Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do you have an auditory learner? Have I got a software product for you!

Product Review: Natural Reader

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post or anything for which I have been paid for any reason. This is just a product I came across and liked very much. They don't even have an affiliate program.

When my children were small, reading aloud was a huge part of our home school. We read all the Little House books, and the Anne of Green Gables books, and the Narnia books, and Madeleine L'Engle's books, and Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle. And that didn't even scratch the surface. What a wonderful time that was!

As my daughter got older, i would hear her reading aloud to herself in her room, because she needed to hear what she was reading in order to retain it. Sometimes I helped her read, or we took turns reading. But I confess I wish I had someone to do some of the reading for me.

Now you can.

NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software application using natural sounding voices. It is able to convert written text into speech The speed of the reader can be adjusted, and the voices can be either male or female. It supports Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. You just copy and paste the portion of text that you want to hear into the window and NaturalReader will take it from there.

The free version includes a basic male and basic female voice, plus a voice called "Microsoft Anna", which is really more natural than the other two.

What's not to like?

I became acquainted with Text to Speech when my son's online school provided us with a paid version of a competing program. It completely revolutionized his ability to understand what he was reading. He just kind of started to read when he was about 3. I never taught him anything. He just read. But while he could decode anything on the planet, he couldn't understand any of it unless he could hear it as well as see it. His listening comprehension continues to exceed his reading comprehension. The problem is the flat boring voices that occasionally mispronounce or place an accent on the wrong syllable. We will be using NaturalReader instead this year, even though the other one is included in our tuition.

There are two inexpensive paid versons that have greater capabilities. The personal version is $49.50 and includes 2 free natural voices. It can read aloud any text from Word, webpages, PDF files and emails. It has a toolbar add-in in Word, Outlook, Powerpoint and IE. You can even convert large text files to audio files.

The professional version comes with 4 natural voices, but it also has an audio file recorder and editor, and has the ability to convert text into audio files that can be downloaded into your iPod or burned to a CD. This version is $99.50

You could mosey on over to Project Gutenberg and find some free classic books to "read" with NaturalReader, then convert them to MP3s and burn them onto a CD to listen to in your car!

No pulp fiction here, but the likes of Pride and Prejudice, Tale of Two Cities, The Time Machine, the Sherlock Holmes books, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Hmm. I don't think this free version can actually negotiate the dialects of Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer.

Another great application is to have it proofread something you have written - it will catch some of those things that spelling checkers cannot, such as when you spell a word correctly but it is the wrong word.

Visit the website and click the orange play button at the far right of the upper part of the screen to see and hear a demo of this product.

And before you buy a book or schlep down to the library, check out the Gutenberg project the next time you are looking for a classic book. You will be amazed what you find there.

Natural Reader 7 Free Version

System Requirement:
Operation System: win98/me/NT/2000/XP/Vista
Processor: 500MHZ
Memory: 128MB (256Recommended)
Free Diskspace: 50MB (Natural Voices may
require 600MB free space)

2 comments:

  1. The current best text to speech software is Text Speaker. It has customizable pronunciation, reads anything on your screen, and it even has talking reminders. It is great for kids as it highlights the words as they are being read. The bundled voices are well priced and sound very human. Voices are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and more. Easily converts blogs, email, e-books, and more to MP3 or for listening instantly.

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  2. Thanks for following up, Ron! This is an old post and the software isn't the only thing out of date. "Supports Vista and Microsoft Office 2007." hahahahaha Would you believe I still use that old Vista machine? Thanks again for your comment.

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