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Reading Tools & Text-to-Speech

The common feature of these apps is reading aloud digital text. These applications are very helpful for people with reading difficulties and problems with understanding or following written text (e.g. dyslexia) and for people with visual impairment.

Features of text-reading apps may be very different. They may read highlighted text, read whole documents, allow converting documents into audio files and even assist in typing text. Some of them have OCR (optical character recognition) features, which can be used to scan printed materials, read them, and convert them into accessible digital documents. The OCR feature is also able to read and convert inaccessible digital content. All apps take advantage of speech synthesis (text-to-speech). Some of them are delivered with speech. Others use third-party voices, such as voices already available in the Windows and Mac operating systems.

Read & Write Gold

Read & Write Gold literacy software allows for users who struggle with reading, writing and/or learning English to better comprehend digital texts. The software reads documents and emails aloud, offers text prediction when typing, and provides picture dictionaries and summary highlights. Read & Write is aimed at students and professionals with additional language or literacy needs, such as those with ESL or dyslexia, and is available on Windows PCs, Macs, Google, iPad, and Android tablets.

Read & Write comes in annual licenses for individuals, K-12 classrooms, and K-12 districts.

Kurzweil 3000

Kurzweil 3000 literacy software reads aloud highlighted text, documents, and online HTML content. A built-in OCR allows reading scanned texts and texts presented as graphics. The software also offers magnification functionality for users with low vision. Kurzweil 3000 includes multiple features which enhance writing understanding and organizing ideas, such as word prediction, translator, talking dictionaries and calculator, notetakers, bookmarks and graphical organizers, and others. It offers additional tools for educators to create tests for students using Kurzweil 3000 in the classroom.

The software functions on Windows, Mac, browsers, and iPad.

Kurzweil 1000

Kurzweil 1000, also from Kurzweil Education, has similar features to Kurzweil 3000, but is aimed at users with visual impairment. Its interface is much more accessible for blind and visually impaired users. The strictly graphical features of Kurzweil 3000 are not present. At the same time, the app has many keyboard shortcuts which can be used instead of a visual pointer.

The software combines traditional reading machine technologies (scanning, image processing, text-to-speech) with communication and productivity tools. Kurzweil is only available on Windows.

ClaroRead

ClaroRead is a literacy support tool for PC, Mac, and Chromebooks. The software reads aloud text on screen and reads scanned paper documents with OCR. It supports 30 languages with 80 different voices. Functions include word prediction, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, spellcheck and dictionary, as well as allowing changes to font and text to make it easier to read visually. The software is portable (via USB drive, for example) and so can be quickly installed on unfamiliar computers. The software is aimed as students and professionals who struggle with reading digital text.

ClaroRead is available in four versions: ClaroRead Pro, with all features included; ClaroRead Plus, with minimal PDF options; ClaroRead Standard with no scanning or OCR options; and ClaroRead SE, with no proofing options, no scanning, and no OCR options.

TextAloud

TextAloud is a text-to-speech software for Windows PC. This software is aimed at individuals with low vision and/or individuals who struggle with reading digital text. The software has built-in browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge. TextAloud can save the read-aloud content into audio files for later listening. TextAloud is a paid software, and additional voices and languages can be purchased separately.

Balabolka

Balabolka is a text-to-speech freeware for Windows. It utilizes already installed voices on your computer, allowing text to be read aloud and saved locally as a WAV, MP3, MP4, OGG, or WMA file, although the user can edit the voices’ rate and pitch. Additionally, Balabolka allows users to customize their PC font and background color for easier visual reading. Balabolka can also save text alongside audio files so that when saved audio files are played back, the text is displayed synchronously.

The software supports 31 languages and can be uploaded onto a USB drive to portable installation.

NaturalReader

NaturalReader text-to-speech software freeware works with PDF, docx, txt and ePub documents, as well as HTML content. More features can be purchased with more advanced software: NaturalReader Personal allows text to be saved as audio files and includes a pronunciation editor; NaturalReader Professional includes conversation control, 500 pages of OCR, and a batch file converter; and NaturalReader Ultimate includes unlimited OCR.

The freeware functions on Mac and Windows, whereas the paid software is able to sync with Android and Apple apps.