Text to Speech in Mac OS X


One of the lesser known capabilities of OS X is the text-to-speech ability. Any words, sentences, and paragraphs can be dictated using the speech ability. Additionally, there are several languages available for dictation, such as English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and much more. In fact, for English, the OS actually offers American English, British, Irish, Scottish, South African, Australian, and some novelty voices. Some of these also include male and female voices, and different voice choices as well. Chinese has 3 options: Mandarin from Taiwan or China, or Cantonese (Hong Kong).

For English, the famous voice of Siri makes an appearance, named as the Samantha voice. She is a selectable English voice, but as an additional download and not as a built-in voice.


Speech settings appear in System Preferences -> Speech -> Text To Speech. Here, we can select a voice to be used. Siri's voice is named Samantha, but selecting it will prompt a download. Once downloaded, it can be selected as the default voice.

To make the system pronounce a word or sentence, highlight the text to be dictated, right-click on the highlighted text, select "Speech", and click "Start Speech". The text should now be pronounced! There is also an option for enabling a keyboard shortcut (option+esc) in the Speech settings for quicker text-to-speech.

Sometimes, the application does not allow text-to-speech, such as Adobe Acrobat (for some odd reason). As a workaround, try opening documents in Preview whenever possible to ensure application compatibility.

For Chinese, I was unable to do text-to-speech in Google Chrome. However, it seems to work fine in Safari and the built-in Dictionary app for OS X. English text-to-speech does work in Google Chrome though.

Text-to-speech is a very useful tool for dictating text, especially when the pronunciation of a word is unclear. It is also fun to dictate paragraphs and read along with it.