NewsAloud Review

Just Hear Me Out

Submitted by BushSucks on Tue, 2006-01-24 10:07.
Author's Product Rating:
Value For Money: 
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The lowest price: 17.95$
You can buy it at RegNow for that price.
SAPI5 support is an essential feature many similar programs lack. Also, it's very inexpensive.
You can't easily skip forward or go back

Reading text files out loud and changing voices is very easy with TextAloud. The user interface has a familiar text box for editing and selecting text, from now on commonly referred to as the text editor. Above this control is a toolbar-like portion of the window that let's you quickly select the desired voice and its parameters as well as read text aloud or dump it directly to an audio file. The voice controls are surprisingly accessible; there are push buttons with labels for common actions and all controls appear to be part of the tab order.

Oddly enough, however, pressing shift+tab multiple times only goes through few of the controls and returns to the text editor after the title text field. The correct way to tab around, though it is slightly counter intuitive, is to press shift+tab to get to the voice controls and then tab forwards. The currently selected voice isn't available in the menus but can be set in the options dialog in addition to the list box in the voice controls.

Including a voice panel right in the document window can save a great deal of time in contrast to some freeware programs that only offer the voice parameters in preferences. This is because despite Microsoft's standardization efforts, synths have differing notions of speaking rate, pitch and volume values and often you need to tweak the speed a bit to get it just right.

In addition to reading the whole document, the speak menu offers other choices such as reading the selection or starting from the cursor. However, there's no read paragraph or read to cursor option both of which are commonly seen in screen reading software. Another minor gripe is that while the voice is speaking, there are no means of quickly stepping back of forward in units of words, sentences, paragraphs and so on.

Access to such real time navigation using hotkeys would be highly useful because it is easy to miss a sentence or wonder what a badly pronounced word really is. Sure you can pause the voice, even using the menus, manually go back and finally re-initiate reading but it just isn't very convenient.

On the bright side, controlling voice parameters like speed and pitch is possible even during playback and works better than I anticipated. But there's a significant flaw in keyboard usability. That is when you change the speed slider on the keyboard, as soon as the change takes effect, the keyboard focus jumps to the text editor in stead of remaining in the slider being adjusted.

This makes real time speed adjustment from the keyboard a very slow and frustrating procedure. As a work-around, the voice parameters can be changed one step at a time in the edit menu of the program. Additionally, I wish the voice sliders had accompanying text fields for typing in the desired values directly provided that you do know the exact value you'd like.


TextAloud is a very useful and easy-to-use text to speech utility. It shines in turning multiple files to compressed audio very quickly and also offers basic text editing, pronunciation and voice changing features. Unlike most free readers, it supports both SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 for maximal coverage and offers some low-vision features, too. As for improvements, the keyboard interface, menu logic and implementation of skinning is a bit patchy in places and TextAloud could do with some extra features. In brief, a nice and feature-rich text to audio reader for Windows.