One great use of technology is to help people with special needs. We have discussed the utility to help color-blind people. What about people with speaking or reading problems? Are there any utilities to help the mute, stutters, illiterates or terminally ill patients who have lost the ability to talk? The ability to convert text to voice will lessen the dependency, frustration, and sense of helplessness of these people.

Text to speech program for Handhelds
People with speaking disabilities who are using handhelds can try to use “TextSpeech Pro” for converting text to speech. With this utility designed for the pocket PC, users can synthesize speech from various documents such as pocket word, text, HTML, etc. This utility also allows users to modify voice qualities such as voice type, pitch, reading speed, volume, pauses between sentences, pauses before resuming the speaking voice and further tuning of the speech output using standard XML tags. Users can also instruct the program to highlight and speak only certain parts of a document and highlight the words while the speech is in progress. This unique text-to-speech program for Pocket PC is produced by Digital Future and it costs around $49.99.

Text to speech program for Laptops and Desktops
If you are using laptops and desktops, conversion from text to speech is much easier. If you are using Windows XP, you can make use of the built-in text-to-speech software. The built in software can read the texts directly from a file. Before using it, you need to enable this built-in function. To enable it, just go to “Start”, “Setting” and select “Control Panel”. Select and click “Speech”. From the “Speech Properties” windows, click on to “Text to Speech” tab. There are three types of voices in a voice selection dropdown box for you to choose. You can click the “Preview” button to test the voice quality and use the voice speed slider to control the voice speed. Once you have done that, just click apply and OK.

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After you have chosen the necessary setting on “Speech Properties”, now go and activate your Language Bar. You can display your Language Bar by pointing your mouse to the taskbar at the bottom of the desktop, right click and select “Toolbars”>”Language Bar”.
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Upon activation of your Language Bar, you will see a small blue box written “EN” in your taskbar. Click on “EN” and select “Show the Language bar”. You can see “Microphone”, “Speak”, “Handwriting” and “Drawing Pad” at the language bar. If you want to read a paragraph from your word document, just move your cursor to the beginning of the paragraph, and then click on “Speak”. The built-in text to speech software will then read out the texts. It is easy and convenient to use; most important of all, this tool is free.

However, if you are of the opinion that the built-in voices from the computer are very monotonous and digitalized, perhaps you can seek for other standalone text-to-speech programs. You can try out programs such as NeoSpeech, Acapela, RealSpeak, etc. These programs have better voice quality but the setback is they cost you money.

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