Review of Free TTS Screen Text Readers

Review of Free TTS Screen/Text Readers

Currently, this is a work in progress as I want to download each product and actually use it to verify the features work as advertised. When I read a list of free products listed as Text to Speech software, I naively assume that all products will match my expectations of TTS which is a big mistake. When a student asks the question of which free product is best, I don’t have any real experience with most of them and don’t have a good answer.

The list at the top of the page is in alphabetical order, not ranked in any other way.  The product name is a link to more information following the list with a very brief description of my experience installing and using the product.  The product name in the more information section is a link to that product’s home page.

Adobe Reader
This was difficult to judge because all of the machines here have Adobe Professional installed on them and the default “Read Outloud” toolbar in to appear in the Professional version.  I’ll try it from home and report back.

A zip file to download with no visible tutorials or help files, but has many languages including Russian (BalaBolka is Russian for “chatterer”) and other great features that became apparent after viewing the 3 Balabolka tutorial videos on YouTube.  It is a little cumbersome for reading the web because you need to select the desired text, copy and paste it into an open Balabolka file.  This would be worth pursuing for public access machines in a multi- cultural environment as the choice of languages to be spoken is huge.

A free extension from FireFox for people with print disabilities.  Easy to download and use. Only 3 icons on the toolbar.

A free extension from FireFox for people who are blind.  For sighted people, the spoken announcement of elements and events can be annoying.

Fire Vox is an open source, freely available talking browser extension for the Firefox web browser. Think of it as a screen reader that is designed especially for Firefox. Fire Vox is especially useful for the visually impaired or for web developers who need to test their web pages for accessibility.

iSpeech NO LONGER AVAILABLE Alas, iSpeech is not accepting any new members making unavailable.  It looks like they have made it into a fee based product.
This was a great find: very easy to use and the voice seemed like a human. It is not a screen or text reader software but a conversion service so it would be great to use to check out information quickly on an unfamiliar public access machine. You need to set up a free account: enter a real email address, create a password, retype the password (to confirm it) and presto you are done.

Natural Reader
Non Visual Desktop Access -NDVA


Thunder TTS
TypeIt ReadIt
Universal Reader by Premiere Assistive Technology
WordQ2 by Quillsoft
Word Talk

Adobe Reader Adobe Reader Download

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Superlative for the number of languages it converts.

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Click,Speak logo


A FireFox Extension

To change the voice, go to the Control Panel > Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices > Speech > select the Text to Speech tab > select the desired voice from the Voice Selection drop down menu.

CLiCk, Speak can also be very helpful for people trying to learn a foreign language.

Clickspeak User Manual

Click,Speak FAQ’s

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fire vox


FireVox Tutorial

FireVox Users Manual

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iSpeech Home

i Speech


Simply cut and paste the text you wish to convert to speech into our text box and click convert text. Or, upload any supported document, website, blog, etc. and click convert file or the listen button.Supported file types and websites include: Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, Rich Text File, Blogs, RSS news feeds, hypertext markup language (DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, PDF, RTF, HTML).

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natural reader software

Natural Reader

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NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Providing feedback via synthetic speech and Braille, it enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. Major features include support for over 20 languages and the ability to run entirely from a USB drive with no installation.

Providing feedback via synthetic speech and Braille, NVDA allows blind and vision impaired people to access and interact with the Windows operating system and many third party applications.

Major highlights include:

  • Ability to run entirely from a USB stick or other portable media without the need for installation
  • Browsing the web with Mozilla Firefox 3
  • Easy to use talking installer
  • Working with email using Mozilla Thunderbird 3
  • Support for Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Basic support for Microsoft Outlook Express / Windows Mail
  • Basic support for Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Support for accessible Java applications
  • Support for Adobe Reader
  • Early support for IBM Lotus Symphony
  • support for Windows Command Prompt and console applications
  • Automatic announcement of text under the mouse and optional audible indication of the mouse position
  • Support for many refreshable Braille displays

It is important that people anywhere in the world, no matter what language they speak, get the same access to technologies. NVDA currently has been translated into over 20 languages including: Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Afrikaans, Galician, Croatian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Thai and Ukrainian.

NVDA is bundled with eSpeak, a free, open-source, multi-lingual speech synthesizer. Additionally, NVDA can use both SAPI4 and SAPI5 speech engines to provide speech output.

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Orca logoORCA

Orca is a free, open source scriptable screen reader. Using various combinations of speech, braille, and magnification, Orca helps provide access to applications and toolkits that support the AT-SPI (e.g., the GNOME desktop). The development of Orca has been led by the Accessibility Program Office of Sun Microsystems, Inc. with contributions from many community members.

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download softi free ocr


Softi FreeOCR is a complete scan and OCR program including the Windows compiled Tesseract free ocr engine V2.00. It includes a Windows installer and is very simple to use.

It supports multi-page tiff’s, fax documents as well as most image types including compressed Tiff’s which the Tesseract engine on its own cannot read. It now has Twain scanning included and support for multi page Tiff documents. Best of all it is totally free!


  • Saves time by turning scans into text
  • Very quick and easy to use
  • Reads many text types

  • Doesn’t always read text correctly
  • Limited language range

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Thunder TTS

Thunder FAQ’s

Thunder Tutorials (Text, Braille, or Audio)

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TypeIt ReadIt

TypeitReadit video tutorial

…can help users who are visually impaired, cannot read, desire to improve their reading comprehension, or just want to listen to their documents read aloud. TypeIt ReadIt can convert text to a spoken sound file by using its text-to-speech technology.  These sound files can be inserted into iTunes, CD, an iPod, PowerPoint, iMovie, Audacity or any other software or device that supports sound files. This can allow students, with speech difficulties, to place the sound files in their presentations, so, they can participate with lessons and class activities.

With TypeIt ReadIt, students can listen to their documents on their iPod. Business people can convert their emails, documents, and memos to listen to their documents on their car radio while they are stuck in rush-hour traffic. Also, TypeIt ReadIt is a useful alternative for young children’s typing lessons instead of using a confusing word processor.

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About digitaltext

Digital Text Coordinator at Landmark College in Putney, VT; a 2 year college for students who learn differently.
This entry was posted in Assistive Technology, eReaders, Free TTS Software, Screen Readers, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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