How to: Text to Voice in Windows

By Matthew Schieltz

Microsoft Windows contains a text-to-speech or text-to-voice program in XP, Vista and Windows 7. Simply put, the utility can read aloud system messages or text on the Windows screen. This can be helpful if you have difficulty seeing the computer monitor or are multitasking in Windows. To tweak the "narrator"--the voice you hear when using the text-to-speech program--you can control the speed, pitch, volume and other settings to suit your preferences.

Configure Text-to-Speech Settings

Step 1

Connect external speakers to the speaker jack on your computer and adjust the speaker's volume to hear system sounds. Alternatively, plug in a set of headphones or earbuds into the headphone jack. Click on the volume icon in the taskbar next to the system clock to adjust the volume.

Step 2

Click the "Start" button in Windows XP and select "Control Panel" from the list. Click the "Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices" section. Click "Speech." If using Windows Vista or 7, type "text to speech" in the Start Menu's "Search" box and press "Enter."

Step 3

Select the "Text To Speech" tab. Click the "Voice selection" drop-down box and click the name of the Microsoft voice you want to use (for example, "Microsoft Sam"). Click "Preview Voice" to listen to the default text that the Windows voice will read.

Step 4

Drag the "Voice speed" slider control to the left or right to adjust the speed of the voice, or leave the slider in the default "Normal" position.

Step 5

Click the "Audio Output" button in Windows XP and the "Advanced" button in Windows 7 and Vista. Leave the default "Use preferred audio output device" option selected if you have only one pair of speakers or want to use the same output device (for example, the speakers you connected) for speech as for all other system sounds. Or, click "Use this audio output device" and select the appropriate device from the box if you want to use a separate device, like headphones or earbuds, specifically for speech.

Step 6

Click the "Volume" button. Drag the volume slider controls up or down to adjust the text-to-speech output levels. Close the volume window when finished. Click "OK" in the "Text to Speech Sound Output Settings" box to close it. Click the "Preview" button again to hear how the text to speech narrator will sound. Click "OK" to close the Speech Properties box.

Configure Narrator Settings

Step 1

Click the "Start" button in XP and click "Run." Type "narrator" in the "Run" box and press "Enter" on your keyboard to open the Narrator program. In Windows Vista and 7, type "Narrator" in the Start menu's "Search" box and press "Enter."

Step 2

Click "Announce events on the screen" or "Announce System Messages" to enable the Narrator to read when new windows, menus, shortcuts or system messages are displayed. Click "Read typed characters" or "Echo User's Keystrokes" to allow the Narrator to read the keystrokes you enter.

Step 3

Click "Move mouse pointer to active item" in Windows XP to configure the pointer to follow the active window on the screen. Click "Announce Scroll Notifications" in Vista and 7 if you want Narrator to announce when the screen scrolls. Select "Start Narrator minimized" to keep the Narrator program window minimized when it starts.

Step 4

Click the "Voice" button. Click the "Speed," "Volume" and "Pitch" drop-down boxes to select a different setting for the Narrator's voice. Click "OK" to close the Voice Settings box.

Step 5

Click "Control whether Narrator starts when I log on" if using Windows 7. Click the "Turn on Narrator" and "Turn on Audio Description" check boxes to have Narrator automatically start when you log on to Windows. Click "OK."

Step 6

Click the "Minimize" button in the Narrator program window to leave it running so that it can read and announce text and actions on your computer.