Software Review: NaturalReader (Free Version)

I’ve used text-to-speech before, but never as a tool for writing. It wasn’t until someone mentioned it in a forum that I decided to give it a try. So, first up, NaturalReader. The description from the website:

NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software with natural sounding voices. This easy to use software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words. NaturalReader can also convert any written text into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your CD player or iPod.

This is a different type of review. Why? I’m going to boast about the properties of text-to-speech software rather than just NaturalReader. Then I’ll get into the software itself.

In a prior post, I asked Do Your Lips Move When You Edit? I’m talking about the art of reading aloud. So many errors and funky wordings come to light when reading aloud that don’t happen when skimming reading silently. Now if you’re like me and try to read aloud, you might regress into your silent ways unintentionally. Other times, you might be so set on what you meant to say, you might overlook the actual words on the screen.

That’s where programs like NaturalReader come into play. The program reads exactly what’s there, not what you expect to see. I absolutely love it! I downloaded the trial version of NaturalReader and have to say, it’s amazing in terms of improving my writing–not necessarily because of the software itself, but rather the concept behind the read aloud.

Let me explain. NaturalReader comes with two default voices. I spent majority of time with the male one. I found he mispronounced quite a few words, skipped articles and other words (which I really thought strange), and failed to pause at some punctuation marks (eclipses and em dashes). The voices also failed to differentiate between the pronunciation of a words such as “read” (pronounced red versus reed) depending on the usage in the sentence. I didn’t spend as much time with the female voice, but  her pronunciation seemed a bit better. The same issues as far as proper pauses existed. Neither one of the voices were all that natural sounding in my opinion. However, if the user upgrades the software, he or she receives additional voices, plus the option to create rules which will resolve some of the problems.

Though I’ve not tried it, the upgraded version also includes an add-in which allows NaturalReader to run directly from MS Office Suite products, pdf files, emails, and other electronic file/programs.

I can’t honestly say I recommend NaturalReader at this point without trying other text-to-speech software. However, I definitely recommend writers giving some type of text-to-speech program at try. It really is amazing. As always, you don’t have to take my word for it. Try it out yourself at NaturalReader.