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What is text-to-speech technology (TTS)?

By Understood Team

At a Glance

  • Text-to-speech (TTS) technology reads aloud digital text — the words on computers, smartphones, and tablets.

  • TTS can help people who struggle with reading.

  • There are TTS tools available for nearly every digital device.

Text-to-speech (TTS) is a type of assistive technology that reads digital text aloud. It’s sometimes called “read aloud” technology.

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With a click of a button or the touch of a finger, TTS can take words on a computer or other digital device and convert them into audio. TTS is very helpful for kids and adults who struggle with reading. But it can also help with writing and editing, and even with focusing.

TTS works with nearly every personal digital device, including computers, smartphones, and tablets. All kinds of text files can be read aloud, including Word and Pages documents. Even online web pages can be read aloud.

Dive deeper

How does text-to-speech work?

The voice in TTS is computer-generated, and reading speed can usually be sped up or slowed down. 

Many TTS tools highlight words as they are read aloud. This allows the user to see text and hear it at the same time.

Some TTS tools can also read text aloud from images. For example, a user could take a photo of a street sign on their phone and have the words on the sign turned into audio.

Learn about the different types of TTS built into mobile devices.

The connection to audiobooks

You might be wondering what the connection is between TTS and audiobooks.

TTS is a tool that reads text aloud. An audiobook is a recording of a book read by a human voice (or created by TTS). Sometimes, people say TTS or audiobooks to mean the same thing.

Learn about how your child may be eligible for free audiobooks .

Types of text-to-speech tools

There are many different TTS tools:

  • Built-in text-to-speech: Many devices have built-in TTS tools . This includes desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, digital tablets, and Chromebooks. 

  • Web-based tools: Some websites have TTS tools on-site. 

  • Text-to-speech apps: Users can download TTS apps on smartphones and digital tablets. There are also TTS tools that can be added to web browsers, like Chrome .

  • Text-to-speech software programs: Many literacy software programs for desktop and laptop computers have TTS.

Find a list of free online assistive technology tools .

How text-to-speech can help kids

Print materials in school — like books and handouts — can create barriers for kids with reading challenges. That’s because some kids struggle with decoding and understanding words on the page. Using digital text with TTS can help.

Since TTS lets kids both see and hear text when reading, it creates a multisensory reading experience. And like audiobooks, TTS won’t slow down the development of kids’ reading skills.

Learn more about how TTS and audiobooks can help with learning to read .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom