NewsAloud Review

I Hear You Loud And Clear

Submitted by CaliforniaGirl on Wed, 2006-01-25 10:23.
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The lowest price: 17.95$
You can buy it at RegNow for that price.
To its merit TextAloud does in fact support both SAPI standards fairly well. The user can choose either of the two standards or specify he or she wants voices from both. If both are selected and there are some overlapping voices, SAPi 4 takes precedence, even though some features of Textaloud require a SAPI 5 compatible engine. The speech synthesizers and their voices are arranged in a neat two-level tree structure hich let's you preview or disable voices on a per synth basis.
When you select the WMA option, a message box pops up leading you to the necessary WMA download. While this is nice, the means of providing the information go against common usability principles. A keyboard user usually cursors through the format list and when arriving at WMA, the focus is suddenly taken away from the list, which prevents you from cursoring over the WMA choice should there be other formats after it.

Reading the text in TextAloud is a breeze. There's a dedicated button for it and a choice for the same thing in the Speech menu. The only thing you need to provide is the folder in which the audio file should be saved and even this prompt can be disabled in the options. The old DOS term directory is used needlessly, though, and the ability to specify a different audio file name would have been nice.

Fortunately, the defaults are smart using the same base name as an imported file or the first few words of the text. Another thing missing in the dialog that starts audio file writing is the choice of format. While you can usually go with the defaults and the format can be changed in the options, sometimes a per-conversion override of the defaults could come in handy. Two examples are creating both a high and low quality version for streaming or previewing different amounts of compression. A dedicated preview function for compressed audio files would be a welcome addition, too, Though sure you can't have everything.

One thing I see as a definite advantage of TextAloud is the amazing audio writing speed. It can be adjusted between 1 x and 150 x where 1x corresponds to the speed you'd get on recording the spoken audio directly. Naturaly, higher values take more CPU time. But even the highest takes about 30 percent on a fast machine so chances are it could go even faster if the implementation permited. Extremely fast reading to a wave file is a true time saver and not found in any of the free text readers I've come across. A big plus for this feature alone.


Two neat speech options added in TextAloud are delays that are inserted on sentence changes or when a new paragraph is started. Handling these delays at the application level emulates the feature for all SAPI compatible speech synthesizers. If there are more than two consecutive new-lines, the pause is even longer which is a very good thing in general and might be a unique feature in a text reader, though it's been implemented in some screen readers before. Another highly useful feature that's on by default is a punctuation filter. It does come in handy in a table of contents list, where tens of periods are often used to separate the chapter name and page number. Even foreign alphabet such as umlauts are handled correctly.