Subscribe to our newsletter:
Ever since I was introduced to podcasts and audiobooks, my whole life has changed. I find that I can learn while I’m on the go, and that I can learn in different ways when I’m listening as opposed to reading or watching. I simply cannot get enough. Audio has become my preferred method of consuming media and learning new things as I go about my day. Ordinary tasks like housework and commuting have suddenly become a beautiful respite from the daily stresses of the world.
The downside, of course, is that I find that I have less time to read all the articles I want to read from sites I love and there is an ever-growing list of articles I have saved that I never got around to reading. Speech Central: Web Text to Speech is the next game-changer that is already helping me turn around that problem. This app uses Apple’s VoiceOver technology to read out text to you from a variety of sources of your choosing.
The app allows users to import any kind of text file, whether it’s an article from the web, an RSS feed, one of many text files, and even emails. I opened up my poor neglected bookmarks that have been adding up for months, as this is the problem I wanted to address first. I generally come across great articles all the time be it through social media or otherwise. I press the share button at the bottom and add them to bookmarks or other reading apps. Speech Central can be added to the share list, and articles can be added directly into the app. Handy!
Furthermore, the app also allows importing text files from Microsoft Word (.docx), Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx), OpenOffice/LibreOffice (.odt, .odp), .html, and .txt. Furthermore, it also supports ebook formats such as .epub, DAISY and .fb2 and emails in .eml format. Note that these formats only work if the document doesn’t have a DRM.
I also enjoyed the option of importing news feeds that I love, so headlines are read out to me as I go about my morning.
When you add an article to the app, you can choose one of three options: "Speak Now", "Add to articles" for later use, or "Add to Headlines."
I chose “Speak Now” to give it a whirl and lo and behold – we are in business! It first estimated the time it will take to read out the entire article, told me the duration, and then proceeded to automatically read it out in the robotic voice. The app turns the article into a plain text format, where the lines which are being recited are highlighted. The user interface is highly customizable, where you cna make changes to the theme, font size and type, and much more.
The VoiceOver can also be changed, and instead of using the default “shuffle voices,” I choose the Samantha voice, whom I find quite soothing; almost human. On the article interface, you can choose the speed of the reading too. I got it to speak slower at 0.8x so that I could properly consume the information. But if you’re getting through a giant fiction novel or otherwise don’t need such a slow pace, you can also speed it up to 1.2x, 1.5x, or 2.0x. The option is also there to skip to the next or previous article.
With so many options to customize the user experience, it took a little time to set up initially with a bit of trial and error, but after ten minutes, I was all set up and thoroughly enjoying my experience.
So what are the advantages of having such an app on hand and having all your text-based media read out to you? Let me count the ways... I saved a ton of time as I caught up on things while driving, on the bus, walking, doing chores, and at the gym.
Sometimes I edit books and it can be quite a task to stay focused. Having the app read to me while I edit was also a blessing as I was forced to pay attention. Another bonus? The estimated time also helped me determine how long the editing will take me, which motivated me to stay on track.
Often while reading articles, I will learn a new word with an elegant meaning, and want to use it later that day in conversation. I used the word “intransigence” with a friend today and totally impressed her.
The developers have carried out tests to ensure that it is accessible with VoiceOver by users who are legally blind. Those with visual impairments and other disabilities such as dyslexia will be able to use this app as an assistive technology. A dyslexia-friendly font type is included in the app.
The app is free to download and use, with no ads. It only has a daily limit on the number of articles you can add and read per day. An in-app purchase of Speech Central Pro is available for $4.99, giving users the ability to add unlimited articles and news feeds.
Speech Central: Web Text to Speech is a game-changer, and is slowly transforming my life as I consume all the wonderful information I’ve been pinning away and meaning to get to later. But, it’s so much more than that – it’s a versatile app that can be used in a number of ways thanks to its feature-laden, highly-customizable platform. Take the time to set it up the right way, suited to your needs, and it can probably do wonders for you too.