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Text to Speech Options

Text to speech is a computer synthesized application that translates electronic text to audio. Most electronic reading devices include a built-in voice synthesizer.

Built-in Text to Speech

Macintosh Computers

Macintosh (Mac) computers contain assistive technology as standard features. For more information about Mac accessibility, please visit: or

Mac computers have an option to assign a key or combination of keystrokes that, when pressed, will speak highlighted text.

  1. Turn on your Mac computer
  2. Select System Preferences (click on the apple icon in the top left corner)
  3. Select Speech
  4. Adjust voice and speed
  5. Select  “Set Key” (Speak selected text when the key is pressed)
  6. Type a key or key combination (SSD Mac computers use the “command” key plus the “s” key as a combination).
  7. Select “Ok” to accept the keystroke or a combination of keystrokes.
  8. Select “Ok” to exit this option.

Once a “speak” key is set the Mac computer will speak any highlighted text when the assigned keystroke or combination of keystrokes is pressed. To stop the speaking press the key or combination again.


Speak text to speech is a built-in feature of Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote, in the language of your version of Office. To activate this option please follow this link or follow the directions below:

To add the Speak command to your Microsoft Word Quick Access Toolbar 

  1. Open a word document.
  2. Next to the Quick Access Toolbar, click the down arrow. The Customize Quick Access Toolbar will appear along with a list of choices. 
  3. Select More Commands (located directly under the title, Customize Quick Access Toolbar).
  4. In the Choose commands from box click the down arrow. A list of options will appear. Choose All Commands (located near the top of the choices).
  5. From the list of commands, scroll down to the Speak command, select Speak, and then click Add.
  6. Click OK.

With the Speak command added to your Quick Access Tool, you can hear single words or blocks of text spoken, by highlighting the text you want to hear and then clicking the Speak icon.

To adjust the reading speed or change the voice (not always an option), go to Control Panel→Speech Recognition→Text to Speech (right-hand column) and make the adjustments. Remember to click Apply to make your changes.

Acrobat Adobe Reader Software Built-in Read Out Loud Option

Acrobat Adobe software contains a built-in text to speech option, Read Out Loud. Read Out Loud enables users to listen to PDF files.  

  1. Open PDF file.
  2. At the top menu click View.
  3. A list of options will appear. Select the last item, Read Out Loud.
  4. A list of options will appear. Select Activate Read Out Loud.
  5. Place cursor where you want Read Out Loud to start reading.
  6. Select View; select Read Out Loud then select an option (I suggest Read this page only). Acrobat Reader will begin to read the page.

If you only want to hear specific paragraphs and not the whole page, then place the cursor and double click (A box should appear around the selected paragraph). Acrobat Reader will begin reading the selection.

Free Downloadable Text to Speech Options


While NaturalReader sells text-to-speech products, they offer a free text to speech download available at

  • Can be used with any written text such as Word, text PDFs, websites and emails.
  • Can adjust voice and reading rate settings.
  • A mini task bar function is available.


WordTalk is a free plug-in for use with Microsoft Word documents, created in the United Kingdom.

Features (

  • Text to speech
  • Highlighted text as it’s read
  • Talking dictionary to help decide which word spelling is most appropriate.
  • Choices of highlighting colors.
  • Voice and reading rate options.
  • Conversion option for wav or .mp3 files

Download the free version of WordTalk from

  • Natural sounding voices
  • Highlights text as read
  • Bookmarking available
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities
  • Dictionary/thesaurus
  • Easy note taking options
  • Convert to mp3 files


Balabolka is a free text to speech option available at

  • Can use with several file formats including Text: TXT, DOC, DOCX, FB2, PDF, HTML, RTF
  • Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG.
  • Can save text as wav, mp3, mp4, and wma files.
  • Can use a variety of voices, both paid and free, from the internet.

Text to Speech Options Available for Purchase


NaturalReader is a text to speech software with natural sounding voices.

  • Easy to use
  • Floating task bar available
  • Highlights text as read
  • Convert text to mp3 files option
  • Voice and reading rate options
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities when attached to a scanner

Organizations Providing Audio Books for People with Disabilities

Learning Ally and Bookshare are two organizations that provide accessible reading materials specifically for people with disabilities.

Learning Ally is a not for profit organization providing thousands of textbooks, read by volunteers. SSD students with print-related disabilities can contact Learning Ally for more information about becoming a member.  For more information please contact the SSD office or visit Learning Ally at

Bookshare is a not for profit organization with thousands of books available in different electronic formats. Membership is free. For more information please contact the SSD office or visit Bookshare at


Membership Annual fee Free
Individual membership available Yes Yes
SSD membership No Yes
Library 80,000 audiobooks World’s largest accessible print materials library
Reading voices Human voiced Computer synthesized
Listen using PC,Mac, android, iPhone, iPad PC,Mac, android, iPhone, iPad
Reading app available Yes, free but must have a LA membership to use. Yes, free use with Bookshare books.
Application for membership Yes Yes
Do I qualify for an individual membership?