Software Review: TextAloud (Free Version)

After spending time with NaturalReader (review here), I wanted to see how it compared with other text-to-speech software. What do you know; I found a program called TextAloud. Check it out:

TextAloud is Text to Speech software that converts your text from MS Word Documents, Emails, Web Pages and PDF Files into natural-sounding speech. You can listen on your PC or create audio files for use on portable devices like iPods, PocketPCs and CD players. TextAloud even has automatic iTunes/iPod syncing.

Other than different user interfaces, these two pieces of software worked fairly the same. Both versions offer the same voices: One female and one male. Again, I stuck with the male voice. The male voice sounded a bit more natural while the female voice sounded like a computer (chunky).

One thing I did like about the trial version was the opportunity to use it in MS Word. As I mentioned, NaturalReader does have that feature with the registered version, but didn’t offer the try before you buy. As such, TextAloud gave me a real opportunity to see if I liked the feature. The verdict? I loved it. It made editing far easier. Rather than the copy and paste back and forth, all my work was done directly within my Word document. Kudos!

I ran into one glitch while using TextAloud. It happened at the exact same place in my document every time. Each time it hit one particular line, the program froze. No where else…just one particular place in my Word document. I ended up closing down the program through task manager and the document before being able to use the product again. I guess that’s great for developers, since I can duplicate it; makes it easier to identify the bug.

And customer service: The creators Nextup.com has a forum for customer support and advice. Though I didn’t use it, I did browse it. The monitors are quick to answer questions and offer suggestions. In addition, it seems they’re in the process of updating TextAloud and looking into suggestions for the next version.

One thing I didn’t like about TextAloud which annoyed the heck out of me was the popup every time I copied something. It didn’t matter which document, from the web, where ever, it pulled a little pop up in the lower right hand corner. Grrr! I found a check box in the options section to suppress it, thankfully. So no need to experience the frustration I did.

So what was the deal with the popups? TextAloud has a feature that allows the user to insert the copied text into the TextAloud main software which can be viewed at a later date. Pretty nifty feature if you ask me. There’s certainly a time and place for it though it irritated me at first.

Honestly, I didn’t really like either voice which came with TextAloud or NaturalReader and could see going with a different voice if I chose to purchase one of these products. That’s where price comes in. NaturalReader is more expensive up front but automatically provides the user with 2-4 additional voices when they upgrade the software. TextAloud, though cheaper, requires the user to purchase each voice separately.

So which would I recommend? Neither. I suggest trying them both. For me it comes down to the cost benefit analysis because of the similarity of the programs. NaturalReader is more expensive upfront but comes with the additional voices ($49.50 for 2 more voices=4 total/$99.50 for 4 more voices=6 total). Maybe overkill for some, maybe not for others. How many voices do you really need? Are you satisfied with the voices which come with the program? TextAloud ($29.95) comes with the standard two voices after the trial and is less expensive. However, the user shells out an additional $35 for each additional voice, which can get rather experience.

One thing to note, these are the prices I found today. NaturalReader shows their prices marked down to what I mentioned above, so perhaps they’ll rise, perhaps not. Maybe the slashed prices is just a gimmick and it’s always that low. Who knows? 🙂

***************************************

Only a couple of hours left to Enter