Voice Dream Reader – Text to Speech Reader for iPad
I’ve wanted a Text to Speech Reader for awhile and today the Voice Dream Reader has dropped in price by 50% from $9.99 to $4.99. That’s still reasonably high when it comes to iPad apps, so how does it fair?
First off, why a text to speech reader in the first place? I have two goals in mind. I want to listen to text while working on other projects such as cleaning the house or mowing the lawn. Chores go a lot better when you have something to listen to and audiobooks aren’t cheap. Second, the highlighted text and reading along with the spoken word is a reinforcement for studying new subjects. It should help to focus on the content by seeing an hearing what you read. I have a lot of technical material I need to get to and I find I comprehend it better if I see it and hear it at the same time. Plus, a female voice might break up the monotony of all that dry computer text.
So, how is Voice Dream Reader? The main reason for this app over others is the array of text it can read. It can read text you type in, but it goes much further and reads text from .TXT files, PDF files and ePub files. That’s a pretty good assortment of source material. It also hooks into Dropbox so it’s very easy to find the piece of text you’re looking for. I was able to load a text file from Dropbox and start listening within a minute. Navigation is very simple.
As far as reading goes, you can start from the begging, jump forward or backward by 30 seconds or start reading from the highlighted text. While reading along you can edit the text on screen and save your changes. If you have multiple documents it will move from one to the other. You also get the option to use the dictionary to look up words, highlight text, set bookmarks and makes notes. From that standpoint you get some nice writing tools.
How are the voices? Well, to be honest, they aren’t silky smooth and it’s pretty obvious they’re computer generated. Some words are said very quickly, while others are said slowly. There are the obvious blunders such as "read" and "red" when it comes to what you hear. On the pre-installed voice there is a definite echo or squeak on a regular basis. It sounds like the voice will crack any second. To me, Siri sounds a bit more natural than the included voice. Are the add-on voices any better? In the samples they range in style, but no one is going to mistake them for a true human voice. They aren’t awful, but the reading is done word for word rather than a whole sentence at a time so you do get some "jerky" speech patterns.
An interesting benefit is the counter down at the bottom. It tells you how long the text will take to read. That could be a big benefit for article writers who need to keep their message short and sweet. Will it take longer than five minutes to get through you summary? Do you need to shorten it? For example, this post will take 3:25 minutes to speak out loud.
That aside, it’s still quite good and if you want to listen to your own documents this will certainly do the job. You may have concentrate a little harder since some words run together, but overall the content is quite understandable. It will make a pretty decent proofreader and will help with subjects that are less than exciting. And this way I’ll know I’m dedicating 30, 45 or a full hour to my study.
Text to Speech as a technology has come a long way, but it has a long way to go as well. But apps like these can make studying and proofreading much easier. There are some speech quirks, but I should get quite a bit of mileage out of Voice Dream Reader. Just don’t expect to be lulled to sleep by a sultry voice.
Does anyone else have recommendations on Text to Speech apps for the iPad? Do they all function about the same? This seems to be a natural fit for mobile devices so I wonder what other choices people have experience with.