Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Read to me. Please?

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How many parents have heard these words from our small children? “Read me a story, Daddy!” For some strange reason, we all enjoy having a story read to us from time to time. Just look at the stories we see and hear on television or movies. In some areas of the world, the Story Teller is a VERY important person, passing on tales of family and tribe. Teaching the young and reminding the older folk. It’s a basic need of he human being to learn through speech. We seem to be able to learn faster and easier through the spoken word. Of course, a lot of speeches don’t teach much (and we all know what I’m talking about).

The tradition is still very much alive and well. Libraries have story time, schools have lectures (a kind of story telling), parents read stories aloud for their young ones, and computers can tell stories, too. Oh oh! I just saw an eyebrow or two jump into a hairline on that last one. Now, calm down over there. It’s true! Yes, you can get your computer to talk to you, and for free. Oops! There it went again!

In all fairness, I had mentioned in a previous posting here, that Adobe Reader release 7 could read text aloud from PDF documents. Right? Well there are other programs that will read other things like eMail, eBooks, and almost any text you could display on the computer’s monitor.

It’s fun time again, folks. Time to go digging around in the archives to see what we can find! I went hunting today when my Sister mentioned the need for a reliable Text-to Speech program for visually impaired folk and Special Needs children. Well, guess what Sis! I found a bunch of them! Our favorite download sites (Downloads.com and Tucows.com – Link in the side bar over there under Helpful Links ) have so many, I’m only going to get you started. Downloads.com has over 200+ items in the list when you use ‘Speech’ as search criteria. A lot of them look like fun to play with and a lot are priced. A few, though, are free. There’s even one that will let you make a photograph talk to you. The two I’m featuring here are both free and have some interesting features.

The first, Natural text to speech Standard lets your computer read any part of the news, weather forecasts, e-books, and your e-mail. Or even a Blog like this! The application also can read Word documents, rich-text files, and PDF files. The speaking speed and voice quality can be changed. The application is very easy to use, just one click, you can have your computer read any selected text from any program aloud without having to copy and paste the text from other programs.

The next one, Ultra Hal Text-to Speech, will read your documents out loud in one of its many high quality voices. This can be a great tool for proof reading because hearing your text out loud helps you spot all mistakes. This program can also be used for reading e-books, reading clipboard content, speaking instant messages, and much more. It is also able to save its output as a WAV file which can be converted into MP3. This would be great for reading stories to small children. Copy the MP3 to an iPod or to CD and it can be played over and over again or whenever it was wanted. It would also be useful from those times when you don’t have a computer handy and yet you still want to listen to the stories. When traveling, or outdoors, or anywhere away for the computer.
This subject will be fun for all of you to get involved in! Tell you what. When your casting around, looking for something to do, why not take a stab at finding THE! FREE! Text-to-Speech Application. Go Hunting and see what you find! Be sure to let me know what you find by using the comments. They will show up at he bottom of the posting and YOU could help the rest of the folks. Now, is that neat or what!

Have Fun!