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Search results for the Tag keyword: text-to-speech
By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 31st August, 2010 at 4:39pm
During the early part of 2009 we spent some time comparing different text-to-speech utilities that could be be used to read text aloud from web sites and published our conclusions in our Reading the Web information sheet. At the time, we found the best option was to use the free Click Speak utility with Firefox. There wasn't an option for Internet Explorer that we were totally happy to recommend: Read and Write Gold worked well, but is expensive, while most of the low cost / free utilities had some feature that we were not happy with. There have been a few developments over the past year so it is worth providing a short update here, prior to revising the information sheet.
Firstly, a couple of web browsers now have text-to-speech facilities embedded within the program. On the Apple Mac, Safari users can now access a pretty primitive text to speech facility by highlighting the text to be read and using the mouse to select - Edit - Speech - Start Speaking. The computer will now speak the text using its default voice. There are a couple of text-to-speech extensions for Google Chrome, Read Me Please! and Chrome Page Reader, but we couldn't get either to work!
A Solution for Internet Explorer?
We recently came across a nice little utility, Panopreter, that can be used to read out files in a variety of formats and can also create MP3 / WAV sound files from text. Two versions of the program are available, Basic and Plus. The Basic version is free and can be used to read text files out aloud, or to create MP3 files. Unfortunately, the text files cannot be seen as they are being read, which limits the use of this program. The Plus version, costing $29.95, is much more useful. Text is visible as it is read, with each word being highlighted as it is spoken and the program can even handle PDF files. The Plus version also adds a toolbar to Internet Explorer, which provides options for either an entire web page, or selected text to be read out loud. Individual words are highlighted as they are spoken. It is also possible to use the Panopreter Plus to convert a web page into an MP3 / WAV file that can be played back by an MP3 player. In terms of value for money and ease of use, Panopreter Plus is probably the best option currently available for reading text from Internet Explorer.
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By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 23rd March, 2010 at 12:59pm
We are often asked if there is an Apple Macintosh version of WordTalk, the free text-to-speech add-on for Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, there isn't, and, due to differences in the way that PCs and Macs handle sound, there is unlikely to be a Mac version.
There are a number of free text-to-speech options for Mac users:
- The Mac operating system has a reasonable text-to-speech system built in. To use it, go to System Preferences - Speech - Text to Speech. Choose a voice and a key combination to speak selected text. Then just highlight text in any program and press the key combination. It doesn't highlight text word by word as it is read out, or do anything fancy, but it works pretty well and Mac voices are generally quite good.
- TypeItReadIt is a free program, aimed primarily at people with a visual impairment, but it can be used more generally by people who want to hear text read out. Unlike the Mac's built-in system, TypeIt ReadIt does not read text directly from an application on the screen. Instead, you have to copy text from your application and paste it into the TypeIt ReadIt window. You can also Open a plain text file and have the contents read out. Note that if you are using a Word file, you will have to save it as plain text to open and read the file. TypeIt ReadIt has options to change the colour scheme and the size of text displayed. Unfortunately, the actual font it uses cannot be changed from Times, which will not suit many of the people who may want to use the program. Earlier versions of the program highlighted words as they were spoken, but this feature has been removed from Version 1.5 as it slowed the program down. This makes little difference for people with a visual impairment, but can make it more difficult for people with reading difficulties to see where they are in a document. There is a reasonable spell checker, but, surprisingly, this does not allow the possible word choices to be read out. One very useful feature is the facility to create sound files (in AIFF format), which can be played in iTunes.
- NaturalReader has a free version for the Mac, which will read text directly from almost any application, including Word, web browsers and PDF files. Simply select the text you want to read and it will be transferred to the NaturalReader MiniBoard for reading. Words are highlighted as they are read and the colour of the text is then changed, making it easy to see where you are in your text. Unlike many 'demo' versions of programs, the free version of NaturalReader can be used for as long as you want, but there are a few restrictions, compared with the full program. Firstly, it does not come with a 'voice'. This is not a great problem as there are perfectly satisfactory voices within the Mac operating system. Schools in Scotland can also make free use of the Mac version of The Scottish Voice, Heather. There is also a restriction of 5,000 characters on the length of any document to be read by NaturalReader. Most importantly, the facility to make sound files has been disabled in the free version. If this is an important feature for you, either use TypeIt ReadIt, or get the Personal Version, costing $49.50.
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By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 23rd February, 2010 at 3:45pm
Heather, the Scottish Voice, which can be downloaded free from CALL's Scottish Voice web site by anyone in Scottish schools, is a product of CereProc, an Edinburgh based company. CereProc make 'custom' voices by recording and synthesising human speech, and one possibility is to create bespoke computer voices for people who are likely to lose their speech as a result of illness or disability. CereProc have created a synthetic voice for Robert Ebert, an American film critic, who lost his voice after surgery. The voice was created by analysing the recordings made for Robert Ebert's TV series. This is fine if you are a well-known (in the USA) TV broadcaster, but not so good if the sum total of the recordings of your voice consists of a few warbles from your childhood or speeches at weddings and the like. Nevertheless, it's good to see progress like this because better synthetic voices, greater individuality and more personalisation all improve the communicative experience with voice output communication aids. Certainly, the response we have had to Heather, the Scottish Voice, has been extremely positive both when she is used for communication and also when reading out digital books, learning resources and exam papers. To find out more about the voices visit the CereProc web site.
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By Paul Nisbet on Friday 18th December, 2009 at 6:08pm
This is a chance for you to help improve the accessibility of Glow. If Glow is to fulfil it's aims it needs to be accessible to every pupil in Scotland and one way of helping many pupils with visual or reading difficulties is through 'text-to-speech' software, so that pupils can have material on Glow read out to them by the computer. There are many text-to-speech programs for reading different types of digital text, such as:
- Rod Macaulay's WordTalk (which you can download free from CALL), can read out Word documents, for example, or
- TextHelp's PDFaloud, which can read PDFs such as digital textbooks or SQA exam papers,
but we also need a program for reading text from the web itself.
Again there are several options (see Allan's Reading the Web guide at http://www.callscotland.org.uk/Resources/Publications/Information-Sheets/) , and one of them is Browsealoud from TextHelp Systems. Browsealoud is a free program that reads 'speech-enabled' web sites and also Word and PDF files on the web sites.TextHelp have agreed to 'speech-enable' the CALL Scotland and LTS web sites and also Glow until the end of January 2010, for us to evaluate. CALLs speech-enabled web sites are:
All LTS web sites (http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/) and also everything accessed through the Glow portal are speech-enabled.The pilot Books for All Scotland Database at http://www.booksforallscotland.org.uk/ is also speech-enabled.To read the web sites with Browsealoud you need to download it from http://www.browsealoud.com/page.asp?pg_id=80004.Jennifer MacDougal from LTS has agreed to set up a discussion forum for the Glow users and so once you have tried out Browsealoud on Glow, go to My Glow Groups > ASN Group and add your comments about it to the discussion. The direct URL for this is https://portal.glowscotland.org.uk/establishments/nationalsite/Additional%20Support%20for%20Learning/Lists/Pages/Discussions.aspxBrowsealoud is essentially a tool for reading web sites with text-to-speech software. It can help pupils with visual impairment, dyslexia, reading and learning difficulties or pupils who are not fluent English readers access information on web sites. It can speak using a number of different voices including Heather, the Scottish voice. To take part in this trial, download and run Browsealoud and then test it on Glow or on the CALL or LTS websites, and then log any comments or issues on the Glow group. If you cant access Glow send an email to CALL at email@example.com. LTS are currently looking at how the accessibility of Glow can be improved, and a text-to-speech facility could be extremely useful, if not essential, for thousands of pupils in Scotland (not much point in having a national intranet if it isnt accessible to all pupils in Scotland). Browsealoud is only one option for reading the web and so you might also like to look at some others such as Click Speak, a free add-on for Firefox, but it is really important that we all have a chance to test this particular tool to find out if it does what we all want. Please comment on whether you think Browsealoud would help pupils access Glow, as well as any problems that you come across. Take a look at the video tours and user guides on the Browsealoud web site as well – see http://www.browsealoud.com/page.asp?pg_id=80006Were aware that you wont have much time before the end of term, but no doubt some keen people will be unable to resist the temptation to play with Browsealoud over the break, and there will be a few weeks at the start of next term for you to try it.Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year
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By Allan Wilson on Friday 31st July, 2009 at 4:34pm
Shortly after our recent comparison of text-to-speech utilities that can be used to read web pages, Reading the Web was released, we received an email suggesting that we have a look at the free CleanPage utility, free from ReadonWeb. We had a look at it and liked it, but it wasn't quite right. When you install CleanPage it adds a toolbar to Internet Explorer, which allows an 'uncluttered' version of a web page, without graphics and 'junk', to be created. The font and colours in the uncluttered version can be adjusted to suit the reader and it is also possible to have this text transferred to a separate text-to-speech window straight from the original web page. It seemed great for people with a visual impairment and those who just wanted to have web pages 'de-cluttered' or read aloud, but it wasn't so good for people who needed a little more support. We had three main issues:
- Sometimes people need the pictures! If you are looking at a web page with descriptions of various animals, it is helpful to be able to see the pictures while you are listening to the text.
- It wasn't possible to select only a part of the text on a web page, so if you only wanted the description of the zebra at the bottom of the page, you had to sit through the antelope, the bear, the chimpanzee, etc.
- It wasn't possible to change font and colours for text in the text-to-speech window - either you could have colour options in the uncluttered view, or text-to-speech - but not both.
We outlined our concerns in an email to ReadonWeb. Within 24 hours their President had replied, saying he would ask his team to look at our suggestions. Six days later we received another email saying that our suggestions had been implemented in a new version (188.8.131.52) of the program. Very impressive!
We've looked at the new version - points 2 and 3 have been fully addressed. Point 1 can be met by minimising the text-to-speech window and highlighting text on the original web page so that it looks as if it is being read directly from the web page. It doesn't quite match our ideal - to have text highlighted as it is read direct from the web page - but it comes very close!
For PC users with Internet Explorer, CleanPage should be the first option to consider - it may not suit everybody, but it is definitely the best of the free options. If you are using Firefox on a PC or a Mac, the best option is the free CliCk, Speak add-on.
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By Allan Wilson on Friday 24th July, 2009 at 3:13pm
CALL frequently receives enquiries from people seeking advice on utilities that can be used to read text from web pages. Teachers and parents may be using WordTalk to read Word documents and are now looking for something similar to read web pages.
Earlier this year CALL carried out a detailed comparison of over twenty utilities that can be used to add speech output to web pages. A report on the results, Reading the Web, can be downloaded from the CALL web site. We looked at a range of options from free utilities, to the use of comprehensive literacy support packages which included the ability to read web pages among a wide range of features. Many schools may already have a package like TextHelp, or Penfriend, both of which can be used to add text-to-speech facilities to the web, but for parents, or people staring from scratch, we recommended the free CliCkSpeak add-on for the Firefox web browser. At the time, we could not wholeheartedly recommend any single option for Internet Explorer, though Balabolka, NaturalReader and Ultra Hal were all worth considering as free options. TextAloud was a good choice for those with a small budget.
Read on Web's ClearPage
ClearPage is a new option for adding text-to-speech to Internet Explorer. When you install this free utility to a PC (there isn't a Mac version, unfortunately) a new toolbar is added to Internet Explorer, which allows you to create an 'uncluttered' version of the original web page, stripped of graphics and unnecessary text. The uncluttered version can be presented in your preferred font, text and background colours for easy reading, and can also be transferred to a text-to-speech window. This may sound complicated, but it is actually very easy - it is possible to go straight from the original web page to hearing the text-to-speech version with a single keystroke.
Unfortunately the text and background colours in the text-to-speech window cannot be changed from the standard black and white so people with different colour preferences are not able to change to suit their needs. There are also issues with the way in which text is selected and read - if you try to read a single word, the word will be read, but it will carry on reading the following text.
ClearPage is not particularly helpful if you need to see the text in the context of graphical material, or if you only want to read a small portion of the text on a web page, but, despite these reservations, it is definitely a useful utility that is worth considering for getting text-to-speech from Internet Explorer.
A typical web page seen in a standard browser.
The same page in ClearPage's 'uncluttered' view.
The same page in ClearPage's text to speech reader.