The main benefit of using speech to text software is the ability to level the playing field with eye readers in terms of time. Standard human speech is substantially slower than standard human eye reading. A radio commentator speaks at between 100 and 120 words per minute. Most people can read text at more than double that speed, and strong readers are typically clearing 300 words a minute.
It is extremely important that you begin training to use text-to-speech technology if you have reasonable strength in verbal skills. However, be prepared for the difficulties you may encounter at the beginning.
You can pair any of the speech engines demoed on the tools page with off-the-shelf optical character recognition (OCR) software that you can use to scan documents into electronic form. OCR software has been around for decades and has become so sophisticated that it allows you to turn virtually any font into a digital file that can be read aloud, or cut and pasted. The primary ways to use it are either with a 5-megapixel (or better) document camera or a flatbed scanner (see: Hardware Tools). Scansnap by Fujitsu is a more expensive version if you have a large amount of scanning to do.
Once you have a document scanned you’ll need to turn it into speech. The two leading engines to OCR material are OmniPage by Nuance and Abbyy Finereader. The price of OmniPage OCR software, which is at the high end of this market sells roughly between $100-$500. Alternatively, an OCR engine is available as part of Google Drive's suite of software.
You can use Google Drives OCR by uploading a high-resolution version of the document to Google Drive. Make sure to consider your privacy needs when uploading documents. The resulting capability will allow you to take any worksheet or instruction manual you might want to read, turn it into digital text through imaging, and then have your computer read it aloud.
Once you understand the basics of text-to-speech, it’s time to start accelerating the rate at which text is read back. First try increasing the rate by 10 percent to see if you can follow along. Every time you increase your speed by 10 percent, it will take you 10 percent less time to get through material. Watch a helpful video ( Save Time Using Superfast Speech) for background on accelerating speech by visiting our Tools page for a demo.