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Nuance turns text into speech

As well as converting PDFs into audio files, ScanSoft update offers tools for disabled users and archival standards.

Nuance Communications' PDF software has had a makeover.

The company released the ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 4, a would-be competitor to Adobe Systems' Acrobat, on Monday. The software is designed to create and convert PDF files.

The new version includes a text-to-speech feature that uses Nuance's RealSpeak technology to convert PDF documents into WAV audio files. The files, which can be used for podcasts, are read in a male voice. There are plans to provide downloads of other types of voice, said Chris Strammiello, the director of product management at Nuance, which also makes speech recognition software.

The voice feature is compliant with U.S. requirements for the accessibility of documents for disabled users, Nuance said.

PDF Converter Professional 4, aimed at corporate users, will be available in the United States Aug. 22 for just under $100, the company said. ScanSoft PDF Create 4 and PDF Converter desktop utilities, included in the package, will also be sold separately for $49 each.

ScanSoft PDF converter

The software includes a new feature that enables people to create XML Tagged PDF, which is a PDF standard that automatically includes information pertaining to the proper reading order of text, tables and graphics. The standard is used for exporting files to screen readers for the blind, and for resizing the files to fit different screen formats.

In addition, the ScanSoft feature that converts PDFs into Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, or Corel WordPerfect documents has been made 46 percent more accurate, Strammiello said. The feature, which maintains formatting, tables and graphics, can be used either within the PDF software or, via an option toolbar, within a document application such Microsoft Word.

By contrast, Adobe Acrobat offers a menu option for saving or exporting PDF document content into Microsoft Word and Excel, and other file formats.

The Nuance software also lets content creators set permission controls over their particular PDF document in terms of PDF security, encryption and editing.

Nuance said its has tested its PDF software on the latest beta build of Microsoft Windows Vista and found it to be compatible.