Excel VBA offers speech functionality as part of its programming language, and it is fairly straightforward to use. If you paste the following code into a code module and hit run, you can see for yourself:
Application.Speech.Speak "Welcome to my blog!"
However, it is fairly limited in terms of how it can be configured. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to see how it would cope with reading from an eBook.
To test this, I built a simple “eBook to audio” reader in Excel, and you can see it in action in the video below. Here, it reads the first few lines of the Project Gutenberg version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin (including the copyright notice).
The app scrolls through each line of the ebook, and reads out aloud the text in bold. As it does so, the preceding two lines remain in view, so the context of each spoken line remains clear.
The results? well as you can see, for one thing the reading pace of the speech method is slow (hence the short video). It would take a long time to read the entire book. Things aren’t helped by the fact the eBook itself contains many formatting errors. But the tone does seem to match the material, and in Excel’s defence, this is not it’s day job. So the result isn’t too bad.
Overall, I think adopting a more sophisticated approach to parsing the text, rather than simply relying upon the given format would improve things. But that would require more work than it was worth. Still it was fun to play around with…