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Searching for the best read-aloud software

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-marjorie (January 02, 2008, 11:03 PM)
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Wow, what a long first post Marjorie! interesting stuff.
Welcome aboard.

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!  :D

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,

Bravo, Marjorie!! Thanks for taking the time to share your investigations so thoroughly. I, for one, have found it quite valuable.

Yes, thanks Marjorie, it's not too long : after reading your post and the link your referred to
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!


Glad you were able to take a second look.  All the best in your scholarly endeavors.  :Thmbsup:


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