Although awareness of the Mac built-in text to speech feature has grown, I think it’s important to keep disseminating information and technical assistance. Where I work in Maine, all of our middle schools and many high schools are 1:1 with MacBooks through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). In these schools, students have immediate and timely access to “Alex,” Apple’s most recent and highest quality voice for the Mac. Alex is an impressively  human-sounding voice with natural intonation. And it’s easy to use: simply select the text that you want Alex to read aloud, and then press a self-selected key combination.

Imagine the possibilities, particularly in content area classrooms:

  • Students with specific learning disabilities benefit from seeing and hearing the text as it’s spoken aloud
  • English language learners benefit from having content area instructional materials spoken aloud
  • Novice and master writers alike benefit from employing Alex as their proofreader

Alex will read aloud any digital text: Web sites, text files, email, data in spreadsheets…any digital text.

If you have a Mac, you gotta listen to Alex. Here’s how:

  1. Open the System Preferences panel
  2. Choose the Speech pane
  3. Choose the Text to Speech tab
  4. Alex will appear by default in the System Voice dropdown menu. Adjust the Speaking Rate slider and choose the Play button to test your settings. Adjust as necessary.
  5. Select the box next to Speak selected text when the key is pressed. A dropdown box should appear. If not, select the Set Key… button.
  6. In the dropdown box, you’ll be instructed to Set a key combination to speak selected text. Your key combination should start with a modifier key (Command, Shift, Option, or Control) and at least one other key. Keep in mind that whatever combination you choose, it won’t be available to you for any other purpose on your computer. For example, I recommend that you not choose “Command-S” if you typically use this shortcut to save files. You may be tempted to click inside the key combination field, but you’ll soon realize that your key combination will appear as you press keys on your keyboard.
  7. Choose the OK button.
  8. Quit System Preferences.

Now you’re ready to have Alex read aloud to you. Select any digital text on your computer by highlighting it. Press your key combination. To stop Alex from speaking, press the key combination again.

Here’s a short video Quick Tip of the process.


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