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Use Text-to-Speech Software to Hear Your Documents Read Aloud

Here are the best apps for speech synthesis.

Apps in this Guide

Apps that take text and speak it aloud with a computer-generated voice might seem like a novelty at first, but it's actually quite helpful for people with vision or vocal impairments, dyslexia, ormore

Apps that take text and speak it aloud with a computer-generated voice might seem like a novelty at first, but it's actually quite helpful for people with vision or vocal impairments, dyslexia, or foreign language learning needs. It's also handy if you need to convert a document into an audio file for listening on the go. Voice quality has also greatly improved in recent years. Here's the best software for converting text to speech (TTS).

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get pleasant voices for free, or cheap?
When it comes to voice synthesis, you generally get what you pay for. The "Anna" voice built into Windows is free, but it can get unpleasant and sometimes confusing if you listen for an extended period of time. We recommend forking over some money for a commercial-grade speech synthesizer.
What does SAPI mean?
Windows 7 and Windows 10 have a Speech Application Programming Interface built-in, which standardizes TTS systems. It allows you to buy just a voice and then add it to whatever TTS Windows app you prefer that supports SAPI. If you are using TTS to speak on your behalf (like famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking), then you want to be able to transport "your" voice from one SAPI-aware app to another.

Recommended text-to-speech software

Best-sounding synthesis: NaturalReader

Best-sounding synthesis: NaturalReader

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The free version uses your operating system's built-in speech synthesis, but the paid version integrates voices made by Acapela, some of which are eerily good. "Rod" and "Sharon" sound as real as the voices designed by Google and Amazon. Stepping up to the $69.50 version lets you choose any two Acapela voices, which include 16 US English options, eight British English options, and voices that speak nine different foreign languages. It's not cheap, but high accuracy makes speech synthesis much more pleasant when you're dealing with article-length text.

Best integration: TextAloud

Best integration: TextAloud

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The free version uses your operating system's built-in speech synthesis, but the paid version integrates voices made by Acapela, some of which are eerily good. "Rod" and "Sharon" sound as real as the voices designed by Google and Amazon. Stepping up to the $69.50 version lets you choose any two Acapela voices, which include 16 US English options, eight British English options, and voices that speak nine different foreign languages. It's not cheap, but high accuracy makes speech synthesis much more pleasant when you're dealing with article-length text.

Best value: Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader

Best value: Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader

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Zabaware uses a high-quality non-SAPI voice called "Katherine," designed by CereProc. At $25 for both the app and the voice, it's arguably the best bang for your buck. The company also offers a bundle with two voices provided by AT&T Natural Voices for $30, but we found their performance relatively harsh. CereProc offers several dozen SAPI voices for £25.99 each (about $34 USD) on its website.