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The Mac has the ability to obey some spoken commands as well as speak text on the screen. These capabilities are controlled within the Speech System Preference. Now before we get started, understand that speech recognition is not the same thing as dictation. Speech recognition will try to issue commands based on what you say, but it won't transcribe what you say. For that you need a program like Mac's Speeches Dictate. With a microphone attached to your Mac and it configured as the input, enable the Speakable Items option. This little lozenge here with Escape in it appears.
When you want to tell your Mac to do something, hold down the Esc key and tell the Mac what you want. For example, "open iTunes" and there it is, there is iTunes. We will quit that. To see what your Mac will respond to, click on the bottom of the lozenge and choose Open Speech Commands Window. You can go through this list of speakable items to see what the Mac will respond to. And here is one, Tell me a joke, let's see if that works. "Tell me a joke." (Computer: "Knock, knock".) Who's there? (Computer: "Thelma.") Thelma who? (Computer: "Thelma your soul").
Ha, Ha, Ha. If speech recognition doesn't seem to be working very well- and I kind of test it sometimes, it doesn't- press the Calibrate button. At this point speak able items will try to calibrate the mike, so there it works with Speech Recognition. For example, I would say, "What time is it?" When it is successful, it blinks to let me know that it understood what I said or I could try "Quit this Application", and once again I get the blink and that shows that I am reasonably well calibrated.
If these things are not being set off, you can adjust the slider to low-to-high. If you see things way up in the red that means you are probably hitting it too hard and Speech Recognition could have a hard time understanding what you are saying. We cancel out of that. If you would like to pretend that you are on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, you can select Listen continuously with keyword. What this means is that you speak a special keyword before you say your command and then the computer will listen. So for example I say "Computer, open iTunes" and sure enough it works.
We will go back to the Esc key, because that's the one I prefer and we will turn it off, so it doesn't respond when I don't care for it to. We now look at Text to Speech. Honestly Text to Speech is more useful than Speech Recognition particularly since Leopard now includes a computer voice that doesn't sound like it came from a bad Sci-fi movie. When you click Text to Speech, the system voice should be set to Alex. This is a new voice and one that sounds far more natural than previous voices. Press Play to audition it. (Computer: "Hi! I am a new voice for Leopard.") Now, for fun you can see what it sounded like in the old days by choosing Bruce. Play.
(Computer: "I sure like being inside this fancy computer") As much as Bruce may like that, we don't care to listen to him, we would prefer Alex instead. The options below are mostly self-explanatory; one thing that's worth while checking though is Speak selected text when the key is pressed. I am going to choose Control+F9. Now when I press this key combination, the Mac should read my text and let's find out if it does. I am going to open up a text file and there it is.
I will select that text and I press Control+F9. (Computer: "Speak the speech I pray you, but before you do, don't forget to pick up a gallon of milk at the store.") Thank you very much, Alex, I will get that milk, and that text had to be selected. However, within TextEdit, you find that it has its own speech option and I don't have to select text for that. I deselect it, I go to Edit, Speech, Start Speaking.
(Computer: "Speak the speech I pray you, but before you do, don't forget to pick up a gallon of milk at the store.") And not all applications support speech, but some do, so it's worth looking around if you like to have speech read to you to see if your application has that option. We will close TextEdit, and we finished with speech and we'll close it as well.
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