software to read text out loud?
June 1, 2012 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I want text read out loud to me. Recommend a site, application or software?

I have long articles that I want to read but I find that I need to multi-task . I can't seem to locate anything good to read long articles out loud. It seems quite easy but I have been looking for quite some time. I am assuming it would use a cut and paste format but I'm really not even sure. I'm just seeking some ideas and suggestions. Dragon dictation doesn't seem adequate.
Thank you!
posted by femmme to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Adobe Acrobat Reader's "Read Out Loud" feature (free)?
If you have a Mac, Text to Speech is built-in.
posted by misterbrandt at 2:42 PM on June 1, 2012

You are looking for "text to speech," and there are a LOT of applications and websites out there. The trick is that the free services are generally demos, and limited in how much text they'll read. Im Translator is another service, which will read back text online, but is limited to 1000 characters. AT&T's Natural Voices is an older service, and appears to generate a WAV file (I have script blocking on, so my experience might not be normal), and didn't even read your whole question back to me. Ivona is limited to 250 characters, and Cepstral has another online demo, but limits playback to a few sentences.

Here's a review of more services, and here's a list of 10 free services. Both are older lists, so their comments may not be 100% accurate.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:43 PM on June 1, 2012

And if you have Windows, here's how to configure Text-to-Speech in Windows XP and Vista, and in Windows 7, this feature is called Narrator. This is classified as an "accessibility" tool, if you're looking at apps under categories.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on June 1, 2012

(To be clear, the question mark after "(free)" is for the product suggestion, not due to any uncertainty about the free-ness of Acrobat Reader)
posted by misterbrandt at 2:55 PM on June 1, 2012

There is NVDA which is a screen reader intended for the blind. It's free and open source. It also has one of the worst voices I've personally ever heard, but as a blind user I'm picky about this stuff. There is also Window-Eyes but I'm only pointing it out in the interest of being academic because it's $800. That being said, it's the one I use, so there you go. Pretty neat that there's so much text-to-speech stuff out there. I'd never heard of the majority of the programs mentioned above, but I'm sure they wouldn't be marketed to me anyway.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 3:23 PM on June 1, 2012

If you have an iPhone you can also select any piece of text and 'Speak' is one of the options that pops up along with 'Cut' and 'Copy'.

(Side note: Does anyone know of an app that will do this even after you hit the sleep button to turn the phone's screen off, or switch to another app, and have the reading still go on in the background?)
posted by Space Coyote at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2012

It's expensive, but the screen reading software my blind mother uses is Freedom Scientific's JAWS (stands for Job Access With Speech). It's come along way since she first started using it in the 90s (!) and you can adjust the voice significantly.
posted by katemcd at 4:51 PM on June 1, 2012

I haven't tested this, but could you send the articles to a Kindle via a service like Instapaper, then use the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle? I've used it on a few books and it seems quite easy to understand, even if it isn't the prettiest voice I've heard. You can adjust the playback speeds, too.

If you have an Audible subscription, you can get a 30-minute daily podcast that summarizes the articles from one of two major newspapers.

As Space Coyote mentioned, iPhones (and other newer iOS devices) can read to you. I'm told they're fully accessible, so there's probably a way to do it other than selecting the text by hand.
posted by tantivy at 4:52 PM on June 1, 2012

I really like Yakitome. You can upload whole pdfs or text files in various formats, and I find the reading voice natural enough that I can listen to academic papers read this way (on my commute to and from work). It's free too!

The time it takes to convert a paper seems to vary a lot. I think it must be due to time of day/number of people using the service at any one time. It ranges between about 2 minutes and 30 minutes in my experience, for a 30-40 page pdf file.
posted by lollusc at 8:09 PM on June 1, 2012

I'm very late to this game, but I use the following tools on Android to do this cheaply.

Moon+ Reader. All the usual functions of an e-reader (supports multiple ebook formats and text files, and remembers your place). I use this for very, very long articles - like, 100-page articles where losing my place is very bad. There are free tools that will turn PDFs into text files, so I do that and then add the PDFs to Moon+ Reader.

Read2Me. This is also available for iOS. Give it a URL and it will read it to you. It can only do 1 URL at a time (it doesn't remember past ones), but it does save your place.

Talkadroid lite. The lite version reads any text you paste into it. The paid version ($1.29) will read PDFs, URLs, and a lot of other stuff.
posted by Tehhund at 8:15 AM on June 17, 2012

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