Text-to-speech applications have a number of different uses. They can assist the visually impaired by reading various screen elements, and they're also useful to writers. Text-to-speech engines have the ability to verbally read a document, thereby making the proof-reading process a lot easier. Here are five text-to-speech applications.
1. Text Speaker
Text Speaker is a text to speech utility that has some really nice extras built in. It costs $29.95 (USD), but a free trial is available for download.
For starters, the voice in Text Speaker is fully customizable, and you can download a variety of different voices for use with the utility (Figure A).
Text Speaker voice options.
Another nice feature is the ability to convert a document to an audio recording (Figure B).
Converting an audio file.
My personal favorite feature is the talking reminders (Figure C). The software allows you to set up reminders for various events and then the software verbally reminds you of them.
Text Speaker Talking Reminders.
2. Verbose Text to Speech
Verbose Text to Speech is another utility for converting a block of text into speech. It costs $40.00 (USD), but a free trial is available for download.
Text can be loaded from a file and pasted into the interface or you can load a text file directly (Figure D).
Loading text files.
In addition to being able to read text aloud, the utility can save the speech as an audio file or audio CD (Figure E).
Saving audio files.
Verbose Text to Speech also allows you to choose from a couple of different voices (Figure F).
Verbose Text to Speech options.
3. Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader
Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader is a free utility for converting text to speech. The interesting thing is that it's more of a speech-enabled text editor than a text-to-speech engine. The utility offers basic font formatting capabilities, which is something that you wouldn't ordinarily expect to find in a text to speech utility (Figure G).
Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader formatting options.
The utility also has a few controls to adjust the speech, including the speed, pitch, and volume. Speech can also be output to an audio file (Figure H).
Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader controls.
4. Sayvoice Text to Speech Reader
Sayvoice Text to Speech Reader is a basic text-to-speech reader. It costs $47.98 (USD), but a free trial is available for download. This lightweight utility doesn't have a lot of controls. You can pick from a few different voices, adjust the pitch and speed of the speech, and export the speech to an audio file (Figure I).
Sayvoice export options.
The one feature that Sayvoice has that the other utilities that reviewed didn't is the ability to choose from a variety of skins (Figure J).
5. Alive Text to Speech
Alive Text to Speech is another text to speech engine. It costs $29.95 (USD), but a free trial is available for download. The cool thing about Alive Text to Speech is that the program starts out by giving you a quick tutorial on how to use it. This is helpful because speech commands are integrated into Windows Explorer (Figure K).
Alive Text to Speech window.
The tool also features an add-in for Internet Explorer. Additionally, the tool is configured to automatically use the Windows clipboard. When you copy a block of text to the clipboard, the text is automatically read. Unfortunately, Alive Text to Speech does not seem to work with Windows 8.
Do you use text-to-speech applications? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.