c:\adir /approot mp3file playlistfile somedir bookmarkfile etc
far.exe bookmark.fbm playlist.m3u slideshow.fss textfile.txt, open/save dialogs use \Users...
far.exe /approot files open/save dialogs use application folder
far c:\Heinlein\Stranger play all valid media in dir and subdirs, possibly in the right order

The last example can be duplicated by dragging and dropping a folder to the FAR player; the resulting playlist can then be reordered and resaved if the file sequence is wrong.
If a playlist is already present, the new entries will be appended to the end. The playlist is not explicitly saved as new tracks are added. After adding all files, reorder if needed and use either the Playlists->Save (Ctrl+S) or Playlists->SaveAs options.
Passing multiple individual files via the Windows Explorer Open option is not currently supported.

Program Keys

Application hotkey Ctrl+F12, or set with /hk# (# is 1 - 12)
Open File Ctrl+O
Previous Playlist Ctrl+E
Previous File Alt+UpArrow, F3
Previous Index Alt+LeftArrow, F4
Play/Pause Ctrl+P, Spacebar (if Playlists is (last-)active page)
Stop Ctrl+S
Next Index Alt+RightArrow, F5
Next File Alt+DownArrow, F6
Next Playlist Ctrl+Y
Volume Down Alt+PgDn, F7
Volume Up Alt+PgUp, F8
Jukebox Ctrl+J
Change Art Alt+Backspace
Floating Art CtrlAltF
Full-Screen Art Alt+Enter
Normal View CtrlAltN
Mixer Ctrl+M
Create Bookmark Ctrl+B
Goto Bookmark Ctrl+G
New Playlist Ctrl+N
Load Playlist Ctrl+L
Shuffle Ctrl+U
Repeat Ctrl+R
Add to Queue CtrlAltA, Ins (in playlist view)
Remove from Queue CtrlAltR, Del (in playlist view)
Delete from Disk Alt+Delete
Move Up CtrlAltU
Move Down CtrlAltD
Tag View Ctrl+T
Reload Tags F10
Save Tags F11, Enter
SavePlus F12
Copy Playlist CtrlAltC
Get Cover Art CtrlAltV
Image Viewer Ctrl+I
Help F1
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Last edited Sep 22, 2011 at 9:16 PM by vpalexander, version 6


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