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Read the Words: Free Text-to-Speech Tool

Lori Halley 23 May 2008 7 comments

Sometimes it just isn’t possible for your website's visitors to read what you have to say.  Perhaps a visitor has limited vision, or other physical challenges that make onscreen reading difficult. Perhaps reading itself may be a challenge for him.

But accessibility can be about more than physical, mental, educational, and similar limitations.

Some members of your target audience may simply be too busy to take the time to read your website or blog. If you can give those people the ability to multi-task — to listen to your blog posts on an mp3 player as they go about their other business, for example — you'll give your message one more chance to get out there and be heard.

ReadTheWords  is a free online text-to-speech service that will convert almost any text into a spoken-word sound file. You can upload any Microsoft Office document, Adobe PDF document, text file or HTML file from your computer. (The maximum file size is 800kb, which is the equivalent of about 12 hours of audio.) You can also simply type your text, or give the address of a webpage you would like to convert to speech.

A computer character will read the text aloud for you. You can choose from a number of different voices: American and British, male and female. French and Spanish readers are  available, as well as English.

Text-to-Speech Tips: To improve the quality of any text-to-speech conversion, you might find it helpful to experiment with punctuation, which does influence the speech pattern of the reader. To address any problems with faulty pronounciations, try spelling the less common words phonetically (fone-net-tik-ly).  The English-Truespel Text Conversion Tool at ForeignWord.com can help you out there.

The service can send you an email when your recording is completed, but this should not be necessary for many purposes: ReadTheWords is fast enough that most files can be finished while you wait. The result is an mp3 file you can download to your iPod or other mp3 player. Publish it as a podcast. Or embed the sound file on your blog or website by pasting a bit of code. Alternatively, you may give your audience a link to any reading you choose to make public.

ReadTheWords offers three ways to embed an audio player on your website or blog — WordPress plugin, IFRAME, or embedded media player — but various web hosts or blogging platforms have differing security settings, and you may not be able to use these options exactly as the instructions say.

Fortunately, there are a number of easy, free work-arounds for publishing your mp3 file, if you are not able to embed the ReadTheWords player directly in a web page.

For example, you can hear a computer voice named Frank, reading our description of ReadTheWords.com, here (via an audio player on a blog at Tumblr.com) or here (streamed from Podbean.com).

Podbean itself is a convenient free podcasting and blogging service (WordPress users will find the interface very famililar) that offers a variety of ways to re-publish and share your audio content.


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 23 May 2008 at 2:16 PM


  • Sharon Hurley Hall said:

    Friday, 23 May 2008 at 9:25 AM

    Easy podcasts - what a great idea. Thanks so much for the tip. I've been procrastinating about doing one, but now I have no excuse.

  • sam said:

    Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 12:47 PM

    text to speech free online tool, www.wordtosound.com , type any text and download the audio instantly as wav or mp3 format. based on unix festival.

  • Thomas said:

    Wednesday, 04 March 2009 at 8:47 AM

    <a href="http://www.text2speech.org">www.text2speech.org</a> is another online tool. It is based on festival and allows up to 5000 characters.

  • Anne Maddow said:

    Wednesday, 08 July 2009 at 7:47 AM

    It's not actually free, unless you only want 30 seconds of audio.  After that it's $19.99 per year. You don't find that out until after sign-up.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 08 July 2009 at 9:21 AM

    Thanks for the update, Anne:  our information was accurate at the time of writing, just over a year ago, but things do have a tendency to change online!

  • Pete said:

    Sunday, 12 July 2009 at 10:29 PM

    YAKiToMe! http://www.yakitome.com is really the only free online text to speech site with no limitations. You can translate a book of any length. It also has a large public library of pre-converted texts (so you don't have to wait) that you can search. It speaks in multiple languages with excellent-quality voices. Check it out.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 13 July 2009 at 5:30 AM

    Pete, thanks for the tip - sounds interesting!

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