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Natural Reader and other free text-to-speech tools

I’ve been working on gathering resources on for our new Emerging Literacies course and wanted to share some of the resources/app lists I’ve gathered for learners with special needs.

Among the tools I am discovering are a few free resources for supporting text-to-speech. These resources are so handy for struggling readers, for ESL students, for students with visual and physical disabilities and for busy graduate students and teachers who need to read and cook/or drive at the same time.

So here is a sampling of a few very handy free (for personal use) text-to-speech readers, most of which, of course, offer more robust premium features.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.40.00 AMNatural Reader

Available as a downloadable application for Mac and PC or as a personal web-based tool, Natural Reader allows you to drag and drop such files in pdf, txt, doc, docx, rtf and epub formats or paste text in the large box.

It will convert any written text into voice and offers a wide array of choices regarding speed, accents, and languages–English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese.  You may not love every voice, but you will find one you prefer. I like English Mike.

A premium version is available for such non-personal and commercial as creating YouTube videos such as for Youtube videos, e-Learning, or other commercial or public purposes.

A few handy features across the options include:

Additional features available through the free download include:

A few other options are nicely available as Chrome extensions or Google Apps:

Free Text to Speech Reader: Available as a web-based tool with uploading or text pasting options, or as a Chrome extension, this handy tool offers a wide variety of speeds, languages, and accents for reading text, pdfs, e-books and epub files, as well as the ability to record audio files and it is very easy to use.  (Ava’s voice seems especially natural to me.)

Select and Speak Text: This extension uses iSpeech’s text-to-speech (TTS) to read selected text in the browser and offers one of the widest library of language options as well as the ability to configure voice and speed options.

Google Text-to-Speech: Available for iOS and Android allows applications to read text on your screen and may be used to play Google Play books, speak translations and increase general accessibility on yours or your students’ devices by assisting with navigation.

(Here’s a video explanation by JoshyTek.)

And, of course, if you are using a Mac, you can set up your own computer to read to you.

Here’s how:

1. From the Apple menu, go to System Preferences.

2. Click Dictation & Speech, then click Text to Speech.

3. Choose a voice from the pull-down menu and a speed.

4. Choose Speak selected text when the key is pressed. The default to enable speaking is Option-Esc, but you may change that key.To have your Mac start speaking, press the specified key. To stop the speaking, press the key again

5. When you want your Mac to speak, highlight text and press the selected key. Use the same key to toggle the speaking to end.

dictationspeechScreen Shot 2017-07-20 at 12.10.12 PM

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Romeo Zegna says

    This is a great list of free TTS tools available. However, when I do want to spend some money and purchase a high quality TTS product, I go with Neospeech. Their TTS software has some of the most natural sounding voices in the market. Their ‘Julie’ and ‘Paul’ voices are almost lifelike.

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