Exploring Text-to-Speech: Everything You Need to Know

A woman sitting at a wooden table with a laptop.

Exploring Text-to-Speech: Everything You Need to Know

What is Text-to Speech?

Text-to-Speech (TTS) is assistive technology that converts digital text into audio. The end result is a computer-generated voice which reads the information aloud to the user. All types of text files can be read aloud including word documents and web pages. TTS can come in many different formats including:

  • Built into devices or applications: Tablets and smartphones have built in text to speech features. For example, iOS has various options on its devices. Word also has options for text-to-speech that can be activated
  • Applications that can be downloaded
  • Software programs (sometimes with an accompanying app).

Depending on the specific TTS solution, there may be options such as controlling reading speed (slow down or speed up) and different computer-generated voices. Another feature that often comes with TTS is the ability to highlight text or word as it is being read aloud so can follow allow. Many also have options for word predictions and featured related to proofreading (grammar and spelling).

What Text-to Speech is NOT:

TTS is often confused with other assistive technology but there are some important differences. TTS is different from:

  • Screen reading technology: A screen reader would read all of the information on the screen including system and navigational information, and not just text.
  • Voice recognition/Dictation technology: The main distinction is that TTS converts text information to spoken word whereas voice recognition turns spoken word into text. However, some TTS apps and software DO have this option as well.

Benefits and drawbacks:

  • Reasons to trying TTS
  • Challenges with reading
  • Learn best by hearing rather than reading information
  • Multi sensory reading experience if using highlighting feature (can both see text and hear it read aloud simultaneously).
  • Want a break from looking at the screen (I.e., dry eyes, headache).
  • Looking to try a different way of receiving information
  • Most options are easy to use and learn and do not require training.
  • Reasons to avoid TTS:
  • Learn best by reading information
  • Find information read aloud distracting/not helpful
  • No access to headphones or space where able to listen to information

Text-To Speech Tips

  • If you are unsure whether TTS would be helpful, try some of the built-in features of programs such as Word or your mobile device. Many software and app options also have free trials that can help give you a better idea if it is worth investing in. Keep in mind, the built in options or free versions of apps may lack some of the useful features found in a software or paid version of a TTS app.
  • Ensure that you have a headset or private location where can listen to information read aloud.
  • Take time to get familiar with all its features. Most have helpful online guides and tutorials
  • Consider additional tools: If you benefit from having information read aloud rather than reading text consider other tools such as  voice recorder, recording meetings, and a reading or scanning pen for printed text.

Which TTS is best for me?

Some general guidelines include considering compatibility (with device’s operating system and applications), technical requirements such as adequate GB of memory and speakers/sound card,  what specific features would be helpful. Personal preference matters to; some of the TTS options have quite different interfaces that may appeal more to some than others. The range of features such as available voices can vary as well.

For additional, personalized assistance on selecting the best text-to-speech option reach out to INNoVA.

Emily Jooste
Service Lead

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