What’s black and white and heard all over?


What’s black and white and heard all over?
Mac Tip #343, 18 June 2008

It was very frustrating: I had all kinds of things I needed to read, but I just had to wash a big pile of dishes. That’s when I remembered that I could do both tasks at once: by listening to the documents.

I opened the PDF I needed to read into Apple Preview — it comes standard on all Macs.

I have some small, but very effective portable speakers I like to use, so I plugged them in and turned them on. I get much better sound from the external speakers than from the built-in speakers. I made sure the sound on my Mac was turned on, with the volume up.

Then I selected the text I wanted to listen to and visited the Services menu. The Services menu is always on the Application menu — if you have Preview open, go to the Preview menu; if you have Safari open, go to the Safari menu.

Under Services I selected Speech - Start Speaking Text

Under Services I selected Speech - Start Speaking Text

Under Services I selected Speech > Start Speaking Text and my computer began reading the document to me. I got on with washing the dishes.

Caution: it can take a little while to become used to hearing a computer reading text aloud. Although modern computers have reasonably natural sounding ‘voices’, they still don’t sound quite the same as human beings. You may need to listen to a few documents before you’re comfortable with the computer’s voice. Still, it’s nothing like the robotic computer voice of the original Star Trek, for example.

Once you know how to listen to a document there is a lot you can do to customise the voice itself, and to tune up the whole process. The next few Tips will help you refine both the readings and the documents themselves.

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