There are a lot of reasons I love my Mac, but even after having used pretty much Macs only since my beloved Atari 1040 ST died in 1993, I am still thrilled when I find a new trick that I either forgot or someone shows me for the first time.
While watching Apple’s Maria Henderson give a demonstration during an Apple Learning Tour presentation at the Ysleta Independent School District, she showed some of the cool text-to-speech features in Mac OSX. Now I already knew that you could highlight some text, such as in a web page, hit the CTRL button, then hit the “Start Speaking” command. In a few seconds, the computer, in the voice you have previously chosen, will speak the highlighted text.
This is a great tool to have for students that are struggling readers. They can highlight what is on the screen, and read a long with one of the included voices.
Another use of the tool is to use the included dictionary, and have the computer read a definition of a word that they do not understand.
So the text-to-speech feature is pretty cool. But it gets better!
I learned that you can not only highlight and have the text read, but you can also use one of Apple’s built in Services to save the text-to-speech as a recording, and then have it played back in iTunes, or any other MP3 player, or on the web.
Think of the possibilities:
Teachers could, for instance, create an audio recording of a long reading passage, and have the students listen to it at home on their iPods. Students could turn in reports not as written pages, but as an audio file.
Entire books in the public domain could be created as audio files that the kids could download on their MP3 players.
Here is how you do it:
The first thing to do it to tell your Mac you want to be able to do this.
Go to your Preferences, click on “Keyboard.”
Once you click on Keyboard, then Click on Keyboard Shortcuts, then “Services:”
Scroll Down the list of Services until you get to: “Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track.” Click in the box.
That is all you need to set up the service.
Now, highlight your text as normal, just as you would when you wanted to convert it to speech, but instead of Control Clicking on “Begin Speaking”, go to the Program menu and click on Services. Click again on “Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track.”
The track will then show up in your iTunes as file that can be downloaded, shared, etc.
How well does it work?
Try it on the text above and let me know!