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The complete question

When I’m reading, it is helpful for me to both see and hear the word. Where can I find software that can read text to me when I’m online? I need something that can read websites and other text aloud to me.

Expert answer

If you are regularly downloading articles or documents to read that are in PDF, you can use the built in screen reader in Adobe Acrobat Reader called Read Out Loud (opens in a new window) to hear any text in the document read aloud.

If you need assistance with reading MS Word documents, or to have the text of your writing read back to you for editing purposes, one good option might be WordTalk (opens in a new window), a free program text-to-speech program for Microsoft Word. You can also use the built-in screen reader/text-to-speech features on your computer.

Both Microsoft and Apple have simple text-to-speech programs built into their operating systems. Microsoft’s Narrator (opens in a new window) is relatively limited in features, and is intended for users with visual impairments. However, some of the features may be helpful for you. Apple’s VoiceOver (opens in a new window) has similar capabilities and can assist users with reading typed text, windows, menus and controls.

If you are mostly concerned with being able to hear text on websites read aloud, you might consider ROKTalk (opens in a new window). ROKTalk is a web-based application that allows you to hear any web text read out loud. Because it is web-based, you don’t have to install software, which may be useful if you are using different computers (at the library, in the classroom, etc.). ROKTalk is free for a few websites (Google, Wikipedia, the BBC) and charges a monthly fee for unlimited access to any website. Browser-based apps such as Google Chrome’s text-to-speech tool, SpeakIt! (opens in a new window) and Read&Write for Google Docs (opens in a new window) are also effective tools for online reading. Similarly, Natural Reader (opens in a new window) has free text-to-speech programs with limited functionality that may be sufficient for your needs. Several options are available from a basic copy for free download, to a more full-featured version for purchase.

If these free tools don’t provide you with the level of functionality you need, you can also try searching the TechMatrix to find other text-to-speech products and compare features by selecting the Subject Area of Reading and the Learning Support of Access to multiple formats of text, notation, and symbols.

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