iOS Apps to Support Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing – Updated Annotated List

My most visited posts ever was 10 Apps for Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing (Feb. 2012). Since then, my list of iOS Apps has been expanding. When I’ve shared these apps in person, as I did this week on an ISTE webinar, the presentation has been well received. So, here’s my updated list of iOS apps, with point-form annotation. The same information is available on my UDL Resource website, and that’s where I will continue to update the list.

I don’t claim that the apps shared here are the only solution or even the best solution. I have spent considerable time and money exploring apps to support reading and writing, and these are apps that I have found to be effective. The 24 apps listed below are organized under the following headings: 1) Supports for Reading; 2) Supports for Writing; 3) Alternatives to Writing; 4) Research Supports; 5) Visual Supports; 6) Supports for Written Math Work.

Supports for Reading

vBookz PDF Voice Reader ($4.99)

  • Text-to-speech for PDF files 
  • Files retain original page formatting with images, diagrams, etc.
  • High quality voices–male or female
  • Text tracked as read  
  • Import PDFs from Safari, email attachments, or DropBox
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

iBooks (Free)

  • Text-to-speech (with iOS Speak Selection) for eBooks created in ePUB format
  • [Speak Selection must be turned on in Settings under Accessibility]
  • Works not only with books purchased from iBookstore, but with material created on the iDevice or imported from other sources
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch


ClaroSpeak US/UK ($5.99)

  • High quality text to speech reader with 5 built in voices
  • Imports and reads doc, docx, pages, pptx, epub files, but does not retain original formatting of the page
  • Visual highlighting of text as read
  • Also functions as text editor, will echo word or sentence
  • Creates audio files from text files
  • Customizable reading rate, font size, color contrast, etc.
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Readability (Free)

  • Re-formats web pages to reduce clutter
  • Adjust font-size, contrast and margins
  • Save articles in Readability to read later, whether online or not
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE)



TextGrabber + Translator ($2.99)

  • Take an image of text and convert it to editable/readable digital text
  • ABBY OCR is relatively fast
  • Works with cameras on iPhone 4+, iPod 5+, iPad 3+
  • Option for importing images taken with other cameras/other devices
  • Offers translation to multiple languages
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Supports for Writing

TYP-O HD ($14.99)

  • Writing app with multiple supports
  • Word prediction with text-to-speech
  • Built in option for text input with voice recognition
  • Text-to-speech for listening to written work
  • Spell-checker
  • Video demo and tutorial
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Nebulous Notes ($4.99)

  • Text editor that works well for anyone, and especially for individuals with low vision
  • Large font and variable contrast between text and background are available
  • Text to speech available with Speak Selection
  • Integrates with DropBox, prints, emails
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch


PaperPort Notes (Free)

  • versatile note-taking app, with multiple options for text input
  • keyboard/voice recognition/stylus inputs available
  • audio recordings can be attached to note pages
  • notes can be shared via email, Google Docs, DropBox, etc.
  • notes may be opened as PDF files by other iPad apps
  • iPad only

Dragon Dictation (Free)

  • easy to  use voice recognition, no training necessary
  • Use Speak Selection to read back dictated text aloud
  • Copy work to clipboard for use in other apps
  • Share dictated text via email, send directly to Facebook/Twitter
  • Internet connection required
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch


Alternatives to Writing

Audio Memos ($0.99)

  • Use device mic to create audio voice recordings
  • Options for editing and bookmarking recordings
  • Share easily via email, Wi-Fi, or online file storage services
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($0.99)
  • In-App purchases available to increase functionality, including voice activation


AudioNote ($4.99)

  • Record a talk, lesson, lecture, or your own thoughts while taking notes
  • Use keyboard or stylus to take notes, or use stylus to add drawings, diagrams, etc.
  • Notes are synchronized with audio, and audio can be “searched” by clicking on word or drawing
  • Export notes and audio via email, over wi-fi, or via iTunes
  • Also available for PC, Mac and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Audioboo (Free)

  • Create audio recordings up to three minutes in length
  • Add image, tags, and location
  • Share on device, to Twitter/Facebook, or by email, 
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free) – not optimized for iPad




  • Attach audio recording to image
  • Extensive range of options for editing image in app, including opportunity to add text
  • Share via Facebook, Twitter, or email
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (not optimized for iPad)



Book Creator ($1.99)

  • Intuitive app for creating ebooks in ePUB format
  • Books can incorporate images, video, text, recorded audio, music
  • Completed books are published to iBooks on the iPad
  • Books can be printed or shared via email, iTunes, or Dropbox
  • iPad only


Animoto (Free)

  • Create multimedia presentation videos
  • Combine images/video clips/text with music
  • User interface is intuitive, videos are quick and easy to create
  • Also available for desktop and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch


Research Supports

Google Search (FREE)

  • Voice recognition works well for entering search terms
  • Many search results offer text-to-speech responses
  • Also offers opportunity to enter images as “search terms”
  • Video demo
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Qwiki (FREE)

  • Search tool that yields results in multiple formats–images and videos, text (with accompanying text-to-speech)
  • A quintessential UDL tool
  • iPad only


Side by Side (FREE)

  • Split iPad screen into up to 4 customizable windows
  • Built in web browser and text editor for note-taking
  • Import text files or pdf’s
  • Integrates with DropBox
  • iPad only


Visual Supports

Idea Sketch (FREE)

  • Create mind map and turn it into an outline or  vice versa
  • Import text from other apps
  • Share work via email, or copy into other apps
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch



Mindomo (FREE)

  • Powerful and versatile mind mapping app
  • Mind maps can include images, hyperlinks, icons, notes, etc.
  • Export mind maps as images or as PDF files
  • Cross-platform desktop clients and Android versions available
  • iPad only


Corkulous Pro ($4.99)

  • Mind mapping “cork board” for collecting, organizing and sharing ideas
  • Arrange notes, images, labels, etc. visually with colour code potential
  • Link multiple boards
  • Share/sync via iCloud or Dropbox, or export as PDF files
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch


Tools 4 Students ($0.99)

  • Set of 15 graphic organizers to support visual organization of thoughts and concepts (cause/effect, pro/con, story elements, KWL, etc.)
  • Save work for future reference, or share via email
  • iPad only



Supports for Written Math Output

Panther Math Paper ($19.99)

  • Do math work on iPad (beginning and advanced)
  • Mathematical notation and symbols available and easily accessible
  • Learners are able to show their work
  • iPad only

7 Excellent Free Options for Speech to Text — on Handheld Devices, in a Web Browser, and on the PC

Voice Recognition software has made impressive gains in recent years. With the advent of handheld touch screen devices, it is making its way into everyday life for a growing number of people. Moreover, voice recognition is rapidly becoming more accurate. This is great news for individuals who struggle with writing!


In this post, I’m highlighting free options that work well on a variety of platforms–iOS, Android, Mac/PC/Linux via the web browser, and on the PC whether it is online or off line. My focus is on the use of speech recognition for writing, not on using it to activate or control applications.

Cross-Platform Options (Mac/Windows/Linux)


TalkTyper is by far the best cross platform option I have tried. It is available via a site that functions only in the Google Chrome browser.  TalkTyper also offers high quality text-to-speech so that the person dictating can listen to whatever he or she has written. The user must be online. I’ve recently written about TalkTyper in greater detail in another post.

Install Chrome extension Adblock Plus to automatically remove ads from TalkTyper site that may be in appropriate in a school setting

Voice Search 

Voice Search is a purpose-specific option that is also available on multiple platforms by way of Google’s Chrome browser. Voice Search enables the user to use voice recognition to enter search terms. Voice Search works well for entering search terms, and it also functions well in many other online text boxes. Voice Search is available from the Chrome Web Store as an extension for Chrome. I’ve written more about Voice Search here.

iOS Options (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation provides excellent voice-to-text on all iOS devices, as long as those devices are online. In iOS5, text-to-speech is available to read dictated text via the built-in ‘Speak Selection‘.  Please note: text dictated into Dragon Dictation can only be copied to the clipboard if the keyboard is visible on screen. Knowing this is especially important for anyone needing to use Speak Selection to hear what he or she has written. I wrote briefly about Dragon Dictation here.

PaperPort Notes

PaperPort Notes is a free multifaceted note-taking app for the iPad that includes speech recognition for dictation. This app also offers the ability to annotate PDF files, create text boxes, and more. I’ve written more about PaperPort Notes here.

Android Options

Voice recognition works brilliantly on Android handheld devices. My experience has been with Android 4 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”). The default  Android keyboard includes a key showing a microphone, and this brings up Android’s built in voice recognition. Voice to text can be used in any situation where you would otherwise use the keyboard.


flext9 is a free alternative keyboard for Android devices that offers four ways to input text, including voice recognition. In my experience, it works extremely well; and I have set this keyboard as the default on my Android tablet. I have written more about the flext9 here.

It is worth noting that the Evernote app for Android has recently added speech-to-text.

Windows 7 and Vista


The voice recognition built into the Windows 7 and Vista operating systems is excellent, and it is available whether or not the user is online. I have used it, and it works well for me. ars technica has written a detailed overview and review.




PaperPort Notes: Voice Recognition Built into Versatile Note-Taking App for iPad

There are people everywhere, and learners in every classroom, who struggle with written output. Here’s a free iPad app with tremendous potential to help.

PaperPort Notes stands head and shoulders above any other iPad app I’ve tried, in terms of its potential to support individuals who struggle with writing. Text can be written with the keyboard, with a stylus, or dictated by voice. As well, audio recordings can be attached to any note.

It is the speech-to-text that sets this app apart. Whenever the keyboard is called up, the user has the option of dictating by voice. Using only the built-in iPad mic, I found the accuracy to be almost flawless, even when dictating with low levels of background noise present.

As is the case with Dragon Dictation, the iPad must be connected to the Internet for speech-to-text to function. PaperPort Notes is from Nuance, who are also responsible for Dragon Dictation. As is the case with the Dragon app, text-to-speech is only available via Speak Selection when the keyboard is visible. The opportunity to hear what has been dictated is important for anyone who struggles with both reading and writing.

There are numerous other features that make PaperPort useful. These inlude the ability to create text boxes and sticky notes, to incorporate images, and to conveniently import and annotate files and web pages, or even cropped parts of web pages. Notes can be created on a yellow or white lined page, a blank page, or on a graphing page. The image below illustrates just a few of these possibilities.


There are multiple options for sharing notes–via email, into Google Docs, DropBox, etc. Notes can also be printed directly to an AirPrint printer. Or, notes can be opened in other iPad apps as PDF files.

A 20 page User Guide is made available by clicking on the ‘Help’ tab. This can be viewed within the app or downloaded as a PDF file.