Get your Mac to speak any selected text

By , Feb 29, 2016

speak selection dictation icon in text banner

Your Mac, just like any iOS devices you own, comes with an ability to speak selected text. This comes in handy when you can’t see the text very well and would find it useful to have the text read out loud to you.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how you can make your Mac speak a selected body of text with ease.

Why to have your Mac speak selected text

If you’re hard at seeing, or you’re trying to multi-task, sometimes having your Mac speak a body of text out loud to you, instead of you needing to read it, can be helpful.

I particularly find it useful when I want to listen to something and type at the same time, because rather than having to read and type at the same time, which involves looking back and forth, having the text read aloud to me lets me remain focused on my typing.

I can see this being useful for anyone who can’t see well because when text is too small to make sense of, you can simply select it and press your hotkeys on the keyboard to have your Mac say it aloud. This will ensure you understand what you’re looking at, even if you have to listen to it instead.

How to make your Mac speak selected text

Making your Mac speak selected text is easy and is outlined in an Apple support document. This is an accessibility feature that you have to enable from the System Preferences app on your Mac.

To ensure the feature is enabled on your Mac, follow these steps:

1) Launch the System Preferences app and open the “Dictation & Speech” preferences pane.

system preferences OS X dictation and speech

2) Open the “Text to Speech” tab and ensure the “Speak selected text when the key is pressed” option is checked off.

speak selection OS X text and dictation

With this feature turned on, you can now use the keyboard shortcut whenever text is selected to have your Mac speak it aloud. The default shortcut is pressing Option + Esc on your keyboard, but you can change it to anything.

To change your keyboard shortcut, simply click on the “Change Key…” button, and when prompted, press the keyboard shortcut on the Mac you want to use instead and click “OK.”

OS X speak selection change keyboard shortcut

Making your Mac speak selected text

After you’ve got the speak selection feature enabled on your Mac, it’s pretty easy to use. Just head over to any body of text that supports text selection, such as on a web page, highlight the text, and hit your keyboard shortcut.

OS X speak selection highlighted text

Changing the voice used for speaking text

Your Mac will speak out the text using your system’s selected voice. By default, Alex will be your system’s speaking voice, but you can choose any other voice that comes with your Mac to do the talking if you don’t like the default voice.

To do that, just follow these steps:

1) Launch the System Preferences app and open the “Dictation and Speech” preferences pane.

system preferences OS X dictation and speech

2) Make sure you’re in the “Text to Speech” tab, and click on the “System Voice” drop-down menu to select any of the available voices in the list.

system voice OS X alex

os x system voice selection combo box

Wrapping up

Speaking any text selection on your Mac is a quick and easy way to make sense of text that is otherwise too small to see, but it can also help you to type along to something without having to look back and forth between a body of text and your document. Whatever the case, it can also prove to be quite entertaining in some cases – just wait until you hear some of the funny pronunciations of some of those weird words out there!

Related: How to make your Mac speak with Terminal

If you found this tutorial helpful, let us know in the comments below!

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  • Hippo

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