Make Your Computer Speak Text Aloud
How to turn on and customise your computer’s text-to-speech features.
You can make your computer talk in a number of ways, which can be a valuable facility for people who have difficulties with reading, for someone who can’t see very well or at all, and for those who need to give their eyes a rest. These guides explain how to use the built-in speech function in your operating system (Windows, Mac or Linux). There are also third-party screen-readers and text-to-speech software applications available.
Here’s how to do this…
- Turn on the speech function on your computer
- Set up the screen-reader or speech-to-text feature on your operating system and customise it to suit your needs.
This guide is different depending on your operating system (Windows or Mac ). Please select from the options below.
- Windows 7
- Mac OS X
How To Make Your Computer Speak Text Aloud In Mac OS X
This page explains step-by-step how to use the built-in speech functions in Mac OS X. Starting with OS 10.4 (Tiger), Mac OS X has included a fully integrated screenreader called VoiceOver. Earlier versions of Mac OS X have only the more limited screen-reading function called Speech (which is also available on later versions).
Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure ‘Full keyboard access’ is turned on – you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.
Turn on and customise VoiceOver
Step 1: Open the ‘Universal Access’ window
Make sure you are in ‘Finder’. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to ‘Finder’.
Click on the ‘Apple‘ icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.
Click on ‘System Preferences‘, as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.
In the ‘System Preferences’ window (shown in Fig 2), click on the ‘Universal Access‘ icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the ‘Universal Access‘ icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.
Step 2: Turn on VoiceOver
In the ‘Universal Access’ window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the ‘Seeing‘ tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.
Under the ‘VoiceOver‘ header, click the ‘On‘ radio button, or press Tab until the ‘Off’ radio button is highlighted and then press the left arrow key to select ‘On‘. You can also turn VoiceOver on or off at any time by pressing Apple + F5.
Step 3: Customise the settings for VoiceOver
To change the VoiceOver settings, click on the ‘Open VoiceOver Utility‘ button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.
In the ‘VoiceOver Utility’ window, shown in Fig 4, you can customise the settings in nine categories, which appear in the left-hand pane.
To select a category, click on it, use the up and down arrow keys, or press Apple and the number it is in the list. For example, for ‘General’ press Apple + 1 and for ‘Braille’ press Apple + 9.
For a detailed guide to all of the VoiceOver settings options, see Apple’s VoiceOver pages.
Click on the window’s red close button or press Apple + W to finish.
Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies – contact your local IT support for further help.
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Step 4: Braille support in VoiceOver
VoiceOver includes braille support. VoiceOver automatically recognises the model in use and programmes the keys – including ‘wiz wheels’, scrollers, router keys and buttons – to best suit each model’s characteristics.
If you don’t have a USB braille display, you can use the on-screen visual braille panel that is included with VoiceOver.
The braille panel behaves like a standard 40-cell display. It shows both the braille dots being sent to the dedicated braille display and an English translation, so sighted instructors, parents or co-workers can read its contents with minimal disturbance to the non-sighted user.
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