TTS, or Text to speech software, is helpful for anyone who’s visually impaired, or has a condition like dyslexia that makes reading on screens tricky. It can also help overcome language barriers for people who read a language but don’t speak it, or are in the process of learning.
Text to speech software is also ideal if you want to listen to a document while doing something else, if you find it easier to retain information you’ve heard, or if you want to sense-check something you’ve written. Here are some that are helpful. They have free versions, as well as paid. I would be to your benefit to invest in software that will give you the opportunity to thrive in your work.
Easy text to speech conversion, with WAV and MP3 output
- Quick and simple to use
- Exports in WAV and MP3 formats
- Good range of input formats
As the name suggests, Panopreter Basic delivers free text to speech conversion without frills. It accepts plain and rich text files, web pages and Microsoft Word documents as input, and exports the resulting sound in both WAV and MP3 format (the two files are saved in the same location, with the same name).
The default settings work well for quick tasks, but spend a little time exploring Panopreter Basic’s Settings menu and you’ll find options to change the language, destination of saved audio files, and set custom interface colors. The software can even play a piece of music once it’s finished reading – a nice touch you won’t find in other free text-to-speech software.
If you need something more advanced, a premium version of Panopreter is available for US$29.95. This edition offers several additional features including toolbars for Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer, the ability to highlight the section of text currently being read, and extra voices.
Save text as a spoken audio file, with customizable voices
- Excellent file format support
- Lots of voices to choose from
- Bookmarking tools
There are a couple of ways to use Balabolka’s free text to speech software: you can either copy and paste text into the program, or you can open a number of supported file formats (including DOC, PDF, and HTML) in the program directly. In terms of output you can use SAPI 4 complete with eight different voices to choose from, SAPI 5 with two, or the Microsoft Speech Platform if you download and install the necessary files. Whichever route you choose, you can adjust the speech, pitch and volume of playback to create custom voice.
In addition to reading words aloud, this free text to speech software can also save narrations as audio files in a range of formats including MP3 and WAV. For lengthy documents you can create bookmarks to make it easy to jump back to a specific location and there are excellent tools on hand to help you to customize the pronunciation of words to your liking.
With all these features to make life easier when reading text on a screen isn’t an option, Balabolka is best free text to speech software around.
Free text to speech software with its own web browser
- Built-in OCR
- Choice of interfaces
- Built-in browser
Natural Reader is a free text to speech tool that can be used in a couple of ways. The first option is to load documents into its library and have them read aloud from there. This is a neat way to manage multiple files, and the number of supported file types is impressive, including ebook formats. There’s also OCR, which enables you to load up a photo or scan of text, and have it read to you.
The second option takes the form of a floating toolbar. In this mode, you can highlight text in any application and use the toolbar controls to start and customize text to speech. This means you can very easily use the feature in your web browser, word processor and a range of other programs. There’s also a built-in browser to convert web content to speech more easily.
A trusted text-to-speech app
- Widely used
- Comes with 67 voices
- Supports a range of files
- Multiple language options
Based in Germany, Linguatec is another company that’s been creating text to speech applications for a number of years, and its flagship Voice Reader software can quickly convert text into audio files.
With the standard edition costing $57 per voice, it’s a little on the expensive side – but you’re able to convert text such as Word documents, emails, EPUBs and PDFs into audio streams quickly. You can then listen to them on a PC or mobile device. What’s more, you can choose from 67 different voices, and there’s support for up to 45 languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, Danish and Turkish.
The aim of this software is to improve productivity. For instance, you can get the application to read out manuscripts for speeches, lectures or presentations to look out for incorrect word ordering or missed-out words. Overall, the user interface is sleek and easy to use. You can quickly adjust the speed, pitch or volume of audio files, and each export option is clearly listed.
Speech synthesis for the education sector
- Tailored for learning
- Integration with cloud platforms
- Education licenses are expensive
Speech synthesis applications are also popular in the education world, where they’re used to improve comprehension among other things. Capti Voice is one such effort, letting you listen to anything you want to read. With it, you can personalize learning and teaching, as well as overcome language barriers.
Positioned as an offline and online reading support solution, Capti Voice is used by a range of schools, colleges, businesses and professionals across the world. Supporting more than 20 languages, the app can be used to improve vocabulary and as part of active reading strategies. It can narrate a range of content, including ebooks, articles and web pages.
You can also use the software with cloud storage platforms such as Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox, and it’s universally accessible across a plethora of devices, content formats and age groups.
There’s a free version for personal use, which allows for a lot of features but not the higher-end ones, such as higher-quality voice samples. You got those with the Pro version, which is billed at either $1.49 per month or $17.99 annually. The Educator level is advertised as from $0.50 per student per year, but for larger schools this means the software could become quite expensive to license.