Natural Reader is a free program that will read chunks of text out loud. I stumbled upon this program when browsing a writing forum that was talking about reading your work out loud, I thought it would be interesting to try and I was right. I don’t really expect much from a free version, except maybe the basic features, which this one does have, but I do expected it to work well.
I’m not extremely impressed with the free version, but I’m not going to spend the fifty dollars for the personal version just to see if it’s any better. As I mentioned before I was trying this program as a method of proof reading, but a couple times (even when I hit pause) when I would switch windows to fix a mistake that I heard, the program would glitch out. Once it even magically took text that I had copied from the internet, nearly an hour before, and started to read from that instead of the high lighted document. Despite the entertainment I got, it was not an incident that makes me want to recommend the program.
The way the program works, is that you open a program that you want it to read from, (browsers, word documents, instant messages, really anything that has text) highlight the text that you want it to read, and it automatically copies the text into the program and you hit play. Simple as that. The glitches make me think that the program just isn’t built well enough to multi task, normally I’m all for simplicity, but I have to have programs that I can multitask with. These glitches showed up when using the mini-board feature, or the floating window. The main window, you have to manually copy and paste the text over for it to be read. There seems to be no glitches with that, but having to use the main window for a glitch-free experience takes away the simplicity.
The versions that are available to purchase have more features, including the ability to turn the audio into mp3 files, supposedly more natural voices, and a couple of versions have the ability to scan books in and turn them into audio files. They also have an educational version that has the ability to do e-books into audio (though so do most of today’s e-readers), word prediction, and spell check. I can only assume that the educational version works much differently than the free version because of these features, but again, I’m not willing to pay fifty dollars to find out.
Over all, the free version is fun to mess around with, it does get the job done as long as you don’t need to switch back and forth between the program and the document while it’s being read. I’ll still continue to use it for my editing, but I won’t be gushing about the program like I was when I first found it.
As an additional note, the program crashed on me twice while I had it read through this article.