There have always been third-party programs to have text read aloud in Microsoft Word (Text to Speech or TTS). Word Talk, a free program from Call Scotland is one. Read &Write Gold is a commercial product which not has text to speech but also comes with its own voices. These are all programs which are added to the Word toolbar rather than opening a document in its own window.
In the latest versions of Word, you have two options for TTS, Speak and Read Aloud. Both can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar as shown in the screenshot below. Speak and Read Aloud are underlined.
Both can use the installed system voices. The major difference is Read Aloud has a Control Panel and will highlight words that are being spoken. Reading in Read Aloud starts from the cursor position. Speak will not highlight words as they are spoken and will only read selected text.
Read Aloud can also be used in the Read View under Tools. Using it in Read View will allow access to a control panel with the standard controls plus the ability to change voices.
The video below will show both Speak and Read Aloud being added and in use.
I will confess that I am a lazy person. I really should say that I’m always looking for an easier or faster way to accomplish tasks. When I have a repetitive task that may be complex, I eventually begin investigating ways to avoid the task. Enter Word automation or Word Macros.
Working with students, either with special needs or non-special needs, they have identified many of the tasks that they might automate. A few simple skills can go a long way to improving a students’ writing experience. Reducing the number of keystrokes or mouse clicks can simplify life.
A simple form of automating Word is the Autocorrect feature to replace frequently used words or phrases. To simplify the number of keystrokes ( and errors) needed to enter phrases, titles and long strings of repeated text, Autocorrect is a simple solution.
In earlier versions of Office, Autocorrect was fairly easy to access under the Classic Menu. It was located on the Tools drop-down list.
Starting with the Ribbon, accessing Autocorrect has become a multi-click process. First in Word 2016, click the File Tab on the Menu bar (or Press the ALT key then F)
The menu tab with lots of choices will appear. Select Options at the bottom of the list or if you’re selecting using the keyboard, press T.
A dialog box will appear showing the Word Options. Select Proofing.
Select Proofing and AutoCorrect Options will be at the top of the choices.
Select AutoCorrect Options in the Window and the AutoCorrect Dialog box will appear.
Now we simply use the Replace With fields to substitute one character string for another.
In this case, if I’m writing a long piece on folk singer/songwriters who had an impact in the 60’s and 70’s. I writing about Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (Leaving On A Jet Plane) and at some point will misspell his name. So I will choose a few letters to type and have it replaced with his full name. In this case, I’ll use hjd in the Replace field and Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.in the With field.
The video below shows the entire sequence including how it works in Word.
One of the keys to using this is to choose a Replace string with characters that are not normally used.
If you plan to use AutoCorrect frequently, you might consider adding it as a button to the Ribbon. That will be the next topic.
DSpeech from Dimio is a FREE Text to Speech (TTS) program for Windows. It is one of two free programs I’ve found that can convert text to a digital audio file without having to upgrade to a paid option.
It utilizes the Speech Application Program Interface (SAPI) in Windows with the voices in the Operating System. The voices you can access will vary by your version of Windows. Additional voices can be added. There are several free voices which can be installed for use in the program.
The program does not need installation which means it does not need administrative rights. It can also be made “portable,”
There are also several simple methods to have multiple voices in the same text. Both are demonstrated in the video below. One is to go to the options on the menu bar, click Customize Voice in Quoted Text and complete the dialog box: checking the box for Use Different Box for Quoted Text and choose the voice. Alternatively, the voice can be changed by using the tag #VOICE [Voice Name]. Using this option allows the use more than two voices.
Click here to go to Dimio’s website for the download
Based on the English portion of the 2016 Smarter Balanced exam given in California, only 13% of students with a disability either met or exceeded grade standards for reading.
For those students without a disability, 57% of the females and 57% of the males met or exceeded grade standards for reading
The thrust of the data summaries is that male students of all ages and ethnicities score lower than comparable female students. Data for disabilities is also included. The male/female gap is not as pronounced as it is in those without disabilities.
The summary data table (Excel Worksheet) can be found here:
3D-Printing is quickly becoming the newest disruptor. #D printing is allowing for customization and on-demand production of an amazing scope of products.
One of the issues faced by gamers with limited mobility is the ability to work game controllers with one hand. The article which follows shows how a simple adaptor for a Nintendo Joy-Con permitted the developer to play his favorite games one-handed.
Balaboka is a basic word processing program which includes, Text to Speech and Text to Audio. All of its’ features are free. Balaboka is Russian for “Chatterer” and the program lives up to its name. Using the voices already on the computer, Balaboka can read the text aloud and highlight the words as they are read. It is one of two programs that have a free text to audio option (The other is DSpeech).
Charge of the Light Brigade from Project Gutenberg
Balaboka is a Windows program which will run under most versions of Windows (From XP to Windows 10). It can also be run from a USB Drive, making it portable. When Balaboka is run from a USB Drive, it does not need administrative privileges.
The Financial Times has added a feature to allow readers to listen to an article. The feature uses an artificial voice and as to be expected the voice is British 😊
They have also added an experimental feature making their articles pretty much mini-podcasts. This is a start, for those with reading issues (or for UD – the time constrained). At the moment, there is no tracking for those needing it. It is also only available to subscribers.
Now if only the Wall Street Journal would follow suit.