Over the weekend, I published an article about the cool features built into The Amazon Echo and their A.I., Alexa. I didn’t want fans of Apple’s A.I. Siri to fell left out, so, I’m sharing this piece on one of Siri’s coolest features. Who needs audiobooks? Not me and not Siri..
By Greg Barbosa-Cult of Mac
While Siri may not be the perfect companion some wish it was, the personal assistant’s voice can lend itself to our lives in a variety of helpful ways. For the past few months I’ve been using Siri to read all the text I want to read but don’t actually need to read. Having the personal assistant read articles to me means I can focus on other activities while essentially turning my reading lists and emails into a personalized podcast.
Having Siri read your content can be quite a liberating feeling. It allows you to consume all the reading material you like, but with the added benefit of not having to have your face buried in a screen. Enabling this feature also means you can even navigate between apps, and Siri will continue to read the content you initiated!
HAVING SIRI READ ALOUD ON IOS
To get Siri to start speaking to you on iOS, we’ll have to enable an Accessibility feature. To do so, head into your iOS Settings → General → Accessibility → Speech section.
From here you’ll see two options: Speak Selection and Speak Screen. Enabling the first allows you to select a group of text and have Siri read that specific group back to you. Selecting the second allows you have Siri read everything that is visible on your screen. Personally, I’ve enabled both features.
Tip: While in this section, enable the Highlight Content option as well. Enabling it allows you to visually follow along with what is being read onscreen.
Both Speech features are powerful in different ways, but the Speak Screen option is one I’ve found myself using much more often on iOS. I use the Speak Selection feature to have her pronounce unknown words to me, and the latter to have her read large amounts of text. To activate Speak Screen use two-fingers to swipe down over the iOS Status Bar. A small opaque window will appear and begin reading the content aloud. I usually enable Speak Screen whenever I’m going through emails or my reading list.
That window has a few controls to assist in the speech while the content is being read. If you want to speed up Siri’s reading rate tap the bunny, and to slow it down tap the turtle. Tapping the forward and backward options will jump through to the next major break in a group of text (usually paragraphs or user interface elements). Pressing Pause will pause the speech.
Tip: You may notice when text is being read that Siri will pronounce things incorrectly. You can edit a word’s specific pronunciation under Settings → General → Accessibility → Speech → Pronunciations.
HAVING SIRI READ ALOUD ON MACOS
On macOS, the process is slightly different than iOS. Launch System Preferences and navigate to Accessibility → Speech and enable Speak selected text when the key is pressed.
The difference here is that on macOS, this feature works better when it’s treated more like the Speak Selection feature on iOS. If you were to hit the configured keys while just looking at any screen, you may find that Siri reads back what is seemingly random text. I’ve found that the best way to have Siri read the text back to you on macOS is to highlight the group of text you want read and then to hit the configured key command. At least in this manner you know was it being read aloud.
Tip: Both iOS and macOS feature a Voices section under their Speech features. You can change the voice that is heard when text is read to find a more fitting one for your taste. I’ve chosen Alex as he sounds more natural than some of the other voices.
Over the past few years Apple’s commitment to integrating accessibility features into its software has become a highlight of its products. While many users may not need the accessibility features iOS and macOS provides, we can still benefit from the powers they hold. We’ve covered using the low light filter to lower iOS brightness even further, and hope you’ll find using Siri to read text useful as well.
Have you found yourself using any of iOS or macOS’ accessibility features? Let us know in the comments.