You are in:

Text to Speech and Reading Books with Mavericks

by Allan Wilson

on Mon Apr 21, 2014

Share this blog

Share on:

  • Twitter share
  • Facebook share
  • linkedin share
  • Google+ share

At present there are:

Since you're here...

training course

CALL Scotland course,
University of Edinburgh
10th May, 2018

Personal Communication Passports

training courseNewsletter

Get news, articles, advice and tips.

Sign me up!

We had a couple of enquiries last week about different aspects of 'text to speech' on an Apple Macintosh computer so it is probably a good time to put together some updated information, particularly relating to the Mavericks (10.9) Operating System. The first related to general text to speech facilities for a pupil with dyslexia, particularly interested in reading past exam papers. The second was more specific to using the computer to read books, particularly Kindle books.

Recent Mac operating systems have included a reasonable text to speech facility, but we have generally recommended the free version of NaturalReader, particularly for somebody with a reading difficulty who might want to click on a mouse button to speak text, rather than remember a keyboard command. Unfortunately, the free version doesn't currently work with the latest Mavericks operating system so the best 'free' alternative is to use the built-in facility.

Accessing Text to Speech with Mavericks

Text to Speech on a Mac running Mavericks is accessed through the Dictation and Speech System Preferences. (Click on the Apple icon in the Menu bar [top, left of the screen], then System Preferences, then Dictation and Speech [You may have to click on Show All in order to see this.). Now select the voice you want to use. The Mac defaults to using one of six American voices (see below, left), but you can access many more by clicking on Customize (below, right). Simply tick the voices you want to have available and 'untick' the ones you don't want. The additional voices include a good quality Scottish voice, Fiona, which you can use free. Note that there are also Mac versions of the Scottish computer voices, Heather and Stuart. The Scottish voices are generally free for use by people with disabilities in Scotland through the Scottish Voice web site, or can be purchased through Cereproc.

After you have chosen the voices you want to have available, click on System Voice again and choose the voice you want to use. Speaking Rate can also be adjusted at this point to suit the user. People with an auditory processing difficulty may benefit from a slower speed, while people with a visual impairment might prefer a faster speed, particularly if they are used to Text to Speech. Finally, choose a key or key combination to 'Speak Selected Text'. Choose something that you will remember, and which is not already used by something else.

Once Text to Speech has been set up, select text in any application with your mouse and press the key you have chosen to Speak Selected Text to hear the text read back to you. Note that words are not highlighted in any way as they are read. If this is important, you would need to use a specialist Text to Speech program, such as GhostReader or Read and Write Gold.

What about Reading an Electronic Book?

iBooks

Most Mac users would think of iBooks as their first option for reading electronic books. There are over 2 million books available and a basic Text to Speech facility is built into the program. Select the text you want read, then click on Edit, Speech and Start Speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the book is available as a PDF, then the text to speech options in Adobe Reader can be used. See the CALL Quick Guides to Using Books on the Books for All web site.

Kindle

What can you do if the book you want is only available for the Amazon Kindle, or if you have a Kindle account and prefer to use that, rather than set up an iBooks account? There is a free Kindle app, available through the Apple App Store, which can be used to read Kindle books that have been purchased, or downloaded from the Amazon Kindle Store. Unfortunately, the Kindle App for the Mac is quite limited for people with reading difficulties - there is only one, unfriendly, font available, though text size and spacing can be varied, and there is no built-in Text to Speech facility. The Speak Selected Text method used to work (see video), but it no longer works in Mavericks. The best way we have found for adding Text to Speech to the Kindle app on an Apple with Mavericks is to use the Screenshot Reader in Read and Write 5 Gold (circled in red below). This allows you to select any block of text from the screen, including from the Kindle app, copies the text into a new frame and then reads the text back, highlighting each word as it is read. You have to read each page individually, which is a hassle, but at least it is possible to read the text out loud using this method.

 

Tags: Apple Mac, Text to Speech, Accessible Books, Kindle

Share this blog

Share on:

  • Twitter share
  • Facebook share
  • linkedin share
  • Google+ share

At present there are:

Conversations