Find out all about how to turn text to speech on for Mac laptops and desktops to enhance your multimedia experience and learn about reliable alternatives to the default software.
Mac computers first hit the spotlight in 1984 as Macintosh computers. Back then, the relatively expensive and limited-in-production computers garnered little favor among their intended audience – personal users.
But over the years, the Mac became one of the preferred brands for workstations, video and audio editing, and programming computer brands. Today’s lineup includes the popular MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops as well as the iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac Studio desktop variants.
Their performance is difficult to match by other operating systems, and the accessibility features range doesn’t disappoint either. That’s especially true of the built-in text to speech feature that arguably surpasses anything Microsoft ever delivered.
The benefits of text to speech apps
While text to speech apps generally help people who can’t read or can’t read well enough, they have many other uses these days.
- Accessibility – People with reading disabilities and visual impairment can’t use digital devices and access digital content as easily as others. TTS apps allow people to hear onscreen information and notifications, and better understand written text.
- Convenience – The more types of digital content available, the easier it is for everyone to enjoy it. Text to speech technology facilitates this by creating an immersive multimedia experience for plain digital text.
- Supports different learning styles – Some people are better auditory learners. TTS apps can make it easier to learn and improve language decoding skills.
- Multitasking – Reading requires more focus than listening and keeps people from performing other tasks. Turning text into audio files can help people multitask, listen to emails on their way to work, or catch up on studies while doing other things.
Steps for activating text to speech in macOS
All macOS systems come with a default text to speech feature called Spoken Content. It’s a built-in TTS reader that you can enable from the “Accessibility” menu.
- Go to the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon.
- Navigate to “System Preferences.”
- Click on the “Accessibility” button.
- Click on “Spoken Content.”
Once in the “Spoken Content” menu, you can start to customize the speech options.
For example, you can change the default keyboard shortcut from “Option + Esc” to a different key combination. Once you press the key shortcut, your Mac should start speaking.
Pressing the key again will make your Mac stop speaking.
You can also choose how the screen reader highlights text. One of the best things about this built-in Apple reader is that it can highlight words and sentences in different colors, making it easier to focus on particular sections. Naturally, you can stop the selected text feature and prevent highlighting.
The app also comes with the option to give sentences an underline or a specific background color when your Mac reads aloud.
One option you may want to keep ticked on is the “Show Controller” option. This gives you access to the play button, pause button, fast-forward, and rewind controls. It’s sometimes necessary to quickly adjust the speaking rate during a narration.
Note that Spoken Content is different from the VoiceOver reader. The latter can’t often distinguish between onscreen elements and digital text. This app is more valuable to visually impaired users who can’t navigate a MacBook properly.
Alternatives to the default macOS screen reader
Although Mac OS X and iOS devices come with decent text to speech software, there are better alternatives you can try.
Capti Voice is a fan-favorite macOS text to speech app. You can use it directly in the browser and download audio files locally when needed. The app supports a wide range of digital text files, from basic TXT files to PDFs and articles.
It offers numerous features like high-quality voices, word and phrase translations, and a student management system. The latter is a reliable tool for teachers to use to monitor student activities and share content.
You can download the Invicta TTS app from the App Store. At first glance, it’s a simplistic app with a basic user interface where you can copy-paste or write text. It then converts the text into audio using computer-generated voices.
While it doesn’t have many features, the app is more than adequate for reading English articles and comes with sufficient playback controls.
Natural Reader is a well-known TTS app available on most platforms, including macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. You can download the standalone app for your operating system or use its browser version to read online content and digital files.
This feature-heavy software offers OCR support for reading physical hard-copy materials and converting them to various audio file formats. Between its high-quality voices and advanced features, it can be one of the better educational tools on Macbooks and other Apple devices.
You might like the Read Aloud app if you prefer using Chrome on your Mac. This free app functions as a TTS Chrome extension with a standard controller for speech rate, volume, and text highlighting.
You can select from a range of voices and skip or rewind a speak selection to focus only on what you want to hear.
The Speechify text to speech Mac app has over 150 voices and supports over 30 languages. The dedicated desktop app is a standard onscreen reader and can read almost any document or webpage content aloud.
Speechify takes just a few moments to configure and can enhance your multitasking when working and learning. The OCR technology lets the app convert physical documents into speech and read text from a screenshot. Its flexible playback control makes following the narration easy, and the human-like dictation can help improve your focus and understanding of the spoken words.
Try Speechify for free
If you don’t want to listen to Siri or a built-in, limited text to speech feature on your Mac, Speechify could be the answer. You can try Speechify for free on an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, and in your Safari browser, as well as sync content progress across all devices.
Why is my text to speech not working on Mac?
Mac has a built-in text to speech feature that dates back a couple of years. If yours doesn’t work, check that the volume is turned up, and you’ve enabled VoiceOver or Spoken Content from the Accessibility menu.
Is there a way to change the voice on text to speech on Mac?
You can change the voice by clicking on the System Voice pop-up menu and choosing one from the available samples.