The VoiceOver feature (System Preferences > Universal Access) is a great way to increase the accessibility of your Mac, but did you know that there are several other ways to get your Mac to talk to you, which are easy to use and quick to set up?
Text to Speech in System Preferences.
Setting a Key Combination.
In any application you can now highlight text with the mouse pointer, and when you press your chosen key command your Mac will speak the words using the voice selected in the System Voice drop-down menu, and at the rate determined by the Speaking Rate slider.
The voice you choose for Text to Speech is independent of the one that you set for VoiceOver. This can be handy for differentiating between the two if you also use VoiceOver.
This method gives you control over what is spoken, where VoiceOver gives a description of every active field in a window. VoiceOver will speak the text in a document (as well as giving you formatting information) but is more temperamental with web browsers. For example, try getting VoiceOver to read a macProVideo.com Hub article! With Text to Speech, simply select the text you want to hear and press your custom key command
Text to Speech and VoiceOver cannot be used simultaneously but you can swap quickly from one to the other using key commands (you can turn VoiceOver on or off by using Command-F5)
Setting up Services in System Preferences.
In any supported application go to the Application menu and you will find ‘Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track’ under the Services options. For example, in Firefox:
Text to Speech files in iTunes.
Want to learn more about Mac OSX? The Mac OS X (10.7) 101 - Core Lion will get you up to speed on all things Lion. The Mac OS 10.6 201 - Advanced Snow Leopard tutorial will take you deeper into Text to Speech, Automator and other time-saving tips.