Text to Speech (TTS) – A Beginners Guide

Text-to-speech (TTS), also known as read aloud or screen reader, is a form of assistive technology that lets you listen to text instead of reading it. Simply put, it turns text into audio.

Obviously, the benefits of TTS are apparent for the visually impaired. Still, the growing popularity of podcasts and audiobooks shows that many folks are choosing to listen to information whenever they can. Perhaps it’s because much of today’s workforce spends more than seven hours a day staring at digital screens. This can lead to blurred vision and eye strain. What’s more, sitting in front of a computer and holding up a tablet are familiar sources of back and neck pain.

Audiobook fans believe that the advantages of listening instead of reading extend far beyond health improvement. They believe that this simple switch can increase reading accuracy and reading speed, improving comprehension and increasing test scores.

Whatever the reason, tech giants have been paying attention to this shift and trying to incorporate TTS whenever possible. As of today, TTS is available on devices, including smartphones, computers, and tablets. It has appeared in popular applications such as TikTok, Google Docs, ReminderCall, and Discord, to name a few. You can use it to listen to work created by others or add it to content for your own audience. Here’s a quick guide on activating TTS in some of the tools you might use.

TTS in Popular Applications

Discord

Discord TTS can enhance media sharing, screen sharing, and voice chat. Within Discord, two settings enable the text-to-speech feature. You can activate the feature on all your channels or simply on the current one.

  1. Open the Discord app on your PC or Mac.
  2. Click on the Settings Cog in the bottom-left corner.
  3. In the App Settings in the left menu, click Accessibility.
  4. Scroll down and activate the Allow Playback and Usage of /tts Command toggle.

Now you can type /tts before typing your messages, and Discord will read them aloud to your recipients. 

Google Docs

Looking for an additional time saver at work? Try adding TTS to your Google Docs workflow. To use the text-to-speech feature in Google Docs for the PC, there are two steps: add the screen reader tool, ChromeVox, to the Chrome browser and then enable the Screen Reader in Google Docs:

  1. In your Chrome browser, navigate to the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Find and select the ChromeVox extension.
  3. Click Add to Chrome.
  4. Open Google Docs.
  5. In the header menu, click Tools.
  6. Select Accessibility from the dropdown menu.
  7. Turn Screen Reader Support on and click Ok.

To have a document read to you by Google Docs:

  1. Open a Google Docs document.
  2. Select the text you’d like to hear
  3. In the header menu, click Tools.
  4. Select Accessibility from the dropdown menu.
  5. Click on Speak Selection.

ReminderCall

Let’s face it, some people will always prefer a reminder call to a text message. It might be because they remember the things they hear. Or, they get so many text messages that they don’t read them immediately. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to use the ReminderCall Text to Speech function, and it comes in English, Spanish and French! Run the online ReminderCall demo to listen to text-to-speech reminder calls.

Here’s how to do it with a spreadsheet:

  1. Click Send in the header menu.
  2. Select the Reminder tab.
  3. Check the Calls checkbox.
  4. Click the Choose File button to upload your spreadsheet.
  5. Follow the prompts to customize your settings.


Note: these instructions are for spreadsheet users. If you use ReminderCall with third-party scheduling software, please click the ? icon on the header menu to locate instructions for your software.

TikTok

To make your videos more engaging, try TikTok Voice. This text-to-speech feature is offered in the most recent versions of the app. Once you’ve made sure your app does not need an update, enabling the read-aloud feature on TikTok only takes a few steps. 

  1. Upload your video or recording.
  2. Click on the Aa icon in the editing menu.
  3. Type the desired text for your video.
  4. If desired, edit your text’s color, style, and position.
  5. Click Done.
  6. Select the text.
  7. Click the Talking Head icon.
  8. If desired, select a different voice.
  9. Click Done.

TikTok will read your text to the viewer once you’ve uploaded your video. 

Twitch 

There are several ways to take your streams to another level by adding text-to-speech to the Twitch app. We will look at using StreamElements as it only takes a few easy steps. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign in to StreamElements.
  2. Click on Streaming Tools
  3. Select My Overlays.
  4. Locate Alerts and click Edit.
  5. Click Settings
  6. Select the alert that needs text-to-speech, such as Tips, Subs, or Cheers.
  7. Scroll down to TTS Settings
  8. Turn on Enable Text to Speech.
  9. Select your voice and volume.
  10. If desired, set some delays.

TTS in Operating Systems

Android

To activate text to speech on Android devices 11.0 and up, follow the steps below:

  1. Tap the Settings Cog.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Select to Speak (if you do not see this selection, go to Google Play and download the Android Accessibility Suite).
  4. Turn on the Select to Speak shortcut.
  5. Tap OK.

Now, when you see some text you would like to hear:

  1. Tap the Accessibility button, which looks like a standing person.
  2. Tap the text you’d like to hear.
    1. To hear multiple items, drag your finger across the screen.
    2. To hear everything, tap the Play icon.
    3. To run Select to Speak in the background:
      From another app, open the Settings cog, tap Select to Speak, tap Settings and turn on Read In Background.

 iOS

Many iPhones can read text aloud. Here’s how to use Text-to-Speech on the iPhone 14:

  1. From the Home screen, open the Settings Cog icon.
  2. Scroll down and tap Accessibility.
  3. Choose Spoken Content.
  4. Toggle Speak Selection to ON.
  5. Toggle Speak Screen to ON.
  6. Optional, adjust the voice and speaking rate to suit your preference.

To activate Text to Speech, navigate to an app or a browser and swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen. This motion will convert the text on the screen to audio so you can listen to the content. Alternatively, if you are using Siri, say “Siri speak screen.”

Windows 11

The text-to-speech feature built into Windows 11 is called Narrator. Besides reading text to you, it allows you to navigate Windows, the web, and apps by using voice commands. Here’s how to enable it on your PC to read text passages:

1. Press the Windows key + Crtl + N to open the Settings.

2. Toggle Narrator to ON.

Once Narrator is activated, navigate to the text you’d like to read, such as a Microsoft Word document, and press Narrator + Spacebar. Use the up and down arrow keys to read by paragraph. To stop reading, press Ctrl.

Devices that Include TTS

Chromebook

If you are tired of reading from your screen, Chromebook has a built-in screen reader, which is easy to activate.

  1. Press Alt + Shift + s or select the time display (bottom right corner of the screen).
  2. Click the Settings cog.
  3. Click on Advanced.
  4. Go to the Accessibility section.
  5. Click on Manage Accessibility Features.
  6. Enable Select-to-Speak under Text-to-Speech.

Now that you’ve enabled Select-to-Speak, a Speaker Icon should have appeared next to the time. To hear an area of text, press the Speaker Icon and drag your cursor over the area of text to read. To listen to long documents, repeat the steps above but select ChromeVox in step six.

Mac

macOS Monterey 12 comes with Text-to-Speech ready to go; no setup is required. Just press Option-Esc to hear any selected text. Press Option-Esc with no text selected to hear all the text in the active window.

For the visually impaired, Monterey 12 includes a feature called VoiceOver that describes every item on the screen and helps control the mac using the keyboard. 

The Takeaway

With text-to-speech enabled, it’s time to put the feature to good use. Whether you’re looking to save time, improve reading comprehension, or give your eyes a break, be sure to take advantage of the read-aloud feature already available to you. At the very least, it may prove to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Similar Posts