Screen reader software for the visually impaired has revolutionized the way thousands of people interact with computers. Before this technology came about, many were simply unable to use a computer for work or leisure; now, you can install software that will read any text on a screen out loud, to help you better navigate a computer. But the best screen reader software does so much more than just read text in a flat, droid-like, monotone voice. Today, a variety of voices makes the software more user-friendly, and added tools and features make it truly worth your investment.
At the most basic level, text to speech software works by finding text on a screen and reading it aloud through the computer’s speakers. More advanced versions help you navigate the screen by telling you what objects the mouse is hovered over, what window you have open, or what letters you are typing. Special keyboard commands, called hotkeys, perform these and other functions.
Whether you’re visually impaired, shopping for someone you know or just wanting to give your own tired, strained eyes a break, there’s a screen reader application that’s right for you. Find it here with our best screen reader software comparisons and reviews, like JAWS, Supernova Screen Reader and Window-Eyes; you'll also find articles related to screen reader software and tips on how to best utilize your new application. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™
There are many different types of screen reader software available, and the right one for you depends on your own vision levels and assistance needs.
This is where your needs will vary the greatest. If have no vision whatsoever, you’ll want an application that announces programs as they open and as you navigate to them. The software should also read menu items as the dropdown menus are activated, and narrate text within a program when you activate narration, usually with a click or hotkey. Character and word echo as you type helps you improve the accuracy of your typing, while inflections on capital letters and announcements of punctuation and text styles make sure that the document looks the way you want it to. And always be sure that your software is capable of connecting to a Braille output device. If you have some vision, screen zoom is quite the useful feature. And regardless of your vision levels, a variety of voices is always a convenient feature.
This is one category that should not vary, no matter what your vision level is. You want your software to be compatible with the basics of your computer – word processing applications, internet, email, PDF reading – but not all screen readers are. The best ones work well with newer versions of Microsoft Office, especially Word and Excel. They also include at least two different internet browser options, usually Internet Explorer and Firefox. A variety of email applications is nice, but at the least, the software should work with Outlook and Outlook Express. Adobe Reader is another important application, and the ability to read electronic books is quite the handy feature as well.
Ease of Use
Spending hundreds of dollars on screen reader software will be a waste if you need a sighted person to help you use it. The best screen readers are designed so you don’t even need a sighted person to set them up because the installation and setup guides are read aloud. Voice narration adjustment options also make the software easier and more pleasant to use. The software should also be easy to navigate.
Help & Support
It’s not unusual to need assistance with this type of software. The developers should make a variety of non-visual options available, like a technical support phone number and audio tutorials. The user manual should be easily read aloud by the software. Other helpful options include an email address or form, FAQs, troubleshooting guides or a message board.
With the right combination of screen reader software features, you will be using a computer in no time, regardless of your personal vision level or the sighted assistance that is available to you.
TopTenREVIEWS no longer updates this category and keeps it here for archiving purposes only. It was last updated in October 2012.
|JAWS||Supernova Screen Reader||Window-Eyes||ZoomText||ClaroRead||iZoom||WinZoom||WordRead||ReadHear|
|Number of Voices||2||2||2||29||7||9||2||3||7|
|Reads Menu Items|
|Inflection on Capital Letters|
|Braille Output Capable|
|Read Text Styles|
|Reads as You Mouse Over|
|Ease of Use|
|Intuitive Software Design|
|Adjust Voice Speed|
|Features Work Properly|
|Can Be Navigated Without Vision|
|Adjust Voice Pitch|
|Talking Installation Guide/Setup|
|Help & Support|
|User Forum/Message Boards|