Are you Using the Speak Text-to-Speech Command in Office?

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During a typical day (if you can say any day is typical in the life of an AT specialist) we have the opportunity to work with teachers and students to show them available network tools. Quite often parents ask us what tools they could be using at home to support their child. This past week, we were again working with students who have great difficulty with reading and writing! You know the student that hates to write and seems to be falling farther and farther behind in reading and writing. They hate to pick up a pencil or read what they wrote!

This Sunday we wanted to share the Speak text-to-speech (TTS) command that is available in Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote (2010 & 2013) and Office 365. This command enables you to listen to written text spoken aloud in the language of your version of Microsoft Office. The English version is already installed and is available to add to the quick Access Toolbar or a Customized Ribbon.

Often teachers will ask students to reread their writing for errors and/or read their compositions aloud to see if it sounds right. A struggling reader may attempt this strategy only to find that reading and listening at the same time can be very challenging and seemingly impossible.

Playing back the written text in spoken words can be a very powerful literacy tool. A user can highlight words they have typed and then select the Speak Command and focus on listening to the way the words, sentences, and paragraphs sound together. With a little coaching and peer modeling, struggling writers can soon hear if the writing is correct or makes sense and make corrections as needed.

Another use of the TTS command is providing a tool to enable struggling presenters a different modality for giving presentations or participating in show and tell. Having slides or a document read aloud to the audience through the use of TTS can release some of the pressure of standing up and talking in front an audience.

A third use of TTS comes to mind for individuals that do not speak or cannot use their own voice to communicate due to a disability. TTS can empower people with communication disorders or provide AAC users with other voice output options to actively participate in literacy activities.

You can add the Speak command to your Quick Access Toolbar or place it on a Customized Ribbon.

Adding Speak Command on the Quick Access Toolbar

  1. Next to the Quick Access Toolbar, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar.
  2. Click on More Commands.
  3. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
  4. Scroll down to the Speak command, select it and then click Add.
  5. When you want to use the text-to-speech command, click on the Speak icon on the Quick Access toolbar.

Note: To view any of the graphics in this blog in a larger size, click on the graphics in the photo gallery at the end of the blog or download the tutorial PDF document.

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Adding Speak Command through Customizing the Ribbon

  1. Go to the Ribbon and make sure that you have selected the tab where you would like to add the Speak Command. (i.e. I would like my Speak command on my Home tab. So I select the Home tab).
  2. Right click on the far right of the tab or any blank area of the ribbon and select Customize Ribbon.
  3. On the right side you will see Customize the Ribbon drop down and select Main Tabs.
  4. Select the Home tab listing. Then go to the bottom of the page and select New Group. You will see a New Group Custom in the Home Listing. Select the New Group Custom by clicking on it and rename your group (i.e MyTools) by clicking on the Rename button at the bottom.
  5. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
  6. Scroll down to the Speak command, select it and then click Add.
  7. You will see Speak now listed on the right side under Main Tabs/My Tools/ Speak
  8. Click OK.

You should now see the Speak Command on your Home Tab on the ribbon.

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Using the Speak Command

Type a word, sentence or paragraph and select the text you want read aloud by highlighting it with your cursor. Make sure your computer volume is not muted and click on the Speak icon in your Quick Access Toolbar or on your Customized Ribbon. You should hear the text being read aloud.

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