I have long been a fan of text-to-speech capabilities. The Commodore 64 had SAM (Software Automatic Mouth) which was amazing for the time, but not that useful. Later on Windows had SAPI which could be used to listen to text, but it had a tinny robot feel to it.
A couple of years ago I bought Text Aloud with two of the AT&T Natural Voice. These voices were quite good and I have probably listened to over a hundred novels using them. It is great to take older and many time classic texts from sources such as Project Gutenberg and convert them from text to listen to on my computer or iPod.
OSX Leopard has introduced a new voice named Alex that is a leap ahead of their previous voices. I have used it to listen to a couple of novels and the Pope’s new encyclical Spe Salvi and it is certainly of good enough quality for these purposes. In my opinion the AT&T voices are slightly better, but not by much.
One thing that I really like though is that I was able to build a Automator script that would take whatever text I had in TextEdit, convert it using the Alex voice and then have it import into iTunes. This is just so convenient that I will probably just use the Alex voice instead of the AT&T voices on my PC.
Considering the fact that this voice is free in Leopard this is a real bargain. TextAloud costs $35 and it you need to add $25 for the AT&T natural voices. Currently software such as AbleReader for the Mac which uses AT&T voices won’t work on Intel Macs. But I see no real reason that Alex is not perfectly suitable.