SpeakComputer – Text to Speech

This is a relatively recent software program and one that is new to me. I have been experimenting with it in a number of contexts over the past few weeks and it is impressive.

SpeakComputer is a very flexible and versatile MS Windows software program as it offers useful and practical features. Different aspects and functions cater to and benefit a wide range of potential users. It is quite different to anything else on the market. It will prove to be attractive to schools, TAFEs and Universities as well as to neigbourhood houses and day training centres. The program is ideal for students who require TTS for proof reading, editing, keeping organised and for reading difficult or challenging text – in any program.

It has six different tools all available from within a floating toolbar. This conforms well to the principles of universal access and design. After it is downloaded and installed onto an MS Windows Vista or 7 computers, it appears as a shortcut on the desktop.

SpeakComputer is a free Text to Speech program available from www.speakcomputers.com/SpeakComputer.aspx/ SpeakComputer comprises of six (6) TTS readers as well as a Parental Control Guard.

SpeakComputer supports natural sounding text-to-speech voices including Cepstral and Ivona voices. These are at extra cost. Most individual voices start at about $30 each. If other compatible voices are installed onto the host computer, SpeakComputer will locate and offer them in the various menu options.

Description: SpeakComputer V2 toolbar.jpg

About the Program

SpeakComputer text to speech software is a suite of useful TTS text readers. The software is comprised of six separate text to speech readers as well as a parental control package. The Text to Speech reader is a powerful software reader that supports text to MP3 export as well as to Wav export. Users can select their own writing or other text easily and intuitively. Then they can listen to their selected sentence, paragraph or page on other computers, USB music players, digital voice recorders (DVR) as well as from a variety of other hand held devices, Smartphones or iPads (having converted to file format first to MPEG4).

Description: speakcomputer tts.jpgThe easy to use user interface allows users to:

  • Change different pre-installed TTS voices
  • Change the speed at which the text to speech reader voices the text.
  • Users can also elect to have the “Echo Keys” feature where the Text to Speech reader echoes most keys that are pressed while users are typing.

The Text to Speech Reader is a multiple document interface design. Users are able to open many supported files within the same application. Basic document formatting is supported.

The interface is well designed and the program can be run in a window or in full screen mode. Editing shortcuts are readily displayed and available in the toolbar and users can also elect to add key functions in the Quick Toolbar. It has support for various voices and reads aloud entire documents or selected passages of text.

Description: speak computer.jpgOther features include:

  • TTS Voice speed adjustment
  • Export option to both Mp3 and WAV file formats
  • TTS Keyboard echoing
  • Tabbed document interface
  • Opens and saves files including Text (txt) or Rich Text (or RTF) files
  • Basic document formatting
  • Advanced Text to Speech context menu
  • Basic built-in English, Spanish, German and French spell checkers
  • Can be control by the Text to Speech Parental Controls program
  • Document zoom feature
  • Visual Interface Themes

Description: mini speaker.jpgThe Mini Speaker will read the text aloud in a male or female voice – at a user defined speed. The Mini Speaker also supports text to MP3 export. The Mini Speaker is a wonderful simple and discreet Text to Speech tool that voices any selected text from any application. Users need only open an application or web page, select the text they require to be spoken and click “Control + C” (or Edit command in the application).

Description: minio speaker full.jpgThe voice speed and different voices are available in the toolbar (it drops down to reveal these functions).

The Text to Speech Web Browser enables users to quickly and easily read the web pages by simply selecting the text on the web page and clicking the “Speak” option. The web browser supports exporting text to MP3 and text to WAV which is ideal when saving text as audio from eBook sites, web pages, research data, online atlases and encyclopaedias. In fact, users can achieve easily this task in order to listen to text and save it to audio for research, study or just for enjoyment. It is a definite strength of the program.

TTS voice speed adjustment is supported as well as selecting different voices that are pre-installed on a user’s MS Windows computer (Note: No MAC OS version is available). Standard zoom features are also supported.

Description: speaking clock.jpg Features include:

  • Support for various TTS Voices.
  • It voices entire web page documents or only the selected text within a web page with TTS Voice speed adjustment.
  • Users can export any selected text to Mp3 and WAV files.
  • It has a tabbed document interface.
  • Saves files as HTM, HTML, MHT or Text files.
  • It has access to a user’s Internet Explorers Favourites (Read Only) and can be controlled by the Text to Speech Parental Controls program
  • It importantly has a number of visual Interface Themes

Another favourite is the Speech Clock. It starts automatically after the software is installed. The Speech Clock greets me by with my user name (a default setting that can be easily modified) whenever I start Windows and log in.

The TTS Clock also announces the current time with the time zone being set automatically. As with all six functions, the voice can be selected or changed at any time. Time frames and intervals can be modified by the user. This will prove to be advantageous in classrooms or for users who need to adhere to strict regimes and timetables.

My current favourite is the Text to Speech Image Presentation software. I have been creating TTS projects that I can publish and share with other students and colleagues using this nifty SpeakComputer software.

An educator or student can add an image, a pre-recorded sound and if required, some text. The application provides other options as well (presentation time and delay between images). It is quick to learn and easy to master. The resulting file can be saved and run as a slideshow.

Multiple images can be added to a presentation each with their own associated sound file or sound effect – or narration!

SpeakComputer Presentation designer

This provides me with a very fast way of creating suitable resources for children who wish to present their drawings (scanned), paint or drawing files (from TuxPaint, MS Paint or KidPix) or a mix of photographs taken on iPads or digital cameras (such as Sony Bloggie or Flip Cameras). For creating and generating differentiated curriculum, it is a bonus function.

Description: SpeakComputer is Text to SpeechThe Appointment Reminders is a basic implementation of short and long term appointment software that can uses TTS built-in features to read out alerts. This will cater directly to students who have executive functioning needs or to older users and to elderly citizens who need to schedule events and appointments and hear the notifications. They take place and are voiced when an appointment is pending or due.

The TTS Guard is a parental control feature that works with the Text to Speech Reader, Web Browser and Mini Speaker applications. When activated and turned on, the text to speech facility will read replacement words or simply skip the word that is to be read to the student or user. Key words can be added as exclusions (swear words, slang, inappropriate words or text that is offensive). This is a very worthwhile feature and one that educators will applaud.

Description: Save as wav file.jpg

Features include

  • Text to Speech word exclusion
  • Text to Speech replacement words

Other TTS References

Universal Access Using Text to Speech
Universal Access to Text – Literacy Support for ESL Students
Screen Readers and Text to Speech Programs – a useful resource that lists some industry leaders

Other TTS Freeware

WordTalk (a free add-in for MS Word) and information regarding installation – an excellent add in with many features
Orato and download page – a very simple yet elegant TTS program that speaks text copied from any source
DSpeech and information about DSpeech from Oats – another favourite that offers some different options
Balabolka Download and YouTube video re usage The Balabolka site has some free voices to download
Natural Reader Free downloads available for MS Windows or MAC OS
Ultra HAL text to speech – another new program I’ve yet to fully explore
PowerTalk – a free program that will voice text and word art in MS PowerPoint Presentations on MS Windows computers

Voices to download and/or purchase:
Cepstral website

Description: speakcomputer font choices.jpg

SpeakComputer TTS History

SpeakComputer Text to Speech software was initially developed for a private languages academy and was so successful with helping students learn English that it was voted unanimously by the owners to give licensed versions of the software away to anyone who requires it – at no cost.

  • MS Windows Vista and Windows 7 – all requirements are pre-installed
  • If used with MS Windows XP: .Net Framework 3.0. or higher is required
  • Hardware, sound card, internal or external speakers earpiece, headphones or headset for sound output

Simply download, unzip the file and run then run the setup.exe file from http://www.speakcomputers.com. Then follow all of the prompts. It is a quick and hassle free install. It is a 12.1MB zipped file.

Note: In some schools and centres, the user may require administrator access name and password in order to install the program.

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About Gerry Kennedy

Gerry Kennedy is an Independent Information and Inclusive Technology Consultant, working in private practice in Melbourne, Australia. He has specialised in the areas of special needs, rehabilitation and assistive technology support in education and employment for over 27 years. A teacher of 31 years, he currently works at East Burwood SDS school part time, as an ICT Teacher.

Gerry has had experience working in all states in Australia and Territories. He advises from Early Education and Pre-school through to secondary schools, having lectured to TAFE and University to under and post graduates. He frequently publishes articles and software reviews on numerous web sites and in journals and magazines.

Gerry promotes leading practice in the implementation and deployment of innovative ICT and Inclusive Technology in education and training. He consults, trains and advises parents, therapists, and other education and therapy related professionals as well as school personnel in how best to utilise and harness the features and functions of mainstream and specialised software as well as assistive device implementation.

8 Responses to SpeakComputer – Text to Speech

  1. Nan Shiels says:

    Gerry,
    I was very interested to read your latest blog about Text to speech app.
    At Rossbourne School, Hawthorn we’ve been using Readwrite software extensively and now would like to see if the developers are preparing an app that could make many of its basic functions available on ipads and macs.
    This software/app that you’ve just reviewed- is it similar in functinality to Readwrite – would be interested in your input. The main functions that our students use: Read aloud text; word predictor; highlightlighting tools when researching.
    Thanks for your feedback Gerry
    Nan Shiels

    • Gerry Kennedy says:

      Hello Nan
      Thank you for reading the article and posing this very important and relevant question. Read & Write does so much more than SpeakComputer. I consider that the basic features of Speakcomputer are very practical, functional and useful. The supports, voices, features, genres, sophistication and overall consistent design of R&W warrants higher consideration when dealing with students who have multiple literacy deficits.

      Check out Spectronics web site for Texthelp Apps as well as http://www.texthelp.com for additional background information and descriptors.

      My kind regards
      Gerry

  2. Will says:

    Hi Gerry,

    Now a days almost everyone has been using firefox an text voice expansion for firefox. I heard about some online text to speech apps and software’s that believe QR codes are today’s best media (economic, easy to manage, and quick to use) to realize the touch point between fisical and virtual world and to give objects their own voice.

    Still after reading your blog it gives me an idea how useful it is having this kind of apps would be a great help.

    • Gerry Kennedy says:

      Hi Will
      There are numerous free programs as well as plugins for Firefox, Chrome and other browsers. They all assist people who are print handicapped, vision impaired or who struggle with writing, reading and comprehending text.
      My kind regards
      Gerry.

  3. Gerry Kennedy says:

    Hi Will
    Having text to speech options in web browsers certainly assists users. There are a few worthwhile plugins for Firefox, Opera and Chrome. A generic TTS program can help users in all programs on they computer thus giving them a number of choices and greater flexibility as they work, study and research.
    My kind regards
    Gerry

  4. abhishek says:

    I like text to speech conversion tools. I use them to convert my ebooks into audio books, which I can save in my mobile and can listen it anywhere anytime. There are also some websites offering text to speech online

    • Gerry Kennedy says:

      Thank you Abhishek for your comment and link to other text-to-speech as well as conversion tools. Another great utility is the Wordtalk V4.2 plug in for MS Word that will convert text to MP3 format.
      My kind regards
      Gerry

  5. I like when I write something and it reads what I wrote.

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