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Author Topic: Searching for the best read-aloud software  (Read 26754 times)
Ralf Maximus
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« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2007, 07:05:59 PM »

I'm not interested until I can get one that sounds like Christopher Walken.
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Armando
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« Reply #26 on: December 06, 2007, 07:46:44 PM »

It [Textaloud] will also make MP3's of text for you to take away, eg. jogging, in the car and such like.

That is really cool. Is TextAloud the only one to provide that feature ?
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« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2007, 01:29:08 AM »

Is TextAloud the only one to provide that feature ?

Nope. It's more of a standard feature. Most of them support it, IIRC. Take a look at 2nd Speech Center.

 
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Grorgy
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« Reply #28 on: December 07, 2007, 02:41:07 AM »

www.bitsdujour.com have 2nd speech centre 50% off today ($19.98) so now would be a good time to look at it if you are interested
« Last Edit: December 07, 2007, 02:45:20 AM by Grorgy » Logged
Armando
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« Reply #29 on: December 07, 2007, 10:29:13 AM »

Thanks  thumbs up
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« Reply #30 on: December 20, 2007, 02:27:35 AM »

A free copy of TextAloud 2.266 is available on G.O.T.D.

For those of you interested but not familiar with G.O.T.D, the offers will last just a few hours, so act fast.
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marjorie
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« Reply #31 on: January 02, 2008, 11:03:49 PM »

The best reviews I have found of speech synthesizers (the voices) is by a Finnish guy, Veli-Pekka Tätilä, who has limited sight: http://www.student.oulu.f...ews_of_speech_synths.html

He also has a review of TextAloud:  http://www.student.oulu.f.../review_of_textaloud.html
This may be a proxy server that I have access to because I am also a student.  If you have trouble accessing the links, let me know.

When I tried the free version of Natural Reader, I did not like that they had some graphics at the bottom of the page that would obstruct the last few sentences of text when the voice was reading.  I did like that they highlighted the sentence being read and also the individual word that was being read. 

I also object to their pricing.  They have three or four levels of software.  They are running a special price now, which makes their software more in line with other programs.  The free version, like all free versions, does not include any voice that has to be licensed.  All licensed voices have a cost.  The Microsoft voices are free.  The voices that are licensed are generally better sounding. 

Their next version called the Professional ($49.50) can record .wav files only, has 2 voices (voices often cost $25 to $30 each so that is included), and I believe there is a file size limit.  The Professional version also includes a Microsoft Office add-in that appears in the menu bar of Office programs.  I did not get to see how it works and wonder if the sentence and words are highlighted as they are in their reader.   I hope one of you who is using the program can shed some light on this question.

The enterprise version ($99.50) includes 2 more voices,  an audio recorder and editor, a way to combine audio files into one larger file, XML support, and a batch file converter.  I did not try this version.  I only tried the free version.  You don't need the audio recorder and editor or converter.  Audacity does a wonderful job of all these tasks and more.  But then what you are really paying for is the four voices.  They push the AT&T Natural Voices but also have the NeoSpeech voices.

When I compared this data with TextAloud ($29.95 with only the free Microsoft voices, you pay for any addtional voices you want), I found that you get just about everything that Natural Reader has in their enterprise package.  After checking all the sound files that the Finnish guy, Vellu, made of different synthesizers (voices), I knew I wanted Acapela's Heather voice.  The AT&T Audrey voice is also nice.  By the way, he had each voice read the same section of literature for his comparisons.  Most of the voices that TextAloud offers on their web site will work with any software once you install the voice on your computer.  The Acapela voices, however, are only licensed to be used with TextAloud.  If you want to use them with other software, you have to make another arrangement with Acapela.  I downloaded the free version, then decided to hear it with Heather.  When I purchased the Heather voice, I was offered the opportunity to buy TextAloud with the voice with a $5.00 discount.  Nice touch!

When I downloaded the Free version of TextAloud, I also downloaded the manual which comes with audio-recorded files that read the whole text.  By the way, the free version is the same as the paid version with a time limit.  TextAloud saves files as .wav, .mp3, and .wma right out of the box.  You select the speak-to-file button to record.  Again, if I need a recorder/editor, I would use Audacity, which is an excellent open source program.  TextAloud installs itself on the browser menu bar with a speak and stop button, making it very convenient.  You highlight what you want read and hit speak.  Other controls such as speed, volume, pitch, and selection of voice are set within the TextAloud program where you go to make changes.

When you listen to a reading inside TextAloud, the only thing tracked is the word being spoken (the sentence is not highlighted as in Natural Reader).  When Text is spoken from the browser, there is no tracking.  I sometimes lose the place, so I miss this.   If a lot of distracting action is going on around me, I copy the text, a pop up box asks me if I want to put the text in TextAloud as a continuing or new document.  Then I listen inside of TextAloud to take advantage of the tracking.  Also, TextAloud has a feature where the reading will begin at the cursor.  This is a very handy feature when you are proofreading, as you can stop the reading, make corrections, and put the cursor where you want to pick up and continue listening.

If one of you has been using Natrual Reader or any other reader, I would like to know if they track the words outside of the main software.  Also, do other programs highlight the sentence as the reading is going on with the individual word also being highlighted (as Natural Reader does).  The Finnish guy Vellu, also suggests that a good program would have easy navigation for moving through a paragraph sentence by sentence and moving through a document paragraph by paragraph.  I liked his suggestions and recommended them to  NextUp.

The business of picking voices takes some study.  Not only do different voices come from different companies, but also they come as 8 or 16 kHz.  TextAloud says you should use an 8 kHZ voice if you will be using the voice over the telephone, such as for delivering your answering message.  Also, the voices come as SAPI-4 or SAPI-5 compliant.  TextAloud handles both SAPI standards.  You can set the SAPI to be only 4 or only 5 or both.  SAPI-5 voices are supposed to be pitch adjustable, but Heather is not.  I am not sure why, but maybe that is part of the licensing arrangement with TextAloud.  Since the synthesizer voice is what you will be listening to for long periods of time, you should take some time to study the voices.  The TextAloud voice page is http://www.nextup.com/Tex.../SpeechEngine/voices.html
At the beginning of this entry, I gave the site of Vellu (Finnish guy), but I noticed today that I had to give my proxy server info to access his page.  Since I usually already have the proxy info in the browser, I had not realized it was necessary before today.

One thing I definitely do not like about TextAloud is that they offer multiple readers for various content.  Crazy!!  If it reads, it should read everything:  news, weather, stocks, RSS.  I should not have to purchase separate programs by content.  A person who needs to have the software to speak for them should not have to buy a separate software.  Natural Reader also writes that their software can be used by people who need to be able to speak and can't.  In this case, to speak over the telephone, it appears that an 8kHz voice needs to be purchased.

Because of what was said in this forum about Experssivo [http://www.expressivo.com/experience/ideas_and_description.html], I looked at it today.  It is very impressive.  I have not heard the voice Jennifer before, but it was very pleasant.  I will have to look at it later so I can spend more time with it.  All three of the programs mentioned here have a good rating of 5 cows at TUCOWS.  However, TUCOWS does not have the latest version of TextAloud.

I look forward to hearing what some of you have found in using other programs.

Marjorie

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CodeTRUCKER
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« Reply #32 on: January 03, 2008, 03:17:20 AM »

Hmmmm.... my experience with NaturalReader was a positive one.   huh
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 10:47:52 PM by CodeTRUCKER » Logged

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Truth, unlike opinion, tradition, etc. will always be able to stand on its own.  Truth is not a static, but a living entity and will perpetually impart life; therefore, any "truth" that does not or can not impart life can not be Truth.

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CodeTRUCKER
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« Reply #33 on: January 03, 2008, 03:36:40 AM »

Even as a trucker I never had anything but good success.   

It will learn to "hear" your rolling-down-the-road voice bumps, creaks, krankles(yes, I know this isn't a real word, but you know the sound)  and bangs included
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 10:51:42 PM by CodeTRUCKER » Logged

I applaud those that refuse to commit "intellectual suicide."

Truth, unlike opinion, tradition, etc. will always be able to stand on its own.  Truth is not a static, but a living entity and will perpetually impart life; therefore, any "truth" that does not or can not impart life can not be Truth.

I am persuaded the only reason bad men have succeeded is not because good men have done nothing, but that good men did not do enough.

An Open Letter to My Friends


Notice: - Unless stated otherwise, I receive no compensation for anything I post here.
BigJim
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« Reply #34 on: January 03, 2008, 08:19:07 AM »

It will lear to "hear" your rolling-down-the-road voice bumps, creaks, krankles(yes, I know this isn't a real word, but you know the sound)  and bangs included

That's great to hear! Those long hours behind the wheel - especially way out west - are such a valuable time resource. And since the brain is fully engaged anyway it's so cool to be able to capture all those thoughts.

On the other hand, the noise level in your shiny new Volvo is, I'll bet, a far cry from my old '92 Freightshaker flattop with it's big yellow, thirsty CAT. It was much earlier days in terms of processing  power, too.

Keep on truckin'! This is a whole new way to ratchejaw   lol
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Armando
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« Reply #35 on: January 03, 2008, 10:01:24 AM »



Marjorie



Wow, what a long first post Marjorie! interesting stuff.
Welcome aboard.
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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2008, 11:48:34 AM »

Maybe it is too long for people to digest.  Sorry.  I do hope that people with experience of other text-to-speech software will be able to answer some of my questions.

Because of CodeTRUCKER's seconding the usefulness of Natural Reader, I have reinstalled the free version on my computer with TextAloud still running.  I discovered some errors in what I said before.  Natural Reader will record both a .wav and a .mp3 file in the professional version.  It also shows an .mp3 record button on the free version, though I have not used it yet. 

I can now be specific about the annoying graphics that block the view of the last few lines:  4 buttons:  two for hearing the NeoSpeech voices of Paul and Kate, one labeled "more voices," and one labeled "go to miniboard."  The miniboard is a way to easily access the program while the main program is minimized.  Also, I tested Natural Reader's ability to read from the cursor.  All you have to do is insert the cursor where you want to start and click the play button.  Nice!

Well, I just got some answers to my questions.  Somehow I had missed the demo page on the Natural Reader web site.  Wow!  While the voice is reading to you from text copied inside the program, you can click a back or rewind button (there is also a fast forward button) and the highlighter will move back to the previous sentence each time you press that button.  So it is very easy to have the program repeat the previous sentence when you want to check what you just heard.  I find that as I am reading, people or even my own thoughts distract me and I need to go back to hear the previous sentence.  I really like this feature!!  I'll have to write Vellu to tell him.

Best of all, in the demos, they show the software tracking the words outside of the program.  In all cases shown (Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and pdf), there is tracking.  In some cases (Word), It appears to also be highlighting the sentence and tracking.  That may be an illusion as they highlighted the text to be read first.  Unfortunately, when I used the miniboard to proofread this post, I found that the words were not tracked as they were read.  Maybe there is no tracking because I use Firefox.  Also, Natural Reader did not read the entire post that I had highlighted.  I remember reading somewhere that the reading selection in Natural Reader was limited to a certain number of characters.  That character limit possibility was reinforced by Natural Reader stopping in the middle of a word the second time I had it read part of this post.  It seems that when I highlight a section, that is put in the "memory" of the miniboard.  I can undo the selection while it is being read and there is no change in the reading.  Maybe I should limit the length of my posts to what Natural Reader will read for me!  cheesy

Also, in the demo, instead of 4 tacky buttons at the bottom, there is only 1 for the miniboard.  At least it is located on the far right and is not as tall as the other buttons.  Hopefully, the three additional buttons are only a feature of the free version.

The reason that XML is a benefit in the enterprise version is that Natural Reader has buttons that insert the XML code so that you can use different voices or pauses in reading a selection.  This is a nice touch for dialog, especially if you are making a recording to add to a PowerPoint presentation.

So, Armando, I have been studying these types of programs for the past few weeks as I have a real need for them in graduate school.  I would prefer not to buy all of them, but I want what will really work.  Also, I would like to correct the lack of good reviews of this type of software that seems to be the present case on the Internet.

Best wishes,
Marjorie
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BigJim
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« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2008, 12:44:54 PM »

Bravo, Marjorie!! Thanks for taking the time to share your investigations so thoroughly. I, for one, have found it quite valuable.
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« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2008, 01:08:14 PM »

Yes, thanks Marjorie, it's not too long : after reading your post and the link your referred to http://www.student.oulu.f...ews_of_speech_synths.html
I've decided to listen to the Acapela voices (Heather in particular), and I'm very impressed. It's probably the most natural voice I've heard until now. Thanks a lot for all that info!
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« Reply #39 on: January 03, 2008, 02:26:19 PM »

Marjorie,

Glad you were able to take a second look.  All the best in your scholarly endeavors.  Thmbsup
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 10:36:07 PM by CodeTRUCKER » Logged

I applaud those that refuse to commit "intellectual suicide."

Truth, unlike opinion, tradition, etc. will always be able to stand on its own.  Truth is not a static, but a living entity and will perpetually impart life; therefore, any "truth" that does not or can not impart life can not be Truth.

I am persuaded the only reason bad men have succeeded is not because good men have done nothing, but that good men did not do enough.

An Open Letter to My Friends


Notice: - Unless stated otherwise, I receive no compensation for anything I post here.
CodeTRUCKER
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« Reply #40 on: January 03, 2008, 02:27:04 PM »

I too am grateful for your thorough relation of what you have learned.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 10:37:19 PM by CodeTRUCKER » Logged

I applaud those that refuse to commit "intellectual suicide."

Truth, unlike opinion, tradition, etc. will always be able to stand on its own.  Truth is not a static, but a living entity and will perpetually impart life; therefore, any "truth" that does not or can not impart life can not be Truth.

I am persuaded the only reason bad men have succeeded is not because good men have done nothing, but that good men did not do enough.

An Open Letter to My Friends


Notice: - Unless stated otherwise, I receive no compensation for anything I post here.
marjorie
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« Reply #41 on: January 03, 2008, 02:49:42 PM »

I was just looking at TextAloud again.  The basic version that I got with the Heather voice for a $5 discount can change voices and insert pauses just like the Natural Reader's enterprise version that is available for a special price of only $99.50!  In TextAloud, you have to have the settings to SAPI5 only to change voices in a document.  You access the controls in the Edit menu's sixth section from the top or probably more easily, the third section from the bottom.  The commands, Insert Pause and Insert Voice Change, automatically insert the XML to do your bidding.  Of course, be sure the cursor is located where you want the change to occur.

I am still debating if it is worth $99.50 to get sentence by sentence navigation.

Best wishes,
Marjorie
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marjorie
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« Reply #42 on: January 03, 2008, 04:51:18 PM »

I owe some thanks here to the people of this forum.

nosh has introduced me to Loquendo Voices (excellent at http://www.loquendo.com/en/demos/demo_tts.htm), DSpeech, and G.O.T.D.  At the site for DSpeech I learned that Windows XP does not have SAPI4, which explains why all those free voices have not been available to me.  I installed the SAPI4 file given on the DSpeech page (http://dimio.altervista.org/eng/), but maybe I have to restart for it to take effect.  G.O.T.D. turns out to be a wonderful source for reviews of software that was given out free.  I have made a note of it so I can remember to check there in the future (http://www.giveawayofthed.../textaloud-2266/#comments).

muntealb introduced me to Balabolka (http://www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm) which is now installed on my computer.  It was listed on TUCOWS (http://www.tucows.com/Win...Video/Audio/TextToSpeech/), but was not rated so I did not check it out previously.  DSpeech is also there not rated.  In my brief look at Balabolka, it seems up to the competition.  As it reads the text, the letters change from black to blue so it is easy to track where the reader is.  I'll report more later.  muntealb also introduced me to Expressivo, which is on the TUCOWS list and is rated with the highest 5-cow rating.  I don't have any good reason for not noticing it before other than overload (for $49 at http://www.expressivo.com...deas_and_description.html).  I really like the Jennifer voice.  Maybe I can get the voice to use.  In time I will check out the program more fully.  By the way, at TUCOWS you can get the program for $29 (http://www.tucows.com/preview/514550).

muntealb also introduced me to Nuance, which was reinforced by Doc Savage's comments.  But I am in total overload now so I need to digest some of this.

neel spoke of wordtalk, a MS Word macro, but I have not been able to get into the web site given (connection timed out http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/).

curt is a person who uses very few words to give lots of links to voices and additional TTS programs.

Jock Snow, Vellu (the Finnish guy), and I agree that Audrey is probably the best AT&T voice.  It is not because she has an English accent.  It is because Audrey has a clear voice with very pleasant tones.

And thanks to Grorgy for introducing me to Bits du Jour.  I bought the planning software that was offered today (http://www.bitsdujour.com/).  I am hoping it will help me with lesson planning in my teaching job, which has become very complicated of late.

In short, I am happy to be a part of this community.  I have learned a lot!

Best wishes,
Marjorie
« Last Edit: January 03, 2008, 06:13:46 PM by marjorie » Logged
marjorie
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« Reply #43 on: January 03, 2008, 05:00:59 PM »

In my thanks, I left out Mouser who gave me a link to this thread in an email.

Thank you all,
Marjorie
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AHMalik
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« Reply #44 on: July 28, 2009, 08:03:17 PM »

Regards.
Text Aloud sometime back offered by giveawayoftheday.com is also a good SW & have the facillity of your own vioces

it is from nextup.com shareware.
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« Reply #45 on: July 29, 2009, 08:45:44 PM »

as simple and effective as it gets
http://www.speaktools.com/
enjoy
okfj
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