Apple devices come with a built-in service called VoiceOver. But it’s up to you to decide if it’s the best solution for your particular needs. Let's explore some options.
Alternatives to VoiceOver on macOS & Apple
A good TTS reader can improve the quality of life for macOS and iOS device users with reading disabilities and visual impairments. It may also boost productivity and make navigation more interactive.
Apple devices come with a built-in service called VoiceOver. But it’s up to you to decide if it’s the best solution for your particular needs. A few great alternatives on the market can provide a different yet equally suitable experience.
What is VoiceOver?
VoiceOver is the default screen reader available on macOS X and iOS devices. It primarily benefits users with visual impairment and difficulties in controlling their devices with keyboard commands (on a Mac) and gestures (on iOS devices.)
Although it can read the screen, like a standard text to speech reader, using VoiceOver also allows users to hear notifications, understand their position on the screen, hear incoming caller IDs, texts, etc. It also functions well with the iPhone screen curtain feature, granting extra privacy.
VoiceOver allows users to use keyboard shortcuts (VO keys,) a braille display, or a trackpad to navigate their devices and access any service or file they want.
It’s important to note that VoiceOver works best with complete keyboard configurations. For example, the “Home,” “End,” and similar keys are essential for navigating and browsing with the built-in screen reader.
You can turn VoiceOver on if you press Command + F5. Alternatively, you can tell Siri to “Turn VoiceOver on or off.”
Another way to enable the service is through Touch ID. Holding the Command key while tapping Touch ID three times should enable VoiceOver on your system.
However, you need additional shortcut mapping options and the “Fn” key to utilize VoiceOver fully on Macbooks.
The service is more limited on iPhones and iPads. First, enable VoiceOver from the accessibility features on your Apple mobile device to use it.
Then, you can ask Siri to turn it on or triple-tap the Home or Side button, depending on your device.
The service is intuitive enough and, luckily, also comes with a tutorial for first-time users to learn all VoiceOver commands.
For example, you can use the arrow keys and TAB key to navigate the screen as a VoiceOver user. No matter how you input keystrokes on your Macbook, the VoiceOver cursor should follow.
You can turn this VoiceOver option on while disabling the mouse cursor tracking. Doing so allows you to enable VoiceOver only on specific parts of the screen or in select applications.
But it’s not the only way to get around a Mac or iOS device if you have visual or reading difficulties.
Five VoiceOver alternatives
VoiceOver utility includes both text to speech and speech recognition, but while it can improve your navigation on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, it doesn’t come with the best voice quality.
Other TTS readers perform better at reading books, articles, and documents and creating high-quality recordings of on-screen digital text.
NaturalReader is a screen reader that turns digital text on web pages into a natural-sounding voice. Users can import PDFs, e-books, TXT files, Google Docs, and other files and have the TTS app read aloud.
In addition, NaturalReader has Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, and Dropbox integrations, for easier access to text to speech conversions. It supports 20 languages and comes with around 50 computer-generated voices.
The iSpeech TTS app enables users to load text into the app and select between male and female voices to deliver accurate narrations.
While it mainly functions as a real-time TTS reader, iSpeech allows users to record audio conversions and save them locally or in the cloud.
Like many text to speech readers today, iSpeech has browser and mobile device versions compatible with iPhones and iPads. However, one of its standout features is the broad range of audio file formats supported for conversions.
Voice Dream Reader
The Voice Dream Reader TTS software is available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. The app is a popular educational aid, and its user-friendly interface makes it suitable for anyone over the age of 4.
Users can access over 20 voices designed for iOS devices. Alternatively, they can buy any of the other 200 or more voices available in the app’s library.
Voice Dream Reader can narrate from copy-pasted text, Google documents, Microsoft Word documents, PPT and PDF files, and audiobooks. It also has solid foreign language coverage and quality audio.
Speak4Me, available on all Apple devices, has a simple interface with three tabs. Although it doesn’t have the most natural-sounding voices, it offers decent audio customization.
Users can select voice animation to make voices sound more human-like and adjust the pitch and reading speed. You can save recordings and share them or listen to them later.
Many users appreciate that Speak4Me doesn’t use the same classic iOS voices as other TTS readers.
The Speechify TTS reader uses computer and AI-generated voices to achieve the highest quality audio on its text to speech conversions. Speechify is available on almost every operating system and comes with dedicated apps for Android and Apple devices and two browser extensions.
You can also find a macOS app and a Safari extension.
Due to its built-in OCR technology, Speechify supports uploading different digital text file formats, including pictures. In addition, users can select between many languages, male and female voices, and choose various accents to make their narrations sound more familiar and realistic.
Try Speechify for free today
Using Speechify as the default screen reader on iOS or macOS devices is a popular choice. The app has extensive audio customization, including speeding up the playback to nine times faster than the average reading speed.
You can use Speechify to overcome reading issues, navigate mobile devices, read e-books and hard copy textbooks, differentiate between headings and paragraphs, and download recordings for offline use in multiple audio file formats.
How do I dictate on a Mac?
Enabling the “Dictation” feature on a Mac is easy. You can go to “Apple Menu” and select “System Preferences.” The “Dictation” feature is under the “Keyboard” tab. Enable the feature and set it to manual or automatic, depending on your preference.
How do I get more voices on my Mac?
Like word processors, the built-in Mac reader doesn’t have all available voices pre-downloaded on your device. However, you can add new voices by going to “System Preferences” to access the accessibility options and then the “Spoken Content” section. Next, go through the “System Voice” list and customize it by adding extra voices.
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