If you type ‘text to speech’ into your preferred search engine, you’ll receive a large number of results. Text-to-speech applications nowadays come embedded in different devices (computers, smart phones, tablets, e-readers, and more), and consequently, you may wonder why you should pay for an additional text-to-speech service.
Compounding the issue, should you go looking for an additional text-to-speech service, there are many different price points, ranging from free to very expensive, from a one-off license fee to an annual licensing fee.
Text to speech in your device
The text-to-speech engine available in your device can offer the perfect solution for some. For example, Macintosh computers offer ‘VoiceOver’ (command + F5) which speaks descriptions of items and allows the user to navigate via the keyboard only. Similarly, listen to selected text on an apple computer using text to speech (when turned on, available by selecting text then entering Option + Esc). If you are new to text to speech, these engines provide a great introduction to what you can do with this technology: listen to your typed texts for proofreading, and play around with the technology, as schoolchildren are wont to do.
However, this engine has some shortcomings. It’s impossible to listen to everything you want. Try listening to a website—not to be done! Also, you are stuck with the default pronunciation; if your name is pronounced incorrectly by the text-to-speech engine, there’s no way to fix it.
Moving to the Internet to purchase additional text to speech services leads to a great deal of options. It is possible to purchase software that can be downloaded and installed on your computer. In most cases, this software is much more flexible than the text-to-speech engine built into your device, and pronunciation can be adjusted. This software may also offer additional services, such as writing assistance, spelling check, and synchronized highlighting whilst reading.
This downloadable software also has shortcomings. Because it is downloaded onto a device, it’s device-dependent. It may work differently (or not at all) on your tablet or smart phone. You may also have to purchase multiple licenses to use the software on these different devices. Finally, to listen to any text from the Internet, you may need to copy and paste this text into a text editor before the text-to-speech software can read it.
Free text-to-speech applications
What about free text-to-speech applications? Fine, assuming you’re okay with limited quality. Additionally, free text-to-speech applications may offer nothing more than simply reading text that has been copied and pasted. There is no way to correct the pronunciation, short of misspellings (i.e. spelling phonetically instead of grammatically to ensure proper pronunciation).
Software as a Service
Text-to-speech software as a service is the way to go for high-quality technology that works on all devices. Because software as a service is based in the cloud, you’ll be able to use the technology on any (Internet-connected) device. Because you are paying a nominal licensing fee, you’ll have access to different features, including the ability to create your own pronunciation dictionary. If your name is pronounced incorrectly, no problem—just add it to the dictionary. These extra features, combined with the high quality of the voice, make paying for text-to-speech technology an excellent idea.
For what to consider when choosing a text-to-speech service, download our free ebook:
Improve Your Life with Text to Speech