So far in this chapter, you’ve read about the Mac’s listening ability. But the conversation doesn’t have to be one-way; it’s even easier to make the Mac talk.
Some Mac OS X programs come with their own built-in speaking features. For example, Mail can read your messages aloud; just Control-click inside a message window and, from the pop-up menu, choose Speech→Start Speaking. Most Cocoa programs can speak when you use the Start Speaking Text command in the Services menu (Send File to Bluetooth Device). You can add a Speak Text button in AppleWorks, or add a Speak command in FileMaker Pro scripts. Tiger’s Chess and Calculator programs can talk back, too.
But that’s kid stuff. Truth is, the Mac can read almost anything you like: text that you pass your cursor over, alert messages, menus, and any text document in any program. It can speak in your choice of 22 synthesizer voices, ages 8 to 50. The Mac’s voice comes out of its speakers, reading with a twangy, charmingly Norwegian accent.
This reading-text business is not the same thing as Tiger’s new VoiceOver feature. VoiceOver is designed to read everything on the screen, including pop-up menus, buttons, and other controls, to visually impaired Mac fans (and to permit complete control, mouse-free, of everything). Details begin in Announce when an application requires your attention.
To configure the way the Mac talks, revisit the Speech pane of System Preferences. Click the Text to Speech ...