Text to speech tools provide access to print to struggling readers to support decoding, vocabulary and comprehension skills. For many years as an OT and ATP having software that provides text to speech capabilities was a staple on my computer for students or adults to access print. Although there are countless apps available for mobile devices, finding the right one or ones that will do the job or tasks presented to individuals with a learning disability feels like a needle in a haystack. With accessibility features of Voice Over and Speak Selection tools integrated into iOS5 on iDevices, text to speech is readily available in many apps (not all) and solidly when accessing Internet-based text using Wi-Fi. The iOS5 speak tools are rather amazing when you turn on Voice Over Triple Click in Accessibility (General>Accessibility>Triple-click Home> Voice Over selected) and have the Speak Selection turned on.
What text to speech options are available when you don’t have Wi-Fi, or have text a student needs to access spoken out loud?
Appadvice.com has a great post ” Text to Speech Apps for iPad: iPad/iPhone AppGuide ” listing text to speech apps that is well worth reviewing. Checking out this review will give you a listing of a few pay and some free text to speech apps.
Third is a review of how to use Voice Over and Speak Selection accessibility options now available with iOS5.
Here is a listing of some of the text to speech apps reviewed in the Appadvice.com review and a few more I believe are worth mentioning:
Speak it! – Text to speech app available for iPod, iPhone and iPad (1.99), with features of high quality voices, rate of voice and volume controls. Use the app to type or paste text from another source into the app to use the text to speech tool. Options available include saving the text, create an audio file and saving the audio file.
Speak it! provides the ability to copy, paste and speak the text as shown in the controls above. Quality of the voices were good and additional high quality voices can be purchased. One of the simple features I liked was the ability to Speak at Cursor, allowing better control when you wanted to move forward to have text read aloud, rather than reading all of the text.
In many other apps trialed, most read read from the beginning of the paragraph with difficulty being able to select or touch in the text to read a specific word or text. A small feature but functional when skimming for details or vocabulary.
Write & Say – This is a text to speech and translation app compatible with iPhone, iPod and iPad (9.99). I did not test this app out because of the price and the ability to purchase and trial Knowtilus, developed by the same company having many of the same features along with note taking tools for a fraction of the cost (see below).
Knowtilus – Knowtilus is a note taking app created by the same company as Write & Say but with additional features. Available for iPhone, iPad and iPod, Knowtilus Pro is currently is priced at $.99, a great deal for the text to speech and note taking tools. Both apps have high quality text to speech voices, the ability to change pitch and has translation tools. Knowtilus is a note taking app providing many other features, including the ability to bookmark pages, email pages translate pages and read aloud. Sketching and a scan code tool is also available in this note taking tool.
To get a better idea of its many capabilities check out the YouTube videos on the Knowtilus website . Here is another video to check on the quality of the text to speech voices:
Another fun text to speech app created by Knowtilus is Mr. Talker HD compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPhone (1.99). This app provides an Einstein looking virtual assistant who talks the story or text to you. Fun app, easy controls to start the text to speech and pause it and features pretty straight. You can type in the app as well as copy, paste text from another source, name and save it to load it at another time (the notes at the bottom of the right image below are the saved files loaded and available to review). I could see some students enjoying this, and also having text readily available to load to read (such as bookshare text files). There is also a chance students could get distracted by the virtual assistant and not listening to the text read aloud! Here’s what Mr. Talker HD looks like on an iDevice:
This app has some easy navigation features and I could definitely see using this as a simple book or note reader. I have not trialed it with student but look forward to trialing it and looking at the potential of this app. Knowtilus apps provide some interesting alternatives with text to speech!
Other apps with text to speech worth mentioning are:
SpeakText - This text to speech and translation app provides more controls for selecting and speaking text copied or typed into the app. Features to key in a URL to be read or translated is also available. Designed for the iPad and iPhone its current price is $9.99. I was able to find a series of this developers apps for free in the past which was a great deal, I am not sure that I would pay the price currently having the speak functions available with iOS5. Although I did like the speaking controls available in it allowing better navigation within text to forward or review or speak specific sentences, paragraphs or words.
Speak It To Me – A simple text to speech app. Compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod and free. Limited controls, but allow you to copy emails, text into the app and read aloud.
Read&Write Web Apps - I am a definite believer in Read & Write Gold’s PC software, they now have a web based app which I have not had a chance to trial. It provides text to speech with highlighted text which is not seen in many of the other text to speech apps reviewed. Costs however are unknown and do not appear available on their website, however you can request a free trial.
There are numerous other basic text to speech apps of many different flavors free to minimal cost. Check out the Appadvice review for other text to speech choices.
I look forward to trialing the Knowtilus apps but I would also recommend learning the accessibility features of the iOS5 which provides in my mind wonderful accessibility with text to speech being one of them. If you have not already check out these features, an earlier post reviewed some of the text to speech accessibility options or there are video reviews galore available for you to sit back and learn. Here is a quick step by step video on setting up the Accessibility Speak function in iOS5:
If you have any favorite text to speech apps, as always please share!
One more tool for your OT iTool kit! Appy Holidays!