I was asked this week...

Do you know of a [good] software voice program that turns text to speech and helps to predict the text you're writing?

And is there a good program for converting what you say into text on the screen?

General information on assistive technology: We have a site to help you learn more about different assistive technologies at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/at/types.aspx.  We also offer and an online tool to help select the the appropriate application.  As noted on the site... 

Identifying the best assistive technology solution often requires an in-depth needs assessment to understand how a difficult or impairment impacts computer use.

There are many types of assistive technology products and hundreds of products available. To be sure you have identified the right product to meet your needs, we recommend you locate an accessibility center in your area or use a needs assessment tool.

Microsoft Accessibility Resource Centers are available to help you identify the right assistive technology before you purchase a product, and to help you set up your computer and train you on how to use the new product. Many of these centers have lending services, so you can try a product before committing to purchasing it. These centers provide expert consultation on assistive technology and accessibility built into Microsoft Windows. Each center is equipped with video demonstrations and accessibility tutorials that show you how to make computing easier, more convenient, and more comfortable.

Included on the site are a couple of case studies on applications of assistive technologies in action: see http://www.microsoft.com/enable/casestudy/rtc.aspx and http://www.microsoft.com/enable/casestudy/georgia.aspx

For predictive typing, see Adaptxt: it’s a $20 predictive typing app for Windows word processing and emailing. http://www.adaptxt.com/?node_id=3.5.1.2&id=1

For text-to-speech, consider an application like Natural Voice Text To Speech Reader (http://www.windowsmarketplace.com/details.aspx?view=info&itemid=2847770) which is about $30 (free trial version available).

Or try the free SayIt! Text-To-Speech Sidebar Gadget for Windows Vista (http://widgetfront.com/vista-sidebar-gadgets/sayit-text-to-speech-sidebar-gadget/) and the Sayvoice Text-to-Speech Reader (http://www.download.com/Sayvoice-Text-to-Speech-Reader/3000-7239_4-10723357.html).

A mix of both features and more: There is also the more comprehensive Read&Write application from TextHelp (more information is available on the company's website here) that includes many features including text to speech conversion and word prediction.  More expensive (>$300), this is used by many schools.

For basic voice recognition, the consensus is that the standard edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 works well for most applications (see nuance's site for details) and sells on the street for $60-90. It works with many popular Windows apps.

For computers with Windows Vista, there's already some basic voice recognition built in to Windows Speech Recognition. Our son uses it for speech recognition to create text documents on his laptop. For more on this, see How to Use Windows Vista Speech Recognition.

Before you can begin using speech recognition, you have to train the application: this can take 20-30 minutes to set up. Once you complete the work, the recognition application learns your speech patterns and intonation over time, and overall recognition accuracy increases. See this link for best practices for enabling voice recognition.

Hope this helps.

Update 072608: Thanks to Blake (http://bhandler.spaces.live.com) for his feedback and suggestion of Deskbot...

"I've also used a free program called Deskbot which was recommended by a former Microsoft text 2 speech guy (now in another MS department)
http://blogs.msdn.com/texttospeech/archive/2005/12/29/508078.aspx"