Friday, February 1, 2008

Make Your Computer Read To You!

Did you know that you can get your computer to read out loud to you? Because photography and many other computer related jobs involve a lot of work on our eyes, our ears are often free to listen and learn while our eyes perform mundane tasks like editing or tweaking. Once you've discovered the joy of having someone (er... someTHING) else read to you, you may never want to read another long article or email by yourself again! It's also a great way to proof-read your work, since your ears may hear something that your eyes missed while typing. On a personal level, I have mild dyslexia, and have found this to be one way for me to reduce my frustration while reading large amounts of text.

Feedblitz Reader
If you've subscribed to this feed via email through Feedblitz, scroll to the bottom of the email and you should see a little speaker icon next to the "related" link. Click on the speaker and let the electronic voice read this blog to you! If the voice you hear isn't for you, you may have other, easier-on-the-ear voices pre-programmed into your computer!

Mac Users
I've been using the Mac Speech application for a long time now and I love it! On most macs, all you have to do is select a set of text and then click on the Application menu-> Services-> Speech-> Start Speaking Text. I have to say that Leopard's new "Alex" voice is the best voice yet and the closest to our natural speaking patterns, but you have many others to choose from, which you can see by going to System Preferences -> Speech -> System Voice. You can also set your own, easy to remember quick key to turn the speech options on or off by using the "set key" preferences.


If you want to get really fancy-shmancy, Mac even lets you adjust the rate, pitch, and volume of the VoiceOver Utility!


PC Users
I'm not a PC user, so rather than attempt to describe something I'm unfamiliar with, I'm simply going to link to the useful sites I found for enabling your text-to-speech capabilities..
Windows XP
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306902
Windows Vista
http://www.microsoft.com/enable/training/windowsvista/narrator.aspx

Adobe PDF
Adobe Reader also has built-in text-to-speech, Read Out Loud capability..
http://www.writersservices.com/www/w_make_pdfs_speak.htm

Natural Voices
After doing quite a bit of searching, I've concluded that many of the commercially available speech-to-text programs out there simply utilize the main operating system's installed voices (and charge you extra!) However, I was able to find two websites that seem to be the best resource for natural sounding TTS voices, and some even have foreign accents!
http://www.nextup.com for PC Users
http://www.ablereader.com for Mac Users

So, the next time a really long email, PDF, or Blog post comes your way, try listening to it instead and see if it makes life just a little easier for you!

3 comments:

  1. I have a Mac and I had no idea! Thank you! By reading your blog today, I think it just may have saved me a long time! lol
    Cheerio
    -Melissa E Earle

    ReplyDelete
  2. me aussi! i just google'd something about 'reading your computer' and this tip will help me tons! thanks!

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  3. i dont have a mac how can i do this?

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