I’ve been skeptical about text-to-voice apps over the last few years, but SoundGecko really turned my head this summer. Its only shortcoming is its inability to read PDFs, so I’ve been fishing for a solid PDF-to-speech reader for Android over the past couple of weeks. After many totally awful experiences, I finally found one I like: ezPDF Reader Pro.
The app met all my usual, basic criteria: The developer must present clear contact information and have more than one app available. The app can’t be brand new, it has to have a good star rating, and should be pretty cheap. (In this case, only $2.99 in the Play Store).
ezPDF Reader also links up with Dropbox natively – no fiddling with settings required. Simply run searches at your research database of choice and download PDFs to your Dropbox. (I presume it hooks up with SugarSync, Box and other such services as well, but I may be wrong. Let me know if I am!)
To get started, download and install the app, open it, and go to Web Docs. Click Dropbox, sign in, and voila! There are your files.
I like that the color scheme is quiet. I like that the controls are intuitive. I had to look for the Voice-Reading mode in a More menu, but it only took me two taps to locate it.
Don’t just take my word for it – watch it in action:
Granted, it’s not like listening to Patrick Stewart read Shakespeare to you but for skimming piles of abstracts while on the elliptical, or while buzzing from class to class, you could certainly do worse for $3. Trust me. I tried a lot of apps, and this is pretty good.
As the app reads, small bits of text are highlighted, clearly indicating its place in the document. The sound controls persist at the bottom of the screen, allowing easy access to skip ahead, go back, pause and stop. A shortcut directly to the phone’s relevant settings menu is a particularly nice touch.
Note that the voice in the demo video is NOT a stock Android voice, it’s an upgrade. I also upgraded my phone’s default voice by following these instructions, and I’d recommend anyone serious about trying text-to-speech (TTS) apps to consider doing the same.
Use it at the gym, use it on the trolley. Let your Android read to you.
And let me know if you find something better out there.
** Note: This app is also called ezPDF Reader Annotate Form.