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©2005 Keith R. George, Jr -- fair use applies.
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Joy of Text-To-Speech

Here's a cool tip for people who can't stand to read computer manuals: get your computer to read the manual to you! Text-to-speech programs are available for all popular computer platforms, and are a great study aid. If you can find the documentation you want in HTML, you can get your computer to read it to you while you do your housework, or to aid in pacing and comprehension as you read along.

The TTS program that I like to run on Linux is Festival, which runs at the command line. If Festival is installed, you can make your computer read any text file by using cd to go to the directory that contains the file, and typing the following command:

$festival --tts filename.txt

Of course, you can easily convert any webpage from html into a text file by simply copying and pasting into an editior and saving as text. Festival's metallic robot voice may take some getting used to, but it can be done.

Besides Festival, there's also a text-to-speech application available for Linux called Emacspeak, which, for all I know, has something to do with Emacs.

It pains me to say this, but the best text-to-speech program that I've ever run is a Windows program called ReadPlease. As I've said a hundred times before, ReadPlease is the only Windows program that I miss. It looks great, features a choice of voices, and sounds superior to Festival. It features a brisk, lilting cadence that reminds me of of Iambic Pentameter. Best of all, there's another version of Read Please available that works as a plug-in for Internet Explorer and can turn an entire webpage into an mp3 in just a few seconds. I've been known to install a Windows partition just so I can use the one month free sample version of the Plugin to record a decent-sounding mp3 version of web documentation, which I burn to CD ROMs and play on my Linux system, or in my portable MP3 player.


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