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NETSPEAK

Emerging text-to-speech utilities netspeak

SpokenText, an online text-to-audio conversion tool with notable features, worth a test

Several text-to-speech tools are emerging. This edition of NetSpeak discusses some innovative products/services in this realm.

A text-to-speech tool reads out plain text from the text editor and/or enables one to convert it into an audio file. We have touched up on this subject in a recent column, where we introduced an online service (Vozme- http://vozme.com) meant for converting text into MP3 file on the fly.

Another similar service worth a mention is the Text-to-Speech demo of AT&T Labs ( http://www.research.att.com/~ttsweb/tts/demo.php#top). It supports languages such as English, German and French in particular.

SpokenText ( http://www.spokentext.net/) is another on-line text to audio conversion tool worth a test. A notable feature of this service is the facility to convert different types of documents (like PDF, DOC, PPT etc) into MP3. Once you register with this free service, it offers you a personalised web URL, for sharing your MP3s.

Another significant feature of Spokentext is the Firefox extension that helps you access the service directly from the browser. This extension allows you to easily convert text content on a web page to an MP3 file too.

Utilities like Natural reader ( http://www.naturalreaders.com/) could be useful, if you wish to listen to text. When you load a piece of text in English on to this program, it reads out the text in a natural voice. The free software SayzMe ( http://www.datafurnace.net.au/sayzme/html /home.html) is another text-to-voice reader worth a mention. Besides reading text files, SayzMe can listen to clipboard and read out its content instantly.

While on a web page, it is likely that you stumble on an unfamiliar word, whose proper pronunciation may not be known to you. The free Firefox extension ‘Click,Speak’ (http://clickspeak.clcworld.net/downloads.html) could rescue you from such worries. This extension can be used to read out the selected word or paragraph from the current web page. It can be used to read out a web page as well.

Despite criticism from different quarters, Wikipedia, the people powered free online encyclopedia, continues to be a major reference site for academicians/researchers/students. An MP3 version of a favourite wikipedia article could be handy if you wish to listen to it at a convenient time, off-line. For those who wish to generate an MP3 version of your favourite Wikipedia article, check out the free on-line service Pediphon (http://prt-i61.fernuni-hagen.de/~bischoff/radiopedia/index_en.html). By just typing in a term you can generate an audio file of the article related to this term. In addition, the service provides the option for hearing the article directly from your browser.

Recording inside your browser

As you may be aware, a variety of live (and recorded) audio content (like on-line radio stations and podcasts) is available. It is likely that you wish to record some of these programs for listening off-line. Besides this, you may be keen to record the voice output from text-to-speech readers (like SayzMe) mentioned above.

Here is a simple solution for recording such content directly from your browser.

The free browser toolbar ‘Freecorder Toolbar’ (http://applian.com/freecorder3/support/user_guide.php) lets you record audio from your speaker/micro-phone and save the content as an MP3 file. Once the toolbar is installed, you will find buttons such as ‘Record’, ‘Stop’, ‘Play’ and so on for recording the audio content being played. By choosing appropriate buttons you can record/store your audio content.

PDF to Word converter

Converting a PDF document to an editable DOC file is an important task for many netizens. Though several conversion products are available, a free tool for this purpose is yet to be found in the Windows platform (correct me if I am wrong). In this regard, for those of you who are unwilling to purchase a commercial PDF conversion software, the program ‘Free PDF to Word Converter’ ( http://www.hellopdf.com/) comes as a pleasant surprise. This, easy to use, free software lets you convert a PDF file to a Word document without any hassle.

J. MURALI

He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com

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