How to Make a Mac Talk: Text to Speech
Want to have a Mac read text in a document or webpage to you? Text To Speech is an excellent feature which allows Mac users to have words on screen spoken aloud. You can make your Mac talk to you in various different ways, at different speeds, and even speaking with different voices, all by using the powerful built-in Text-to-Speech abilities of Mac OS X. With this feature, you can either speak a few words, phrases, or even an entire document.
We’ll cover the two quickest and easiest ways to use Text to Speech on a Mac from common apps like word processors, web browsers, and text editors, and also demonstrate the command line ‘say’ trick to speak text by way of the Terminal application. Finally, we’ll also show you how to change the voices used, and the rate of speech (meaning, how fast the words are spoken).
How to Use Text to Speech on Mac
You can speak existing text or typing anything out to have it spoken too, here’s how text to speech works on Mac:
- Set the cursor to where you’d like the text to be spoken (default will be the beginning of the document or text), or select a specific word or text
- Go to the Edit menu and then pull down to ‘Speech’ (or right-click and choose “Speech”)
- Select ‘Start Speaking’
Speech begins immediately, the Mac will use text to speech to speak the text that is shown on the screen or that is selected. Speech begins immediately through this method.
Speech will continue until all words have been read aloud, or until the speech has been stopped by going to the same Speech menu and choosing “Stop Speaking”.
This will use whatever the default voice is in Mac OS X, which leads to the next obvious question; how do you change the voice used on a Mac? And how do you change the speed rate of spoken text on a Mac?
How to Change Change the Voice & Rate of Speech on Mac
If you want to change the default voice, you will find it is set in the “Dictation & Speech” control panel in modern Mac OS versions:
- Go to Apple menu and open “System Preferences”
- Select “Accessibility” then choose the “Speech” section
- Adjust the voice selections found within the “System Voice” menu
In earlier Mac OS X versions, changing the Mac system voice and speech rate is done here:
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and choose “Dictation & Speech”
- Under the “Speech” tab, adjust the selection found within the “System Voice” menu
You can also adjust things like speaking rate through that same preference panel. Whatever voice is chosen there becomes the new default. You can also add voices if you decide the ones you hear aren’t working for you.
Make your Mac Talk with the Terminal and “say” command
This will rely on the command line, and thus may be considered slightly more advanced. Nonetheless, it’s still extremely easy to use, so don’t be shy to try it out:
- Launch the Terminal app, found within /Applications/Utilities, and type the ‘say’ command followed by a word or phrase, like so:
say hello I love osxdaily.com
The output voice is going to be the same as the system default, which is set in the aforementioned “Speech” System Preference panel.
The terminal is a bit more powerful than the standard text-to-speech engine though, and you can easily specify a new voice by using the -v flag, followed by the voicename as it’s labeled in Mac OS X. For example, to use the ‘agnes’ voice:
say -v agnes "this sure is a fancy voice! well maybe not, but I do love osxdaily.com"
Rate of speech can be adjusted with -r like so:
say -v Samantha -r 2000 "Hello I like to talk super fast"
You can use the ‘say’ command with just about anything, and it can also be used remotely through SSH if you feel like making a remote Mac start talking.
Speak Entire Files with the ‘say’ Command Line Tool
The say command can also be used to speak an entire file by using the -f flag like so:
say -f filename.txt
For example, to speak a file named “TheAmericanDictionary.rtf” found on the desktop, you would use the following command:
say -f ~/Desktop/TheAmericanDictionary.rtf
Do note that the say command will speak the entire command unless it has been halted by hitting CONTROL+C together to end the speech engine.
Do you have any other handy tips or tricks for using Text to Speech on Mac? Share with us in the comments below!