How to have your Mac announce alerts and speak text

Mac Accessibility Speech Features

You may not have a reason to browse through the Accessibility features on your Mac. But this means you are missing out on some great features that can be helpful to anyone.

A few of these useful features are in the Speech area of the Accessibility settings. With just a few adjustments, you can have your Mac announce alerts and speak text. Spoken alerts are super handy for grabbing your attention when you’re hard at work and spoken text can help you spot errors or get pronunciations.

If you want to give these accessibility features a try, here’s how to have your Mac announce alerts and speak text.

Head to the macOS Accessibility settings

Open your System Preferences from the icon in your Dock or by clicking Apple icon > System Preferences from the menu bar.

Then choose Accessibility. Each of the features we’ll walk through are located in the Speech section, so click that option on the left under Vision.

Enable announcements

Whether an alert from apps like Mail or Calendar or from a service or app that needs your attention, turn on this feature by clicking the Enable announcements checkbox and to customize it, click Options.

Mac Accessibility Enable Announcements

Voice: Select the voice you want to hear from male or female and a certain dialect. Click Customize to review all of your options and choose a new one.

Note: This voice can be different than the System Voice for general use in Accessibility > Speech (explained below).

Mac Accessibility Enable Announcements Options

Phrase: Select the phrase you want to hear proceed the announcement. You can also choose to hear the application name or a different phrase each time.

To customize the phrase list click Edit Phrase List. You can then add phrases like your name or something fun. You can also remove phrases you don’t want to use at all.

Mac Enable Announcements Phrase List

Delay: Select the number of seconds you want the system to wait before announcing the alert.

Hit the Play button to hear the voice and phrase you choose and click OK when you’re done.

Speak selected text

Another great feature to check out is having your Mac speak the text you select. Maybe you want to hear what you’re writing spoken out loud or perhaps you just want to hear how something is pronounced.

Check the box for Speak selected text when the key is pressed.

By default, the key combination is Option + Escape. If you prefer a different shortcut, click Change Key, enter the new combination, and click OK.

Mac Speak Selected Text Key Combo

To use this feature, select the text you want to hear by double-clicking a word or dragging through a phrase and hitting the keyboard shortcut.

Tip: To hear an entire page out loud, click Control + A to select it all and then use the key combination you’ve assigned.

Speak items under the pointer

One more handy way to hear text spoken out loud is for items under your cursor. Check that last box in the Speech section for Speak items under the pointer.

To the right, pick either Only when Zoomed or Always from the drop-down box. Finally, set the delay from Short to Long.

Mac Speak Items Under Pointer

Now when you move your pointer over any text on your Mac, you’ll hear it spoken out loud automatically. This is a good alternative to the option above for speaking selected text if you are unable to read items on your screen.

Adjust the System Voice

At the top of this window, you can choose a new System Voice by clicking the drop-down box. You can also change the Speaking Rate by moving the slider from Slow to Normal to Fast. Click Play for a sample.

As mentioned above, the voice for Enable announcements can be different from this System Voice. However, the Speaking Rate you choose will apply to both.

Wrapping it up

Hopefully these useful Accessibility features on your Mac will be something you check out. From personal experience, the Enable announcements feature is really helpful.

Are you going to give one or all of these a try? If so, let us know your thoughts below or on Twitter!

For other help with Accessibility features, check out how to increase the font size on Mac or how to get to your accessibility settings on iPhone and iPad.