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The Best Text to Speech (TTS) Software Programs and Online Tools

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Text to Speech (TTS) software allows you to have text read aloud to you. This is useful for struggling readers and for writers, when editing and revising their work. You can also convert eBooks to audiobooks so you can listen to them on long drives.

We’ve posted some websites here where you can find some good TTS software programs and online tools that are free or at least have free versions available.

NaturalReader

NaturalReader is a free TTS program that allows you to read aloud any text. The free version of the software converts Microsoft Word files, webpages, PDF files, and emails into spoken words. It includes Microsoft Voices and allows you to change voices and adjust the reading speed. Simply select any text and press one hotkey to have NaturalReader read the text to you. There are also paid versions that offer more features and more available voices.

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Ultra Hal TTS Reader

Ultra Hal TTS Reader is a program that will read text out loud in one of its many high quality voices. The free version includes many high quality computerized voices and reads text files out loud, as well as instant messages, standard Windows dialogs, and text from the clipboard, which allows the program to read text from webpages and emails. You can also use Ultra HAL TTS Reader to convert a document into a WAV audio file, which can be burned to a CD or converted to an MP3 file.

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ReadClip

ReadClip is a TTS reader that also offers a rich text editor that can read and spell check any text document, and allows you to manage several text and picture clips on the clipboard, and generate MP3 files. The TTS reader part of the software is free and will never expire. However, the other features are “try before you buy” features and you must buy the software to continue using them. You can keep the TTS reader hidden or it can display the text it’s reading in the clipboard and highlight each word as it’s read aloud. Besides monitoring the clipboard, you can also copy and paste text into the program, or type the text into the program, or load the text from a file.

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Read4Me TTS Clipboard Reader

The Read4Me TTS Clipboard Reader allows you to read the contents of the clipboard aloud using a pre-installed SAPI5 TTS voice when you press a hotkey. Multiple hotkeys can be set for different languages, voices, speech rates, and volumes. Read4Me can also convert text files to MP3 files.

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Kyrathasoft Text To Speech

Kyrathasoft Text To Speech is a portable program that allows you to use the default installed Microsoft Voice and SAPI to convert text files to the spoken word, that it saves into a WAV audio file. It is completely free and fully functional. There is no evaluation period and no crippled features.

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FeyRecorder

FeyRecorder is a TTS conversion tool with natural voices that allows you to listen to any text document spoken aloud. You can also use the software to convert other sound sources into audio files, such as CDs, tapes, DVDs, online radio, and video games. The formats FeyRecorder can generate include MP3, WMA, OGG, VOX, AU, and AIFF. The audio files can be transferred to any portable device that handles them for on-the-go listening.

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yRead

yRead3 allows you to load a plain text (TXT) file in a resizable window to be read out loud using human speech. Use yRead to listen to eBooks, your own writing, or any other piece of text.

yRead3 is an updated version of the software that runs on XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and requires at least .NET Framework 3.0 to run. You can also download yRead2 and run both versions on the same computer.

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Panopreter

The free version of Panopreter Basic will read a text file, an RTF file, an MS Word document, or an HTML webpage to you aloud. You can also input text into the program window to be read aloud. It supports a variety of languages and voices and allows you to create WAV audio files and MP3 audio files from the text.

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Text2Speech

Text2Speech is a free program that converts text into audible speech. You can play the text at a custom rate and volume, have the text be highlighted as it’s read, and export the text into a WAV file or an MP3 file. The program required .NET Framework 2.0 to run.

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DeskBot

DeskBot is a free program that includes a clipboard reader, text reader, and time announcer for Windows. Select text in any application and press Ctrl + C to have it read aloud. For available commands and options, right-click on the DeskBot icon in the system tray. DeskBot will also read the contents of the clipboard when it changes.

DeskBot adds a “Read with DeskBot” item to the Internet Explorer context menu, when you right-click on a webpage.

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PowerTalk

PowerTalk is a free program that allows you to have your Microsoft PowerPoint presentations spoken out loud. When you open a PowerPoint presentation and let it run as usual, PowerTalk speaks the text on the slides as it appears, and also hidden text attached to images. The speech in PowerTalk is provided by synthesized computer voices that come with Windows 7, Vista, and XP.

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ClipSpeak

ClipSpeak is a small, portable, TTS tool that speaks text copied or cut to the clipboard. It’s compatible with all SAPI5 speech synthesizers. You can also use ClipSpeak to convert text to MP3 files for listening to on CDs, computers, smartphones, and portable media players. If you want other languages, look at eSpeak, which is a compact, open source speech synthesizer for English and other languages that works in Windows and Linux.

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DSpeech

DSpeech is a free, portable TTS program that can read written text files in different formats aloud (such as TXT, RTF, DOC, DOCX, and HTML files) and also has Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) functionality. The ASR allows you to use DSpeech to convert your own voice to text.

DSpeech allows you to save the output as a WAV, MP3, AAC, WMA, or OGG file. You can select different voices, or combine them to create dialogs among different voices for books or scripts, and DSpeech is compatible with all the vocal engines (SAPI4 and SAPI5 compliant). You can also have the content of the clipboard read to you.

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Balabolka

Balabolka is a TTS program that allows you to read clipboard content and text from several types of files, such as DOC, EPUB, HTML, MOBI, LIT, CHM, PRC, PDF, and RTF files. The program uses various versions of the Microsoft Speech API (SAPI). This allows you to change a voice’s parameters, including rate and pitch.

To use the Microsoft SAPI4 voices, download and install the Microsoft Speech API file. You can also download the MS Speech Control Panel for the Windows Control Panel that allows you to easily list the compatible TTS engines installed on your system and customize their settings.

Balabolka also allows you to create digital audio files from text, including MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, AAC, and AMR (Adaptive Multi-Rate).

One interesting feature of Balabolka is that you can save subtitled text in the LRC format or in the metadata of the audio file. This allows you to follow along with the text as the audio plays.

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ReadTheWords.com

ReadTheWords.com is an online TTS tool that can generate a clear sounding audio file from almost any written material. Simply copy text from your file into their text box, or upload a Microsoft Office document, PDF file, TXT file, or HTML document. You can also enter a web address, or RSS feed URL, and ReadTheWords.com will read the text from that webpage or RSS feed out loud.

ReadTheWords.com allows you to save what it’s reading. You can download it to your computer or portable music player or smartphone. You can even embed the file in your website.

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Odiogo

Odiogo allows you to create TTS podcasts from RSS feeds that can be downloaded to a PC, iPods/MP3 players, and mobile phones. People wanting to listen to your content can subscribe to your podcasts through iTunes, iPodder, or other similar services. You can also promote your audio content on podcast directories.

If you run a blog, you can have your blog posts turned into high quality audio files. Odiogo is compatible with all blog engines that publish RSS feeds, such as WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger. They generate MP3 files that are stored on their servers, and they let you know when the audio version of your blog is ready.

You can also make money from embedded ads in the audio versions of your blog posts and RSS feeds.

NOTE: As of the writing of this article, Odiogo was upgrading their service and they were not accepting new signups.

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TTSReader

TTSReader is a free, TTS program that allows you to read TXT files or RTF files aloud and save them to WAV or MP3 files. It highlights the text being currently read and allows you to skip sentences or paragraphs while reading. TTSReader supports rich text formatting and both SAPI4 and SAPI5 voices. It can automatically read what’s in the clipboard and you can convert multiple documents to audio at a time.

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TTS Add-ons for Browsers

You can also read text using add-ons or extensions in web browsers.

  • SpeakIt! – SpeakIt for Google Chrome reads selected text using TTS technology with language auto-detection. It can read text in more than 50 languages.
  • FoxVox – FoxVox for Firefox allows you to turn your blogs and articles into podcasts. It speaks any text you highlight in a webpage, and it can create audiobooks from the text in MP3, OGG, and WAV formats.
  • SpokenText – The SpokenText Firefox extension allows you to easily record any text on public webpages simply by clicking a Record Web Page button on the toolbar. This extension is also available for Chrome.
  • SpeakingFox – The SpeakingFox add-on for Firefox for Mac OS X converts text to audible speech.

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Simultaneous Stanza Reader – For Mac

Simultaneous Stanza Reader for Mac OS X is a free, TTS reader that reads text files aloud and displays the text stanza-after-stanza. You can easily use this program to read books from Project Gutenberg aloud.

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If you’ve found any other useful TTS readers, let us know.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 09/29/12

Comments (18)

  1. lotech
  2. Speckz

    http://www.nextup.com/TextAloud/ while not free is great.

  3. R. Adam Quigley

    You missed http://www.ivona.com/en/ and http://guile3d.com/en/. I have MS and I am legally blind so I use a lot of the programs. Good to see them being put out there for people to know about.

  4. Aviad

    My brother & I have been using TTS for 18 years now…
    We’ve found 2nd Speech Center (http://www.zero2000.com/2nd-speech-center/) to be a good solution.

    It can read from the clipboard and has hot-keys to invoke many of its function including but not limited to “start reading the clipboard” (ctrl+alt+e) and “stop reading” (ctrl+alt+c).

    I’ve also managed to use the program with the global hot-keys, in Linux under WINE.

  5. Aviad

    Oh, and thank you Lori,
    I’ve taken Balabolka & TTSReader for a spin, and I’m seriously considering for at least one of them to replace 2nd Speech Center forever.

  6. Stav

    Wow! what a comprehensive article!
    I’ve replaced my long time standing champion (2nd Speech Center) with TTSReader and i’m quite pleased with the results :)
    Thanks Lori!

  7. Marie Dees

    I’ve been using Natural Reader and reading this article thought I might give UltraHal a try. I’m now stripping the packaged search tool that installs with the program, even when you tell it not to, from my system. I haven’t tried the tool yet, but they have less than ideal download processes.

  8. Howard

    I have been using Balabolka in addition to an open-source screen-reader named NVDA (non-visual desktop access) for about 3 years in a Lions Club Project where I teach visually-handicapped people to use their computers. Balabolka is pretty simple to use, does not interfere with NVDA, and has some features that make listening to e-books a bit easier than will NVDA. The controls are fairly intuitive, and resemble a typical media player, plus it allows multiple bookmarks.

  9. beergas

    Thanks a lot. Might come in handy for running on some background pieces while staying in the immediate foreground focus. Will see if can have some read NY Times articles & summaries rather than plow thru them. I’m pretty visually intense tho and tend to lose track of background sounds that become a drone. Males aren’t best at multi tasking that way.

  10. Tom Dixon

    When trying to learn japanese or chinese, one of the biggest problems is reading the Kanji. Even if you get accustomed to understanding the spoken language, reading it is a major problem. A simple japanese or chinese TTS helped me learn much faster. You’ll be able to understand what you read as well as what you hear. Of course, writing is another problem……

  11. Dic

    Do any of these have plain-speaking readers (i.e. non-national-, non-regional-accent, old-style BBC RP, if you like)?

  12. Bill

    what about for mobile phones and Android? Any good readers as that’s where I have my epub collection…

  13. Xaltar
  14. decarabas

    Does any TTS reader really sound the way a native speaker would reading the same text? I’m thinking in particular of essayistic prose, or any prose that is sensitive to the rhythms of idiomatic speech. In my admittedly brief experience computer TTS has never been able to mimic any but the most basic diction, its phrasing appropriate only to lists and catalogues. Reading novels is a task well beyond the capacity of any of the programs I’ve tried. Have I just not tried the right one? I have an Android tablet stuffed full of reading matter and I would love to have some of it read to me as I drive my car. But each time I’ve tried it I have stopped the reading in a minute or two rather than listen to a drivelling robot. No matter how lifelike its voice tones may be for each syllable, the overall effect is empty and antihuman.

  15. Ravinder

    Does anyone here know about speech t text converters ???

  16. Daniel

    It is ironic. I am reading this article with a screen reader. A screen reader is a specialized TTS program designed to be used by blind and low vision computer users. Not only does it read text, but also menus and the like. Of course, as I type, the voice synthesizer outputs in audio form what I am writing.

    I like the idea of converting TTS output into audio files. Until I came across this article, the only service that I knew of that does this is RoboBraille, a Danish project that converts various text formats into various audio formats, including a special kind of audio format (DAISY) that the blind use to play audio books and other documents.

    Were it not for the fact that screen readers are not perfect and we want the various companies that produce them to fix the bugs they have, adding a utility to convert text to audio files would add a nice touch. But that will have to wait for now.

  17. james

    What’s the best one? LOL

  18. Juan Dominion

    Hello,

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together. It is a great resource that was very much needed. I will share it with several of the forums that I am on, where people are looking for these types of TTS applications.

    Take good care and Happy Holidays!

    ~Antonio

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