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Author Topic: Searching for the best read-aloud software  (Read 24276 times)
momonan
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« on: November 10, 2007, 08:42:51 AM »

Can anyone recommmend a good text-reading software?  I want it both to hear things read to me while I'm doing something else, and to hear foreign text read in the appropriate language.

I've looked at these:  http://naturalreaders.com and http://nextup.com but can't tell the difference.

Any suggestions will be much appreciated.
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tinjaw
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2007, 08:46:38 AM »

I have used TextAloud from nextup and like it very much. I cannot compare it with others because it is the only one of this type that I have tried.
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KenR
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2007, 09:47:33 AM »

Gee, this is interesting. I have TextAloud and was NOT that impressed with it. It is older. Perhaps the new versions are much better. I'll have to update my software and check out the difference.

Ken
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Kenneth P. Reeder, Ph.D.
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Curt
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2007, 10:08:34 AM »

My experience is that it is far more important what voice you purchase. Forget about free ones; they stink (compared to $$ versions)!
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Curt
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2007, 11:55:38 AM »

If money is an isue, and you think you can live with commercials nag messages, then you should (also) try out Cepstral's Callie. Normally it is $30, but with (oral) ads it is gratis.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2007, 11:59:57 AM by Curt » Logged
Curt
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2007, 05:13:38 PM »

On the other hand, if money is no problem, I will recommend the pro version of the first one you mentioned, the $40 Natural Reader Professional (Basic)
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nosh
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2007, 05:42:50 PM »

Try Neospeech (Kate), Realspeak (Jennifer) and Loquendo voices. Curt's right, the free voices are all crap.
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tinjaw
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2007, 09:01:40 PM »

Oh yes. I had forgotten about that. I purchased some AT&T voices that were much better than the defaults. It makes a big difference. And there are a few companies releasing new voices about every 9-12 months and they almost alway improve over the previous voices. I suggest you look at purchasing the most recent voice from one of the better known voice vendors. It will be worth the price over the lifetime that you will use them.
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BigJim
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2007, 11:56:53 PM »

I agree with most responders: TextAloud with add-in voices (read $$$) is excellent. I've been using it for years - used to have it read to me daily while driving 18 wheelers (email, news feeds, books etc.). It will also make MP3's of text for you to take away, eg. jogging, in the car and such like.

Now, if I could have only found a voice recognition package which could tolerate the varying background noise in the truck I'd have got even more done going down the road!
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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2007, 06:33:44 AM »

I have used the trial version of TextAloud and it is the best from the low-cost text-to-speech readers.

But lately I have used Balabolka ( http://www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm ), which is free and is as good as TextAloud. My preference is the voice Mike from Microsoft with the speed set to a value between [95-105] and the pitch set to a value between [135-145].

I agree that some commercial voices are much better than the free ones.

Also check Expressivo ( http://www.expressivo.com/ ), it is shareware and has english, polish and romanian voices. I have tested it only for romanian and it is very good.
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momonan
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2007, 08:47:04 AM »

Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions.  I've settled on TextAloud (asking Mike to read to me once in a while is working out -- and is excellent for help with proofreading).

I do have one other question, if you're still with me on this:

If I were to purchase a reader in one of the languages that have special characters (say, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese), does the voice read from text written in those characters, or is a transliteration to something phonetic necessary.

For example, if I wished to have a paragraph from a newspaper written in Chinese read to me, could I take the paragraph directly from a Chinese newspaper?
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BigJim
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2007, 09:16:27 AM »

I don't know the answer to your question. But I have always found the TextAloud people to be super responsive to questions and problems.

BTW: You're right! The proofreading feature in TextAloud is incredibly useful. It's amazing how many contextual errors one can make that don't trip the spell checker.
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« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2007, 01:20:32 AM »

No transliteration is necessary. But you can check this for yourself by inputting text in the languages you are interested in. Try the following links :

http://www.nuance.com/realspeak/demo/ (free registration required)

http://demo.acapela-group.com/

On a side note, Balabolka also has spellchecking capabilities in no less than 23 languages (the free dictionaries must be downloaded separately from the site).
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Dude Spell
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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2007, 02:51:49 PM »

I tested some (TextAloud included) but I finally stick to Balabolka.  Kiss
Easy to insert new pronunciation, easy to put it to work, lightweight and free. No more searching for me.  Thmbsup
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DocSavage
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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2007, 05:52:24 AM »

We have a project in progress using OmniPage (Nuance) & read this thread with interest. Thmbsup
  • We would like to add voices, but don't know where to find them.
  • Is there a compatibility problem using specific programs with voices purchased outside?
  • If we
purchase voices, do the read-aloud programs automatically see them, like fonts in word processors?
dk
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nosh
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« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2007, 09:05:00 AM »

Your installed voices should show up in the Control Panel's 'Speech' applet.
I've tried a few TTS  players and the installed voices show up fine under all of them.

I should have mentioned this earlier, DSpeech is a really nice free app in this category.



It even does some things most commercial TTS players can't (eg: recording conversations involving more than one voice).
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neel
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« Reply #16 on: November 20, 2007, 09:19:33 AM »

Just thought I would throw WordTalk into the mix.

http://www.wordtalk.org.uk

This is a macro for Microsoft Word that shows a toolbar allowing you to read word, sentence, paragraph, selection etc. It also contains a talking spell checker and a thesaurus. Originally developed to help dyslexic children by a teacher in Scotland, and distributed free to anyone who wants it. I did hear a rumour that there would be a version allowing you to save output to audio file, but I don't know if that is the version available at the moment.

It also may be worth having a browse on http://www.oatsoft.org/ for other TTS programs...

Neel
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DocSavage
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« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2007, 09:37:32 AM »

This is an excellent thread. Thanks for your responses. Can you give a couple of sites where voices are sold?
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Curt
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« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2007, 09:52:29 AM »

http://www.downloadatoz.c...atural-voices-esellerate/
+ check also http://www.naturalreaders...com/order_information.htm
+ http://www.zero2000.com/ace-buddy/index.html
+ http://www.ablereader.com/
+ many many others... [Edit: MANY others!
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nosh
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« Reply #19 on: November 20, 2007, 09:54:49 AM »

Try the Nextup link, it's mentioned in the very first post of this thread.
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DocSavage
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« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2007, 11:43:49 AM »

I looked at the links. Thanks. It looks like most small programers are reselling AT&T voices. I suppose they would have a good quality. I will be ordering new voices later today.
Thanks again.
dk
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BigJim
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« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2007, 12:03:06 PM »

DocSavage: IMHO NeoSpeach voices are a bit better than AT&T. I have them both.
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« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2007, 01:42:09 PM »

Also check out (SAPI 5 voices): Cepstral, Acapella, Loquendo, RealSpeak, Voiceware and eSpeak.


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TomColvin
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« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2007, 04:31:13 PM »

I've been using TextAloud for several years, very happy with it.

A couple years ago, I came across two voices that I lost in a computer crash -- two English schoolboys of different ages, one named, as I recall, Sean, both very good and free.  I've tried to find them again and have had no luck.  Does anyone know anything about these voices?
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Jock SNow
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« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2007, 05:27:51 PM »

As far as TextAloud is concerned, the best AT&Tvoice is without doubt the English Accent version of Audrey.   It's very easy to assume if you're a USA citazen that the natural choice should be a voice accent from your own country, but quite honestly, I'm Scottish and there isn't a good Scottish Voice accent available.   I genuinely recommend anyone to try Audrey as it is both very pleasant to listen to, easy to understand and it sounds more akin to listening to someone with an english speaking accent on the phone rather than most other voices which still seem to have a trace of the alien about them.

Preconceived ideas are nothing more than old ideas, and if we are to embrace change, we need to learn to give time, time; that is; time for time to work. Change seems to one of those things that the vast majority of people are naturally resistant to, yet when we become conscious that the more we embrace change, the more our lives become enriched.  My motto is, don't look for the differences, look for the similarities between us and change becomes much less threatening.  
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