How To Use Speech Accessibility Features On Your Mac

In System Preferences you can select from a variety of voices that are used when you have text read aloud to you on your Mac. You can also set a keyboard shortcut to read selected text. Another option will automatically read alerts out loud after a delay. This can be handy for recognizing when there is a problem or warning.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: How To Use Speech Accessibility Features On Your Mac.

Let's take another look at the Accessibility functions on your Mac. A lot of these can be used by everybody. Today we're going to go into System Preferences, Accessibility, and look at Speech. The top part here decides what voice your Mac uses for Speech functions. Now this is not Siri. Siri is a whole separate system. These are special Accessibility functions that can read things out loud to you.

You can choose from a variety of voices. You can go to Customize and there are a ton of voices you can choose from. Sometimes you need to download them first. They don't come with the system but they're quick little downloads. So you can switch to these. I find Samantha is the one that's closest to the kind of modern Siri type voice that we're used to. You can play to hear a sample. Hello, my name is Samantha. You can also try different speeds and get to where you want it to go.

Now, where would you use this kind of thing. Well, for instance, you can go to any app really. Let's say a webpage here. You can select some text and you can go to Edit, Speech, Start Speaking. MacMost is a free website with videos tutorials for Apple Mac. Now there's a keyboard shortcut for this. So you can use Option, Escape to actually do this. So now we can go here to the page, Option Escape. MacMost is a free website with videos tutorials. Option Escape is a handy way to stop it as well. So if you find yourself using this function a lot turn this on and you can use Option, Escape or Change Key, the shortcut key, for that. It's very useful.

Here's another place this is used. Enable announcements. So when you get an alert from an app instead of just seeing it on the screen you'll also get it read to you. This can be really handy because sometimes the alerts are hard to see especially if you've got multiple screens. A few times I've been caught where there's been an alert on the screen I didn't expect and I couldn't quite figure it out. It took me a few seconds to figure out where that alert was and what was going on.

Now the default is something like ten seconds or so which is handy because an alert can appear, you can see it, dismiss it, and it never bothers you. If you don't notice that an alert appears then after ten seconds you have this audio cue here. So let's set it to zero just to get it working so you hear it all the time. You can choose a different voice which could be handy if you're using the regular voice or you find that Samantha is a little too close to Siri or whatever. You can use something else so you can, kind of, recognize it as an alert. You can also have it say something at the beginning of an alert like the Application name or one of these phrases. You can also add your own phrase as well. You can have it go loop through these phrases here so you don't kind of, you know, hear the same phrase all the time or pick a random one.

So let's go and try this. For instance in Photos here I've selected a photo. I'm going to hit the Delete key and it's going to give me an alert warning me about deleting this photo. Now I'll actually get some audio with it as well. Alert from Photos, delete from all your devices. So that's kind of handy. It could be something that you find useful. I would suggest maybe turning on for a little bit. Set it to zero seconds and see if it's useful. It's easy enough to turn off. Also, this is also easy enough to turn on and off but Option Escape probably won't get in the way. It's kind of handy to have to have text read to you out loud even if it's just so you can rest your eyes for a minute while having a long email read to you.

Comments: 5 Responses to “How To Use Speech Accessibility Features On Your Mac”

    9 months ago

    Years ago I reassigned ‘speak selected text’ to F19 on my wired extended keyboard. I use it daily; it’s super for reading back document ‘drafts’ & whatnot, or just reading newspaper articles & the like while I’m up to something else in the area.

    9 months ago

    Hi, Is there a way to switch voices on the fly. I also use F19 but I am bilingual and often read in another language.

    9 months ago

    JP: Not sure what you mean by “on the fly” — it is pretty easy to change the voice.

    Helen Kohn
    8 months ago

    Gary, I would like to set a voice reminder for every 20min. To get up and take a break! I would like to use my own voice. How can I do this on my iMac and iPad?
    Many thank

    8 months ago

    Helen: You’ll probably need an app for that. Search the Mac App Store for “break reminder” and a bunch of things come up.

Comments Closed.