Speech synthesis has come a long way since its most famous application, giving voice to Professor Stephen Hawking, whose iconic cadence still echoes in the latest and most capable voice generators, such as Text Speaker 3.14 from DeskShare. It can read virtually any text document aloud, accurately, reliably, and pleasantly. You can configure the speaking voice to suit and download additional voices in a wide range of accents and speaking styles.
Text Speaker's efficient interface resembles a word processor but with mission-specific controls such as Voice and Pronunciation, which activate pop-up configuration dialogs. The program is easy to use: open your chosen document and press Speak, and the default voice, Microsoft Anna, reads it aloud in clear, slightly mechanical tones. Changing the voice properties is so much fun it could be a time-waster, since the speed and pitch vary from so low and slow it's almost inebriated, to fast and high enough for cartoon characters. You can also configure it to pronounce (or mispronounce!) specific words in certain ways, for regional or personal needs. It uses Lernout & Hauspie's speech engine, so there are plenty of voices in all sorts of accents and languages available online. Text Speaker has some notable extras, such as Talking Reminders and the ability to output finished audio files, making it a "virtual announcer."
Text Speaker's tutorial and user's guide are accessible from the interface and the Start Menu, and there's online assistance, too. This tool combines speech generating and text recognition technology in one useful package. We recommend it highly.Editors' note: This is a review of the full version of Text Speaker 3.14. The trial version is limited to 200 words per document.