iOS is the favored child at Apple these days. Most new features in Mavericks — and, indeed, in OS X Lion before — were features that came first on iOS, and even the Darwin Kernel version in iOS is always one version ahead of its OS X counterpart. The Mac still doesn’t have Siri, the iPhone’s iconic chatty assistant, but it does have a leg up on iOS in one Siri-like feature: Dictation.
Dictation has its roots in Mac OS Classic’s PlainTalk Speakable Items introduced in the days of System 7 in 1993. That core is the tried-and-true VoiceOver and Voice Commands in OS X, but it never was perfect for dictating text. Then iOS and Siri came along, and Apple brought iOS-style server-powered dictation to the Mac with Mountain Lion. It was far more accurate, but far more limited, and required you to be online for dictation to work.
In Mavericks, Dictation on the Mac has once again pulled ahead of its iOS counterpart, with continuous, offline dictation that works as good or better than the version in Mountain Lion. And there’s still the voice commands, now in a reworked settings pane, that together make the Mac the most accessible computer out-of-the-box.
It seems we’re always looking for ways to keep our hands on our keyboards and away from the mouse. From application launchers to apps that create extra productivity shortcuts, there’s a big market for tools that help us use our computers more efficiently.
Shortcat is just such an app, giving every element within an application window its own shortcut. I’ll take a look at Shortcat and see how good of a job it does at keeping my hands on my keyboard and me on task. (more…)
This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on July 16th, 2011.
When I was a kid playing around on my first Mac, I always thought it was loads of fun to have the computer read out whatever I’d written in KidPix (remember KidPix?). On my grown-up Macbook, I sometimes set up spoken alarms and alerts, so that I can imagine Stephen Hawking is telling me what time it is.
However, if you want to convert longer passages of text to speech, you might be in for some quality time with the command line (more on that later). There’s a decent amount of professional text-to-speech software out there, but it’s generally expensive, and mostly intended for business use or for people with disabilities. Today we’re going to go over some free and inexpensive options, and learn how to convert text to speech using TextEdit or the Terminal.