Making your computer talk

This section tells you about the different ways you can make your computer talk in OS 8 and 9


Many people who have a significant vision or literacy difficulty would benefit from having their computer speak back what they are typing and other text on the screen.

Apple Text-To-Speech technology in OS 8 and 9 provides a limited control panel (not a fully functional screen-reader required by someone with no useful vision) but can nevertheless provide useful speech feedback in many situations.

This page shows you how to open Mac Speech and highlights its features.

Making your Mac talk using the Speech control panel

Note: Apple Text-To-Speech technology is a basic text reading facility built in to the operating system, it only provides a framework that other applications can use. It does not provide full screen reading but offers speech feedback in dialog boxes and will only speak in some parts of specific applications, for example a Word document.

To activate Mac Speech:

  1. Click on the ' Apple ' menu (no keyboard shortcut).
  2. Click on the ' Control Panels ' sub-menu and then click on ' Speech ' to open the ' Speech ' control panel; see Fig 1. (No keyboard shortcut) .

Speech options dialog box
Fig 1

  1. Click on the pop-up menu next to ' Voice: ' and select a voice, for example ' Kathy ' by clicking on it and then click the speaker button next to it to play a sample of the selected voice . (No keyboard shortcut)
  2. Click on the slider next to ' Rate ' to speed up or slow down the voice. (No keyboard shortcut)
  3. Click the drop down menu next to ' Options: ' and Select ' Talking Alerts' (see Fig 2) .

Fig 2

  1. Click the checkbox next to ' Speak the alert text ' to have your Mac speak the text in dialogue boxes .(No keyboard shortcut).
  2. Click on a delay time on the slider named ' Wait before speaking: ' below ' Speak the alert text ' to have the computer speak the dialogue immediately click on ' 0' for a 5 second delay click on ' 5'.(No keyboard shortcut).

You can also have the alert speech start with a phrase, to do this:

  1. In the ' Speech ' control panel lick the checkbox next to ' Speak the phrase: ' to turn this option on. (No keyboard shortcut).
  2. Click on the pop-up menu next to ' Speak the phrase: ' to see a list of available phrases and click on one to choose it . (No keyboard shortcut).

Note: You can edit the list of phrases and add your own, to do so choose ' Edit phrase list ' from the list in he pop-up menu next to ' Speak the phrase: ' .

  1. Click the close icon in the top left of the speech options box or press ' Apple ' + ' W ' on the keyboard to close the window.

Making your computer read SimpleText documents

SimpleText can use Apple Text-to-Speech Mac OS facilities to read aloud text files. To do this:

  1. Click on the ' Sound ' menu and select ' Speak All ' with the mouse or press ' Apple ' + ' J ' on your keyboard .
  2. To stop the computer speaking click on the ' Sound ' menu and Select ' Stop Speaking ' or Press ' Apple ' + '. ' (full stop) on your keyboard .

Making your computer read Word documents

Microsoft provide a free plug-in for Word 2001 on the Mac called 'Word Speak' that enables word to use the Mac Speech to read word documents out loud. To install it do the following:

  1. Go to Word Speak 2001 for Macintosh to download the plug-in to your Mac computer .
  2. Next Run the file 'Word Speak 2001 Installer' and review the software agreement and accept if you agree .
  3. After reading the read me text click ' Continue ' or press ' Enter ' on your keyboard .
  4. Click ' Continue ' or press ' Enter ' to perform the installation .
  5. Click ' Quit ' or press ' Enter ' to exit the installer.

If you have Word Speak installed and the document you want spoken is open take the following steps to read out a word document.

  1. Select the area of text you wish spoken with the mouse by clicking at the start of the text and dragging the cursor until the end of the section or by using the arrow keys on your keyboard move the cursor to the start of the text and press and hold the ' Shift ' key on your keyboard and move the cursor with the arrow keys until you have selected the text you want read out.
  2. Using your mouse click the ' Tools ' menu .(No keyboard shortcut).
  3. Click ' Speak Selection ' your computer will now read the selected text .(No keyboard shortcut).
  4. As the text is read it shows you the current word in the centre of the screen as shown in Fig 3 .

Example of text read out by Word Speak
Fig 1

  1. If you want to stop reading the text press the ' Esc ' key on your keyboard.

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.

See this page on:

  • Mac

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.