A text reader is a software program that turns written text into speech. Text readers can read Web pages, word processor files, portable document formats (PDFs) and email out loud. Some can also save text to audio files for use on CDs and digital music players. Although text reading software usually sounds computerized, it is sounding increasingly natural as voice emulation capabilities are perfected. Some text readers allow users to choose from several voices and reading speeds, and most are available in many different languages.
Text readers can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be used to listen to documents, ebooks and emails while performing other activities such as driving, when reading would be impractical. Some people listen to text instead of reading because they’re experiencing eye strain or struggling with headaches. Text readers can also be useful for blind individuals and those who are unable to read for other reasons. Foreign language students use text readers so they can hear word pronunciations while working with foreign texts.
Writers and editors may also use a text reader as a proofreading tool. Most writers and editors find that, after reading a work multiple times, it becomes difficult to read every word without skimming, which makes proofreading difficult. A high-quality text reader can read work in a natural voice at a slow pace, making it easy for a listener to catch errors.
Some text readers are specifically designed for dyslexic users. These readers highlight words as they’re being spoken and can read text out loud as users type. These capabilities are intended to help dyslexic users with reading comprehension and to help condition them to correlate sounds with the correct letter combinations.
People sometimes erroneously refer to voice recognition software as text readers. Although text readers and voice recognition software are related in that both provide a bridge between text and the spoken word, they are two very different types of software with separate applications. While a text reader reads text aloud, voice recognition software converts spoken word to text.
Some text reader software titles are available for free download online. There are also some websites that offer text reading for free or by subscription. Text readers vary widely in their ability to replicate natural voice sounds and the level of support they offer for visually impaired users, with some of the expensive text readers offering very lifelike sound.