I have long been a gungho fan of Voice Dream Reader, a text to speech reader that can nicely display text as you’re listening. I’ve enjoyed the ease of use, above-average accuracy of voices, and flexibility of the text display, which offers a number of fonts and other settings.
Now, after starting out in iOS and expanding to Android, Winston Chen, the perfectionist developer has finally released Voice Dream Reader for macOS, and it is a beauty. A full list of features and supported formats, including ePub and PDF, is here. I gave the Mac version a quick test drive on a 2014 Mac Mini without immediately noticing any major glitches. The file “Quick Start macOS, within “All files,” lives up to its name and should get you going in a hurry.
My mouse worked as well as the usual touch interface on my iPad and phones. The macOS incarnation seemed adequately responsive when I tested it on ePub files. I could especially appreciate the usefulness of Voice Dream on my desktop for taking notes and then pasting them and highlights into email. The big screen and full-sized keyboard helped. I right-clicked on the file list to export my notes.
I did not test the file syncing feature but will in the future. This is significant. Chen notes that the macOS version can be used to add “content, organize your library, and manage your reading list on your Mac, and then listen on your iPhone. Be sure to enable iCloud Sync to synchronize your library.”
Basically the Mac version is the same as the previous ones with certain minor differences. Major positive? Well, now you can enjoy Voice Dream on your macOS laptop or Mac desktop, as so many users have requested. You’ll also notice that certain features will require fewer keystrokes–“add a local file,” “increase speech rate from library,” “Open Dropbox,” and “See content of a folder.”
The big negative, for some users, will be a $5 a month subscription fee rather than a one time payment. I myself can understand the fee if it enables Chen to stick around and keep improving the product. I’d hope he’d offer discounts for, say, budget-strapped libraries and school districts, if he isn’t doing so already. Another negative is that you must use Mac voices–ideally customized for best quality. Chen hopes to offer third-party voices through Acapela. One of the other negatives is that “Reader for MacOS does not support loading of Word, PowerPoint and RTF files. But if you load these files on Reader for iOS, on the Mac you’ll be able to see the Plain Text view of these documents. We’ll try to address this in a future update but it’s a fairly heavy lift.” Another negative is that Instapaper and Pocket are not available yet–they will be in the future. “Evernote will not be available at all because Evernote does not support third party app access on MacOS.”
I’ve listed the negatives simply to spare you surprises. Overall, I give the new Voice Dream a big thumbs up. Schools and libraries and other organizations should consider Voice Dream for reluctant readers, kids with sight issues, dyslexia and other challenges. And the rest of us? As I’ve said, the MacOS Voice Dream could be wonderful for heavy note-taking.
Alas, as with the other versions, macOS Voice Dream won’t work with DRMed files. That is not Voice Dream’s fault, of course. In my dream world, proprietary DRM would vanish and encrypted ePub files and Kindle ones would work with all version of Voice Dream. If nothing else, suppose watermarking replaced DRM in plenty of situations. Fodder for trust busters?