<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/balathumb.png” />Text is one of the pillars supporting modern civilization. The ability to write – and now type – text provides a way to encapsulate information and share it with others. There’s just one problem with text, and that’s the fact that it is a purely visual means of communicating. Trying to jog down the street with a Kindle isn’t easy both because it’s hard to see the text while moving about and also because you need a fairly large format on which to read the text.
The solution to this problem is text-to-speech, a task that’s becoming increasingly useful as digital books and other forms of electronic text become more popular. There’s options about, one of which is Balabolka, a free text-to-speech program for Windows.
The Basics Of Balabolka
Getting started with Balabolka doesn’t require much instruction. When you start up the program, you are presented with a large, blank text area and a few audio controls. The text area will accept text straight from your clipboard, and you can start hearing text-to-speech by placing your cursor where you’d like the speech to begin. The controls at the top of the text area focus on volume and rate. The function of the volume control is obvious, of course, and the rate control determines the speed at which the voice will move through the text. Faster speeds will reduce the time required to move through a piece of text, but may make the text-to-speech conversion harder to understand.
Balabolka relies on the Microsoft Speech API for its output, which is why it has tabs for SAPI4 and SAPI5. The version of Windows you are using will determine the quality of the speech output. The latest version, SAPI5, is called Microsoft Anna. It is a female voice that is clear and generally easy to understand, although acronyms and unusual proper nouns can trip it up, a common flaw among text-to-speech programs.
Advanced Text-To-Speech Features
Besides the ability to change the rate and volume of the speech rendered with Balabolka, there are also some more advanced features available, which can be found under the Options menu tab. From here, you can make some minor changes to the pitch of the voice, or you can open a Settings menu.
In the Settings menu you’ll find a few options that can prove helpful. Under the Reading tab you will find the option to ignore certain characters while reading. This can be helpful if you have a piece of text with erroneous or strange characters that are tripping up the text-to-speech translation. Under the Pauses tab, you can force the voice to pause for a specified period of time at the end of a paragraph or sentence. In the Text tab, you can automatically remove certain formatting features in order to alter the way the text-to-speech translation sounds.
Batch File Conversion
Although you may want to listen to text-to-speech while at your computer, chances are that you’re interested in taking text-to-speech files with you so you can listen to them on your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or other portable device. That’s while Balabolka’s batch conversion comes in.
Available under the Tools menu, this feature lets convert a large number of text files to audio recordings quickly. Doing this is quite simple by clicking the Add Files button and then finding the appropriate text files. Balabolka supports common text formats including DOC/DOCX, TXT, and ODT. The text-to-speech translation will follow the settings you determined in the main text area – for example, if you set the rate to -3 to make speech slower and easier to understand, all of the text documents you batch convert to speech will be converted at the -3 rate of speech. The output formats are numerous and include WAV, MP3 and MP4.
Balabolka is simple and free. It’s also fairly quick and lightweight – there is even a portable version of Balabolka that will run from an .exe without the installation of any files. There are other options that provide better text-to-speech quality, but you’re generally going to have to pay for them, and most people won’t have trouble understanding the text-to-speech translation Balabolka is capable of providing.
If you have any text-to-speech favourites of your own, let us know about them in the comments.