Review: Speech Central: Voice Reader UWP


You'll have guessed from its title ("Speech Central: Voice Reader") what this UWP application for all Windows 10 phones (and other computing devices) does. The 'Central' bit is notable though, since this does a fabulous job of rounding up news from a multitude of sources and then you can add your own sites and articles too - all to be read aloud. Maybe you're driving or washing up, or maybe just lying in bed, but either way you want to listen and not use your eyes.

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From the Store description:

  • read aloud web articles
  • read aloud internet headlines and RSS feeds while you pick articles to be read interactively (with wireless keyboard with media buttons, headphones with media buttons, Bluetooth hands-free, Xbox remote control)
  • import documents, books and emails (Word (docx), PowerPoint (pptx), PDF and many other text file and e-book formats (.epub, .fb2, DAISY)).
  • export annotated text to the .docx file
  • create an MP3 file*
  • multi-language support with the auto language detection (any language that support text to speech on your device can be used)
  • OCR - camera to speech
  • background audio playing and buffering for the better quality of speech
  • sync with Pocket

I got most of this working, as you'll see below. The asterisk besides the 'MP3 mention' is because saving a rendered audio stream is limited to Windows 10 on the Desktop only. But I was impressed with everything else, not least the camera integration, which has obvious benefits for the blind and partially sighted.

Ironically, for an app designed to reduce the need to look at your phone, the best way on the page here to demonstrate what it can do is through screenshots, of course. So here goes!


You're opened into a helpful cavalcade of news and social sources, from which I picked a few likely suspects. But you can go nuts here and use this as your main hub in keeping up with the world. Note the timings besides headlines from sources - these are the estimated time to read each set.


Of course, in many cases you'll want to hear more than the headlines, so you can 'Add to articles' using either your headset 'next' button or by long tapping or right clicking. Either way, you build up a sequence of 'stuff you want read out to you'.


Helpfully, it's a doddle to open other sources up, here adding AAWP as a (RSS) news source and then working my way through (in this case my own!) headlines. Again, they're read out and articles can be selected for detailed reading in the usual way.


Looking at the context sensitive options during playback, firstly picking a preferred reading voice (these come from the text-to-speech built into the OS), and (right) opting for a playback speed. I experimented and liked 1.2x for hearing my articles read fluidly.


Loads and loads to fiddle with in Settings, including the visual (theme, fonts) and aural (text length announcement, voice, pitch, etc.)


The camera integration works splendidly - snap something, wait for some cloud-based OCR and then the text is available and readable (aloud). So cool. (Almost as cool as my local aviation museum here!)

Of the possibilities of using this for partially sighted users, the developer says: "the text to speech interface was tested to be accessible by legally blind users. For people with visual impairments and related disabilities this can be a great assistive technology with many features built specifically for them (Bookshare service integration, DAISY text book, keyboard shortcuts, dyslexia friendly font)." So Speech Central: Voice Reader UWP is of even wider use to the blind than you might imagine. Impressive stuff.

The only functionality mentioned which I couldn't get to work in reasonable time was opening up local PDF and Word documents - I have several of these with dozens of pages and was rather hoping that this app would turn them, effectively, into audio books, but they either took so long to process (they get converted in the cloud, I think) or errored out, and I gave up in the end.

There are other text-to-speech utilities on Windows 10, but none as thorough as Speech Central: Voice Reader UWP. Yes, it's commercial and a fiver or so (on sale) but in this case you're genuinely rewarding the developer for his considerable efforts.

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