How to Do Text to Speech on Mac

Learn how to set up and customize your Mac's text-to-speech feature.

Text-to speech technology is transforming how we communicate and consume content—but did you know that your Mac has in-built text-to-speech capabilities?

Imagine your computer reading out documents, emails, or even your favorite web articles with just a simple command. This is the power of text-to-speech on macOS.

Let’s delve into what text-to-speech is and how to use it on your Mac. Whether you're a professional seeking efficiency, a student aiming for a better learning experience, or someone exploring accessibility options, this guide’s for you. 

Setting Up Text to Speech on Your Mac

Enabling text-to-speech on your Macbook or Apple desktop is a straightforward process. Here's how you can set it up and customize it to fit your needs:

Enabling Speak Selection

  • First, access your Mac's System Settings and click on 'Accessibility' in the sidebar.
  • Within the Accessibility settings, select 'Spoken Content'.
  • Turn on the 'Speak selection' option. This feature allows your Mac to read out selected text or, in its absence, any text items in the current window, such as an email in Mail.

Customizing Keyboard Shortcuts

  • To personalize your experience, you can set a custom keyboard shortcut for Speak selection.
  • Go to System Settings, then click 'Keyboard' in the sidebar.
  • Under Keyboard Shortcuts, choose 'Accessibility' to modify the shortcut for Speak selection. The default combination is Option-Esc, but you can change it to something that suits your workflow better.

Using the Onscreen Controller

  • When Speak selection is active, you have the option to display an onscreen controller.
  • This controller includes buttons for adjusting the speaking rate, skipping sentences, playing/pausing, and stopping the speech.
  • The controller is particularly handy for managing the speech in longer texts, allowing you to easily navigate and control the playback.

Highlighting Spoken Content

  • For visual tracking, you can set your Mac to highlight words or sentences as they are spoken.
  • In the Spoken Content settings, choose your preferred highlighting style and colors for both words and sentences.
  • This feature enhances comprehension and is useful for following along with the spoken text.

Customizing Sentence Style

  • You can also customize how spoken sentences are indicated, either by underlining or background color, enhancing the readability and understanding of the text.

Controller Visibility Options

  • Decide when the controller appears: automatically with the shortcut, always, or never. This customization ensures the controller is available according to your preference and usage patterns.

Advanced Features and Customization

Now you’ve enabled text-to-speech on your Mac, here’s how you can customize it according to your unique preferences.

Accessing Customization Options

To begin customizing text-to-speech on your Mac, open 'System Preferences' from the Apple menu and navigate to 'Accessibility.' From there, select 'Spoken Content' in the sidebar. This section houses a variety of settings that allow you to tailor the text-to-speech functionality to your specific needs.

Choosing the Right Voice

MacOS offers an extensive selection of voices, varying in gender, accents, and languages—meaning you don’t just have to settle for the default voice. Some of these voices are even available for additional download from the App Store. Use the play button to preview different voices and select the one that resonates best with you.

Adjusting Speaking Rate

The speaking rate of the text-to-speech feature is fully adjustable. You have the option to slow down the speech for clearer comprehension or speed it up to quickly absorb information. This level of control ensures the spoken content is delivered at a pace that suits your listening preferences.

Enjoying the Benefits

Customizing text-to-speech on your Mac enhances the overall user experience, whether for educational, professional, or leisure activities. By experimenting with the various settings available, you can discover the full potential of text-to-speech, making information more accessible and enjoyable for your specific needs and lifestyle.

With these customization features, your Mac becomes a more powerful and accommodating tool, bringing written content to life in a way that best suits your individual preferences and requirements.

Reasons to Choose Dedicated Text-to-Speech Software Over Mac's Built-In Functionality

While Macs have in-built text-to-speech capabilities, that doesn’t mean they’re best suited for all needs. If you’re a serious content creator looking for natural-sounding voices (e.g. if you create podcasts or Youtube videos), then you should use dedicated text-to-speech software like ElevenLabs.

Here’s why. 

Advanced Voice Quality and Naturalness

Dedicated text-to-speech software, such as ElevenLabs, offers voices that are remarkably natural and human-like. This advanced voice quality and speech options significantly surpasses the often mechanical-sounding tones of Mac's built-in system voices. Users experience a more engaging and pleasant listening experience, making the software ideal for a wide range of applications.

Greater Customization and Control

Specialized text-to-speech programs provide extensive customization options. Users can choose from a diverse array of voice types and have greater control over speech modulation and patterns. This level of customization, which is not available in Mac’s in-built functionality, allows for a tailored auditory experience to suit specific preferences and needs.

Enhanced Language and Accent Options

Unlike the limited language and accent options in Mac's system, dedicated text-to-speech software offers a broad selection. This variety caters to a global audience, making it an invaluable tool for users who require content in multiple languages and dialects. Whether you’re looking for English, Spanish, or Arabic text-to-speech options, ElevenLabs has you covered.

Superior Contextual Understanding

The advanced algorithms in specialized text-to-speech software result in a superior understanding of context and nuances in text. This leads to more accurate and contextually appropriate speech output, ensuring that the synthesized voice conveys the intended message effectively and accurately.

Reliability and Support

Dedicated text-to-speech software providers typically offer reliable performance and robust customer support—a key combination. This level of service ensures users have assistance readily available, a benefit not always matched by built-in operating system features. Some providers even have dedicated how-to tutorials. The reliability and support offered make these programs a dependable choice for professional voiceovers and personal use.

Ongoing Development and Innovation

Specialized text-to-speech (TTS) software is often at the cutting edge of technology, with ongoing development and innovation. These continuous improvements ensure users have access to the latest advancements in speech synthesis, a level of innovation that built-in systems like Mac’s may not regularly receive.

In conclusion, dedicated text-to-speech software offers numerous advantages over Mac's built-in functionality, including superior voice quality, extensive customization, diverse language options, constantly updated new voices, enhanced contextual understanding, reliable performance, and continuous innovation. These benefits make it an ideal choice for users seeking an advanced, adaptable, and high-quality text-to-speech experience.

Final Thoughts

Choosing ElevenLabs' dedicated text-to-speech software over Mac's built-in functionality offers a vastly superior experience. 

ElevenLabs provides exceptionally natural and engaging voices, extensive customization options, and a broad range of languages and accents. Its advanced algorithms ensure accurate contextual understanding and pronunciation, enhancing the effectiveness of the spoken word. 

Coupled with reliable performance, continuous innovation, and strong customer support, ElevenLabs represents a significant upgrade in quality and versatility. It’s the ideal choice for those seeking a more immersive, personalized, and sophisticated text-to-speech experience.

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