Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]

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espeak icon   Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]Let your computer do the talking. Install eSpeak and you can make your computer say anything, in a wide variety of languages.

Looking for a lightweight text to speech program? Whether you want to listen to your favorite blog while doing the dishes, or just make your computer say naughty words to your friends so you can giggle like schoolchildren, eSpeak is a great tool for the job. It’s “a compact open source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages” according to its website. You can use official versions of eSpeak on Linux and Windows.

Using eSpeak

In Linux, eSpeak features a delightfully minimalist user interface:

espeak talking   Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]

Enter some text, pick a language and hit play; the text is spoken and the words being read are highlighted in real time. You can then pause or stop the talking at any time by pressing the appropriate buttons. It’s just that simple.

Need to listen to text not in English? There’s a good chance eSpeak can speak your language.

espeak languages1   Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]

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Most major European languages are supported; check out the official list of languages supported by eSpeak, if you’re curious. There are also various English accents, but I couldn’t really hear much difference. Can you?

The Windows interface is a bit more complex, giving you the ability to open .TXT files and controls over speed and more.

espeak windows   Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]

Those creepy lips move while eSpeak talks, which I could do without. You can save any particular string of speak to a .WAV file, perfect for dubbing over creepy footage for anonymous revolutions.

Similar to the say command for Macs, you can use eSpeak from the command line in Linux. This is a great way to open entire .TXT files:

espeak command   Give Your Computer A Voice With eSpeak [Windows & Linux]

You can also use the command interface to pipe in the results from other command line programs. For example,

calendar|espeak

will read a bunch of random trivia about today to you.

Learn more about using eSpeak with other commands by watching this video:

Not sure where to find that pesky “|”? It’s the shift option on your backslash key, which is probably just above your enter key.

Potential Uses

Like the idea, but not sure what you’d use it for? Well, you could listen to articles while doing other things. Doing the dishes is way better when you’re listening to MakeUseOf. It could also be perfect if you’re editing something you’ve written. Hearing your work read out loud, even by a machine, can sometimes make grammatical problems obvious. Try it out next time you are writing something.

The command line interface provides anyone with some computer skills to make a custom startup sound that reads the weather or recites random poetry. Let us know if you come up with anything in the comments below. For most people, though, this software is simply a great source for creepy robot voices. Use them to surprise your friends.

Installing eSpeak

Ready to install eSpeak? Find the download here.

Linux users should check their package manager before downloading any files; eSpeak is almost certainly in there. Ubuntu users can simply click here to install eSpeak.

This software can be amusing at first, but the real challenge is thinking of uses for it. Can you guys think of any? Let us know in the comments below.

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11 Comments - Write a Comment

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Cathy

Hmm perhaps install on laptop and have it read recipe to you when you are cooking…wonder if there is a command to tell it to pause?

jhpot

There’s a pause button, but I don’t know if that’s what you’re asking for. Is it?

Reply

Anonymous

Nice! I like that it includes a command-line tool.

jhpot

It’s really nice, particularly when you get used to piping. Lots of things you can do with this!

Reply

xo

This program is similar to what a relative of mine uses when he needs to speak.  The USEFULNESS and NEED for this type of speech program is more essential than you seem to have given it credit for.

There are literally MILLIONS of people around the world who cannot speak, due to illness, injury, or tracheostomy. ( http://www.medicinenet.com/tracheostomy/article.htm )

While there is an app available for the iPhone and Droid, finding a really good text reading program for the PC that will allow someone who cannot speak to type in what he or she wishes to say and has the computer speak those words, well… that is always a challenge.

I am forwarding “sharing” this with my loved ones and posting a link on facebook for those who know people who are unable to speak.

jhpot

You’re right: software like this is essential to many people. I wasn’t trying to downplay that; I was only trying to find purposes for others. Thanks for making this point, and let me know how your loved ones find eSpeak.

Reply

Blah

I use espeak at the office to:

– tell me the time at one hour intervals (using crons)
– speak previously setup reminders (again, using crons)

Reply

Voices Carry

I can see this used for transcoding ebooks to text files and making your own poor man’s audiobooks.

I’m a creative writer, and sometimes I use text-to-speech to literally give my characters a “voice.” It helps a lot hearing the people talk back and forth; if I’m writing in third person I can use a separate “voice” to narrate the story. (If only someone would synthesize Morgan Freeman I know a lot of people who’d be happy. As though they’d just gotten a treat, a reward of some sort. Like a Twinkie, like a Twinkie…) XD

A few Q’s:
1) Is it possible to listen to the voices on the software’s website? Or does it not come prepackaged with voices, but uses the preinstalled ones already on your computer (i.e. “Microsoft Sam”?

2) Where, if anywhere, can you download additional voices?

3) if, say, you want something read in English but with a foreign accent, how good are the foreign voices for that?

jhpot

1. There’s no way to test the voices offline; you need to install the program first. It doesn’t use the built-in voices, either; there is a male and a female voice in many languages and accents.

2. I don’t think there are additional voices for the program, because eSpeak doesn’t have voice files: it creates the voice on its own as it goes.

3. Give the foreign languages English text to read an the result is pretty hard to understand, and not what I’d describe as an accent.

Having said this, give eSpeak a shot. You might like it!

Morgan

Actually you can add or change voices and it does use voice files.  If you go to the website where you are downloading it, click on the link at the top to go to the home page. then click on Languages on the left side. Scroll down and you will see a link for voices.  That is where it explains how to change them voice files etc.

http://espeak.sourceforge.net/voices.html

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David Deley

Dyslexic people find text-to-speech programs very helpful.

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