Turn Web articles into audio for the road

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This post is aimed at travelers who are computer geeks, too.

Let's say you found a long article online that you've been meaning to read—but haven't yet.

Well, you're in luck: It has recently become worthwhile to take any text and turn it into an audio file for downloading to your iPod or similar music player.

In other words, you can easily turn an article from, say, BudgetTravel.com, into an audio clip that you can play while you fly or drive.

Here's the lowdown:

The latest Macintosh operating system, nicknamed Leopard, offers a text translator called Alex. He speaks with natural breathing and intonation that makes him far superior to previous text-to-voice translators. For the first time, the computerized voice is actually tolerable to listen to during a long drive or plane ride.

Before I go any further, though, let me ask you: Does this whole concept sounds bizarre? If so, watch this video explanation of how to let your Mac read aloud to you. [If you already understand what I'm talking about, skip to the text below...]

How To Make Your Mac Read Text Aloud. Video: Two-and-a-half minutes long

The good news is that you can use Alex to turn a text file into an audio file.

Mac users can use the free software called Automator that is part of Leopard. You'll find the clearest instructions on how to use Automator to do this by reading this blog post by Scott Bourne.

Windows users will need to buy an application like TextAloud2 ($30), which will come with its own instructions.

FYI: For some odd reason, Alex has a British accent. If you prefer an American or a female accent, you'll have to buy a text-to-speech translator, such as AbleReader, which costs about $50.)

(One blogger predicts that Apple will add a text-to-speech function to its iPhones.)

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEBMore Leopard tweaks today on Lifehacker.

EARLIER ON THE BLOGWhat to do during a trip when the memory card for your digital camera gets too full.

EARLIER IN BUDGET TRAVEL MAGAZINE:A Blackberry, Palm Treo, or other PDA is useful for a lot more than e-mail.

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