How can I get my PC to talk to me?

Below are some of the many different ways a user can get their computer to read text aloud to them or read text that is on their screen. This document has been broken up into different categories to help users looking for specific programs or services.

Blind or vision impaired users looking for accessibility solutions
Users looking for programs to run on their computer to read text aloud
Users looking for speech synthesis on the Internet

Blind or vision impaired users looking for accessibility solutions

Below are some programs that can help users who are blind or vision impaired with browsing a graphical environment, such Microsoft Windows, the Internet, or other portions of the computer.

Microsoft Windows Narrator and Magnifier - Although these programs are not as sophisticated as some of the other solutions listed below, these are free software solutions that come with Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, and later that can help Microsoft Windows users navigate their computer. Both of these programs can be accessed by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, and then clicking on either Magnifier or Narrator. Below is a brief description of each of these programs.

Magnifier - A great program that allows users who are vision impaired or find it difficult to read text on their screen to magnify portions of the screen, allowing them to read and navigate their computer easier.

Narrator - This program is intended more for the blind; it reads buttons, links, and portions of a window aloud to the user, allowing him or her to navigate. Unfortunately, this program is fairly limited; however, it can help some users with their navigation, but most need to find an alternative.

JAWS - One of the most sophisticated and highly recommended programs, JAWS is a screen reader capable of reading almost everything available on the screen. In addition to being able to read all text and navigation features of the operating system, JAWS also is capable of outputting the information to Braille. Unfortunately, because of all of its capabilities and complexities, this program is one of the most expensive solutions.

Dolphin - Another excellent and highly recommended program, Dolphin software Pocket Hal is a great program for the visually impaired and blind users that is capable of reading everything on the screen in almost every program. Not only does Dolphin provide a great software program, there are other great solutions provided by this company that help users read papers or documents by scanning them into their computer, read aloud information on PDAs and other portable devices, and much more.

Baum Virgo 4 - Another good program cable of making Windows easier to navigate for the visually impaired. It has many of the features mentioned in the above programs and is capable of reading many of the popular programs used today.

Users looking for programs to run on their computer to read text aloud

If you are looking for a program to install and run on your computer at any time that can read text aloud, you should consider one of the below free programs.

Sayz Me Text To Speech Reader - A fantastic, free Windows software program that will read any text that is typed in or text that is copied.

Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader - Another great, free Windows software program that allows users to copy text into a program and have the text read aloud by various different voices.

Microsoft Agent - A free service provided by Microsoft that not only allows users to have access to text-to-speech software, but also includes an animated character that animates to the text being typed in.

Users looking for speech synthesis on the Internet

Below is a small listing of just a few of the web pages available that allow users to type and listen to speech synthesis over the Internet. Almost all of these pages only require a web browser and speakers (or headphones) to work.

AT&T Text-To-Speech (TTS) demo - One of the best freely accessible and sounding speech synthesis programs online that will convert typed text into an audio format that can be played all online without the need of having to download any software.

Say... - Another great free online program that allows you to type text into a text box and have that text converted into an audio file that can be played online.

Cepstral Voices - A great online example of Blind software Cepstral Voices for Talking Clock that allows users to try out all of the available voices and effects online without having to download any programs.

Microsoft Agent - A free service provided by Microsoft that not only allows users to have access to text-to-speech software, but also includes an animated character that animates to the text being typed in. Users can interact with the online character and have it speak any text they type in without having to download anything. Site does requires Internet Explorer 5.0 or later and must download an Active X plug-in for this feature to work.

Click here to open a search for additional online text to speech programs.

Additional information

  • See the speech synthesis definition for further information and related links.