Did you ever wish you could just click a button in Word, and your computer would read that Word document to you in a human voice? For some people (both children and adults) with reading or writing difficulties, having the text read aloud can be a significant help as part of the studying and learning process. Now it is possible through a free Word plug-in:
WordTalk is available here: http://www.wordtalk.co.uk
This is a cool little piece of software. It was developed by Rod Macaulay over in Scotland, and he ended up getting an award for it – the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award.
You might be wondering, “Nice, but will it work with the version of Word I’m using, since I don’t have the newest version?” I’m pretty sure it will, since it will work with Word 97, Word 2000, Word XP, Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010. Not sure about Word 2013.
What it does is pretty straightforward. You have a Word document on your screen, it will speak the content of the document out loud. But there are a few specific features.
Once it is installed, you will see this toolbar in Word:
Here is what those icons do:
When you click this icon, the program will begin reading and speaking out loud from wherever the cursor happens to be at the time.
This one instructs the program to read the entire paragraph. The paragraph chosen to speak is whatever paragraph happens to contain your cursor at the time.
Works similarly to the “P”, but this is for “sentence” – whatever sentence you have clicked with your cursor, that sentence will be spoken.
This one gets even more specific than the ones above. Put your cursor on a particular word, and click this icon to speak just that word.
With this icon, you can select (highlight) a specific section of text, such as a few sentences or a few paragraphs, and that section will be spoken.
This icon is a wrench, which means this is where you configure the settings for the program. Nothing complicated here. You can control the speed or volume used to speak the words. You can also configure some keyboard shortcuts for the various commands.
With this icon, you can click to save the sound file that has been created (whether word, sentence, paragraph or the whole document). Sound files can be saved as a WAV or MP3 file.
If you configure Wordtalk a particular way, you can save that configuration that includes your preferences. This icon loads that saved set of preferences.
This one activates Wordtalk’s built-in spell checker. Not sure that this has a lot of value, since Word already has a built-in spell checker anyway. But it’s there.
One of the ways I judge the quality of a piece of software is how easy it is to install and use. The makers of this program have really done an outstanding job of providing step-by-step instructions for installing WordTalk on your computer. There is a separate set of instructions for each version of Word, and each set is filled with screenshots to that even a computer newbie could get it installed easily.
WordTalk is only for Windows. For Mac users, I believe you can achieve this same effect by creating the text document, then copying the text into SimpleText (the word processor that comes with the Mac by default). Then click to open the Sound menu, and choose Speak All. I cannot verify this since I don’t use a Mac. If any Mac users have a better procedure, please let us know in the comments.