This blog is fast becoming toolbar central. Here’s another one (a toolbar, by the way, is an extra layer of buttons that appears at the top of your program — in most cases Internet Explorer. Microsoft make it really easy for third party manufacturers to develop them as marketing tools, or often products in their own right. Check out Google’s toolbar, reviewed here a week or so back, and ToolButton, which I’ve talked about at length over privacy issues.):
A Canadian company called ReadPlease Corp has developed toolbars that read aloud stuff for you — a process that’s not unnaturally called text to speech. ReadPlease PLUS ($50) uses AT&T’s Natural Voices software which offers some seriously lifelike characters, while the free version uses the more basic Microsoft voices. Yesterday they announced a version for Internet Explorer called ReadingBar for Internet Explorer ($70) which can can read back web pages and create .mp3 files so you can listen to your web pages while jogging, riding the car or having the in-laws over for dinner.
I haven’t tried it yet; I’ll get back to you when I do.