Although it may surprise many Mac users, the Mac is quite talented when it comes to speech. Its abilities fall into two categories: reading text aloud, using a synthesized voice; and taking commands from your voice.
The Apple marketing machine may have been working too hard when it called this feature “speech recognition”—the Mac OS feature called PlainTalk doesn’t take dictation, typing out what you say. (For that, you need a program like IBM ViaVoice for Mac OS X, http://www.ibm.com , or iListen, http://www.macspeech.com .)
Instead, PlainTalk is what’s known as a command-and-control technology. It lets you open programs, trigger AppleScripts, choose menu commands, trigger keystrokes, and click dialog box buttons and tabs—just by speaking their names.
Few people use PlainTalk speech recognition. But if your Mac has a microphone, PlainTalk is worth at least a 15-minute test drive. It may become a part of your work routine forever.
Your First Conversation with the Mac
The on/off switch for speech recognition in Mac OS X is the Speech panel of System Preferences (Figure 14-9). Where you see “Apple Speakable Items is,” click On. (The flrst time you do this, a small instructions window appears. Read it if you like, and then click Continue. If you ever want to see these tips again, click the Helpful Tips button on this pane.)
The Feedback window
Check out the right side of your screen: A small, microphone-like floating window now appears (Figure 14-10). The word Esc in ...