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Ubuntu 16.04 - Installing speech synthesis

posted 22 Apr 2016, 10:05 by James Holgate   [ updated 22 Apr 2016, 10:53 ]

Ubuntu has a new Software Centre in version 16.04. It's quick, but it does not include programs that do not have a graphical user interface. 

Command line

If you have installation permission, you can still install speech synthesis programs that use a command line by using opening a terminal shell and using the apt command with a list of applications to install.

Make sure you are on-line. Click the Ubuntu icon and type terminal. Choose the terminal program. In the terminal window, type:

sudo apt install espeak libttspico0 libttspico-data libttspico-utils

Enter your password.


Synaptic is a graphical package manager that can list all the available programs, language resources, sources and help files. You can install it from the store or by using the apt command. Type:

sudo apt install synaptic

Enter your password.


You can also download software by using an apt: location in the firefox address bar. For example, to install pico text to speech, enter apt:libttspico-utils. Choose the AptURL software installation program and click OK. 

Choose AptURL in the dialogue then click OK

Linux-specific sites can include apt: locations as links in the pages.

Ubuntu: espeak, libttspico-utils

How do I get it to work?

posted 15 Apr 2016, 10:08 by James Holgate   [ updated 15 Apr 2016, 10:38 ]

Sorry for the delay, Anonymous...

how do I get it to work?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 12 March, 2016 - 14:09

I downloaded the extension and it appears in my extension manager, but I can't find it anywhere when I have a document open. There is no 'add ons' in my 'tools' menu. There is just nothing new anywhere.

Generally, questions of this sort should include your platform, language, version and application name as shown in the About dialogue.

OSX (fr-FR)
Apache OpenOffice 4.1.2
AOO412m3(Build:9782)  -  Rev. 1709696
2015-10-21 09:36:46 (Wed, 21 Oct 2015)

Simple fixes

Try shutting off your computer and restarting it. It often solves minor glitches. If you tried installing an extension by double clicking it in the downloads folder, try uninstalling it, then installing it using the application's Tools - Extension Manager... menu.

Is the extension the right version?

There are two current releases of the extension; an oddly numbered one for the most recent version of OpenOffice, and an evenly numbered one for legacy versions and most forks. You might have a version that is not compatible with your installation. Try the next older version of Read Text Extension than the one you currently have installed.

Is your setup okay?

If you have updated your office suite, it is possible that the migration tools failed to migrate all the settings correctly. You might need to delete the local or global settings files and let your office suite reconstruct them as if it were running for the first time. Use the application's Tools - Options - Paths to view the to view the actual settings paths. Deleting the local settings will delete the file history, so you will need to reinstall any custom templates and extensions.

  • Linux (Specific directory varies) : $HOME/.config/%PRODUCTNAME
  • OSX : $HOME/Application Support/%PRODUCTNAME
  • Windows (Specific directory varies) : $APPDATA\%PRODUCTNAME

You can also check if local settings are the problem by trying to install the extension as a different user. If the other user's installation has no problem, then there is something that is not right with your local settings.

If you are using a school or library computer, it is possible that the technical staff installed a restricted version of the office suite that does not support this extension. As well, local security settings might be preventing any extensions from running.  A python based speech extension might work for you.

It might help to delete and reinstall the application, if all else fails.

OSX El Capitán Compatibility

posted 3 Oct 2015, 00:15 by James Holgate   [ updated 3 Oct 2015, 00:25 ]

OSX El Capitán uses updated voices that work well with the most recent version of Read Text Extension for Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

If you need to install a new user interface language with LibreOffice, you can avoid permissions errors by following these steps:
  • Download the LibreOffice disk image (dmg) file.
  • Double click the disk image file to open it.
  • Drag the icon for LibreOffice into the Applications folder.
  • Once the file has copied but before installing an additional user interface language, command-click the LibreOffice icon in the applications folder and choose Open. (Hold down the command key and click the icon.)
  • Confirm that you want to open the file.
  • Once the system has verified the installation and opened the LibreOffice program, exit the program..
  • Download the language pack disk image (dmg) file.
  • Double click the disk image to open it.
  • Command-click the installer icon and choose Open.
  • Confirm that you want to install the program.
  • If requested, type your login password at the install prompt.
  • Restart LibreOffice and select the language of the user interface from the LibreOffice - Preferences - Language Settings - Languages dialog. You can also set the default language for new documents.
  • Exit and restart LibreOffice to use the menus in your selected language.
  • Once you have finished installing the program, you can eject or unmount the disk images by clicking the eject buttons by the disk names in a finder file browser window.

OpenOffice or LibreOffice?

Both Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice work well with the extension. If you are using Apache OpenOffice 4, you need to update the extension with a version that is compatible. Versions that are compatible with Apache OpenOffice 4 include an "A" in the file name (Read_Text.0.8.29A.oxt). Versions without the "A" in the file name are compatible with LibreOffice 3, 4 and 5 and with OpenOffice 3. (Read_Text.0.8.28.oxt). Use the "Compatibility" column on the download page to confirm the best version for you.

Read Text 0.8.24 & 0.8.25a release

posted 14 May 2015, 16:58 by James Holgate   [ updated 14 May 2015, 17:08 ]

This release adds features for Linux. Windows and OSX features are unchanged.

Linux features

  • Set the rate and pitch for espeak and festival speech synthesizers from the main dialogue.
  • Linux documentation in the “About” dialogue is updated.

Changing the speech rate in Linux

How do you change the speech rate in the Read Text Extension in LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice in Linux?

  • The newest version of the extension puts rate and pitch options in the main dialogue. Choose Tools - Add-ons - Read Selection... then click and hold Command line options to choose an option. 
  • Not all Linux voices support changing the speech rate or pitch. 
  • Read Text supports changing the pitch or rate for espeak, festival and pico voice engines. If you use a different speech synthesis engine you might try writing a script or adapting an existing script. 

Using Espeak with older versions of the extension

The main dialog shows espeak options in the drop down box

If you can't install the most recent version of the extension, you can easily change the parameters of espeak by specifying the program and options to use in the main dialogue. For example, to use espeak with a specific voice and rate, enter the path to the program in the External Program box: 


Once you have entered the program path, enter or choose the specific commands you need in the Command line options box: 

-b 1 -p 50 -s 120 -v en-us -f "(TMP)"

The b 1 argument means use UTF-8 encoding. The -p argument changes the pitch. The -s argument changes the rate. The -v argument changes the voice. The -f argument specifies the path of the file to read. The extension replaces the "(TMP)" token with the path to the temporary plain text file to read aloud. Read the espeak manual pages for more examples of espeak command arguments.

Read Text 0.8.20 & 0.8.21a release

posted 23 Feb 2015, 09:52 by James Holgate

Better performance – more features for OSX & Linux

OSX features

  • You can create .aiff and .m4a sound files from the main menu.
  • You can change the speed of high quality voices.
  • You can use Apple speech commands within the text to change pronunciation, add silent annotations and other voice features.
  • You can send a voice to an Airplay device like an Apple TV.
  • Automatic voice switching is activated for new Yosemite languages and voices.
  • When you finish making an .aiff or .m4a file, the extension notifies you with the name of the file and the voice used in the notifications area. The system notification can also show if there is an error – for example, if you try to create a sound file in an unsupported format.
  • Better security. The text of the selection cannot be incorrectly interpreted by an OSA script.

Ubuntu features

  • Checks that a speech engine is installed on the first run, and advises you if there is none.
  • If you have installed the Pico voice engine, the system will suggest using that engine instead of espeak
  • Clicking the system settings icon in the About menu opens the Ubuntu System Settings control panel.
  • If your installed Ubuntu system includes “notify-send” then the extension gives you a visual alert if you are creating a sound file and the --audio=false (silent) python switch is used. The visual alert shows you the name of the sound file. The system will now show a visual indication if there is an error creating the sound file.
  • If you have installed avconv, then you can create a .webm movie with a poster image and the sound of the spoken text. On the most recent Ubuntu releases, avconv replaces ffmpeg.
  • Festival scripts for Catalan and other languages do not include options specific to English speakers.


  • Uses ISO speech encoding for Windows versions newer than Vista.
  • Shows a dialog after you export spoken text as a sound file.

Bug fixes

  • Extension is now able to detect new multilingual Mac OSX voices.
  • The avconv and ffmpeg installation test is consistent for different voice engines.
  • Options for python that no longer work in the newest version of MacOSX and Ubuntu Linux are gone.
  • Code is optimized to reduce time generating voice options. Code for determining Festivox voices on Linux and Windows is shared.

Change log | Read Text 0.8.20 (LibreOffice) | Read Text 0.8.21a (Apache OpenOffice)

OSX - translate text with Google

posted 18 Jan 2015, 14:44 by James Holgate

Hackerspace has an article entitled "Highlight and Google Translate Any Text in Linux" by Victor Clark which outlines how you can get instant translations from Google using a bash script with Ubuntu. This article tells how you can get similar functionality using Read Text Extension and LibreOffice on the Apple OSX desktop platform. The apple script is not as elegant or concise as the HackerSpace hack, but it gets the job done.

Create the following script and export it as a text script entitled notifytr.applescript.

-- Translate a phrase to English and display it in a notification like
-- http://hackerspace.lifehacker.com/highlight-and-google-translate-any-text-in-linux-1648824665
-- Usage:
--      osascript /pathto/notifytr.applescript /pathto/file.txt

on run (arguments)
set thePhrase to ""
set filename to POSIX file (first item of arguments) as alias
set thePhrase to read (filename as alias) as «class utf8»
end try
if thePhrase is "" then
set thePhrase to "Propulsé par Google." as Unicode text
end if
set the thePhrase to replace_chars(thePhrase, "+", "%2B")
set the thePhrase to replace_chars(thePhrase, " ", "%20")
set the thePhrase to replace_chars(thePhrase, "?", "%3F")
set the thePhrase to replace_chars(thePhrase, "&", "%26")
set theURL to "https://translate.google.com/translate_a/t?client=t&text=" & thePhrase & "&sl=auto&tl=en"
set str0 to (do shell script "curl -A 'Mozilla/5.0' " & quoted form of theURL)
set i1 to (offset of "[" in str0) + 4
set i2 to (offset of "," in str0) - 2
set i3 to (offset of "," in str0) + 2
set i4 to (offset of "]" in str0) - 8
set myText to characters i1 thru (i2) of str0 as Unicode text
set myTitle to characters i3 thru (i4) of str0 as Unicode text
display notification myText with title myTitle
-- say myText using "Alex" -- optional - get Alex to say the translation
end run

on replace_chars(this_text, search_string, replacement_string)
-- http://www.macosxautomation.com/applescript/sbrt/sbrt-06.html
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to the search_string
set the item_list to every text item of this_text
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to the replacement_string
set this_text to the item_list as string
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ""
return this_text
end replace_chars

To use the script with LibreOffice, install the Read Text Extension, then set up the Tools - Add-ons - Read Selection... menu as shown. In the Read with an external program box, enter the path to osascript. In the Command line options box, enter the path to the script followed by the "(TMP)" token. For example, for a user named "username" the command line options might look like: '/Users/username/Desktop/notifytr.applescript' '(TMP)'  (Be sure to use a Unix shell type path description as shown above.)

Now, when you click OK, the Desktop shows a notification instead of reading the text aloud. To return the settings to their defaults, type some random characters into the Read with an external program box, and click OK. The program will show an error message and reset the dialogue to the default settings.

Show notification of the Google translation

Ubuntu - translate text with Google

posted 7 Jan 2015, 18:02 by James Holgate   [ updated 8 Jan 2015, 15:12 ]

Hackerspace has an article entitled "Highlight and Google Translate Any Text in Linux" by Victor Clark which outlines how you can get instant translations from Google using a bash script with notify-send and xsel.
  1. Install notify-send and xsel using apt-get or the software store
    sudo apt-get install notify-send xsel
  2. Copy the script using the plain text editor gedit
  3. Set the script to executable by right clicking it and selecting Properties - Permissions - Allow Executing File as a Program
  4. You can set a system key shortcut to initiate the script. You can also use Read Text Extension to translate the highlighted text following the steps below.
Use the following script and save it as seltr.sh. The script below differs from the original script. it takes the language to translate to from the system language environment instead of just defaulting to English. It uses https instead of http for added security. The script also uses a LibreOffice notification icon.
#!/usr/bin/env bash

# To comply with Google API license:

echo "Powered by Google TM"



notify-send --icon='/usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/apps/libreoffice-main.svg' -u critical "$(xsel -o)" "$(wget -U "Mozilla/5.0" -qO - "https://translate.google.com/translate_a/t?client=t&text=$(xsel -o | sed "s/[\"'<>]//g")&sl=auto&tl=$l2" | sed 's/\[\[\[\"//' | cut -d \" -f 1)"

To use the script with LibreOffice, install the Read Text Extension, then set up the Tools - Add-ons - Read Selection... menu as shown. In the Read with an external program box, enter the path to the script. In the illustration "Powered by Google™" was entered into the Command line options box -- the bash script ignores the options in this box, so you could enter any random text.

Read text extension dialogue showing Google Translate command

Now, when you click OK, the Desktop shows a notification instead of reading the text aloud. To return the settings to their defaults, type some random characters into the Read with an external program box, and click OK. The program will show an error message and reset the dialogue to the default settings.

Gabriel Miró - El futuro de los niños es siempre hoy. Mañana será tarde.

Clark, Victor. "Highlight and Google Translate Any Text in Linux" Hackerspace. New York : Kinja, October 21, 2014. Accessed January 7, 2015.

Read Text 0.8.16 - Festival Catalan support

posted 20 Dec 2014, 09:23 by James Holgate   [ updated 29 Dec 2014, 09:23 ]

Read Text 0.8.16 for LibreOffice and Read Text 0.8.17 for Apache OpenOffice now show a Catalan voice option in the application dialogue if a Catalan voice is installed.

Ubuntu LInux 14.04 includes the Festival Catalan voice option in the package manager. To install the Ona Catalan voice and the programs it depends on, download "Catalan Speaker for Festival" using the Ubuntu Software Centre. You can also install festvox-ca-ona-hts using a command in the terminal or Synaptic package manager. For example, if you have administrator privileges, you can open a command terminal, and type:

sudo apt-get install festvox-ca-ona-hts 

Once you have installed festvox-ca-ona-hts, open the Read Text dialogue using Tools - Add-ons - Read Text... Click the Festival option from the External Program section, and choose an option that includes the (voice_upc_ca_ona_hts) option in the script.

Read Text dialog showing festvox-ca-ona-hts voice option

If you do not install the most recent version of the Read Text Extension, you can use the instructions that  Carlos López posted in "Com fer que LibreOffice parli en català" on the Cerrepero Things web site. His instructions refer to Edubuntu, but the instructions should work in other flavours of Ubuntu as well. 

The Catalan voice project was created by the TALP Research CenterDepartment of Signal Theory and Communications, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. To create the voice, a male and a female speaker each read ten hours of Catalan text from a wide variety of sources. The data and recordings were used to create several Catalan Festival voices. The raw resources are available online and are licensed under a BSD license so that they are freely available for research and commercial use. The process of how the voices were created are described in a paper entitled Corpus and Voices for Catalan Speech Synthesis by Antonio Bonafonte, Jordi Adell, Ignasi Esquelinkarra, Silvia Gallego, Asuncion Moreno, and Javier Pérez.


  • Edubuntu - A version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution designed for school use.
  • FestCat - The Festival in Catalan project.
  • festcat_llegeix - A Linux command used to speak in Catalan.
  • Festivox - University of Edinburgh Festival Speech Synthesis System for computers.
  • Linkat - A Catalan adaptation of Ubuntu Linux for educational use by the Generalitat de Catalunya.
  • Ona - The female Catalan voice used in Ubuntu Linux.
  • Read Text Extension - An extension for LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice that uses an external program or a web service to read text. 
  • Síntesi de la parla en català - How to say "Speech synthesis in Catalan" in Catalan.

LibreOffice 4 Read Text shortcuts

posted 6 Dec 2014, 11:43 by James Holgate

Make ALT+R a shortcut for Read Selection

Applies to: LibreOffice.org for Linux or Windows 4.2.7 (or newer).

You can use Tools - Customize - Keyboard to add keyboard shortcuts to the LibreOffice application.

If you are using an English version of the application, you can include Read text extension shortcuts for Writer, Presentation, Draw, Calc and Web Writer quickly and easily with the attached configuration file. Note that if you replace the existing registry modifications file with the attached file, you will lose all other custom settings and your file history.

You need to replace the local settings file. In Ubuntu Linux 14.04, this is located at $HOME/.config/libreoffice/4/user/registrymodifications.xcu

mv $HOME/.config/libreoffice/4/user/registrymodifications.xcu \
cp registrymodifications.xcu $HOME/.config/libreoffice/4/user/registrymodifications.xcu 

If you are using Windows, the equivalent file is located at


The preset shortcuts used are not recommended for Apple OSX platforms.

Once the configuration file is installed,

  • ALT+R reads the selected text.
  • ALT+SHIFT+R shows the dialog.
  • Alt + C reads the clipboard.

OSX Yosemite speech error?

posted 17 Oct 2014, 14:48 by James Holgate   [ updated 17 Oct 2014, 14:55 ]

The Apple OSX Yosemite 10.10 release includes new regional languages and voices. The read text extension works well in English with the voice of Alex, however you may run into a problem if you are trying to use a different language. The problem seems to be due to a bug in the speech command in the terminal. With OSX Mavericks and earlier releases, using the terminal command say --voice ? would list installed voices on the computer. With OSX Yosemite, the same command includes voices that are not installed on your computer. As a result, when using the default settings for Read Text, the extension is unable to determine which voices are actually installed.

The say command shows voices that have not been installed
There appears to be a couple of ways to work around the problem. 

Option 1 - Dictation and Speech - Find voices that work 

Open the control panel and choose the Dictation & Speech dialog. For each language or region, try the first voice in the alphabetical list.
For each language, only choose the first voice in alphabetical order

For French from France (fr-FR), try Audrey instead of Aurelie, Virginie or Thomas, because Audrey is closest to the beginning of the alphabet.

If your region is not listed, use a region with a similar dialect to your own. For example, there is no item for Spanish from the United States, but Angelica, a voice that speaks Mexican Spanish (es-MX), would be close. 

Option 2 - Always use the default language

In the Read Text setup dialog, use /usr/bin/say in the Read with an external program box and -f (TMP) in the Command line options box.

Read text with an external program dialog

You can change the voice using the Dictation & Speech Control Panel, but the voice will not change automatically depending on language.

A bug report for say --voice ? has been filed with Apple. The bug report number is18689412 .

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