Have you ever thought, “If only I had the right tools, I could do everything that I want to do?” You may have more power at your fingertips than you realized. Keep reading to learn how to maximize your Mac computer to help you read, edit, and dictate.
Though many text-to-speech programs exist, the quality of the voice is often poor, with a robotic and choppy quality. This can be distracting and interfere with comprehension. The voice named “Alex” on the Mac has a natural intonation pattern (It even takes a breath between sentences). You can adjust the rate to be faster or slower, depending on your preference. In addition, you can access it with a shortcut keystroke (such as apple key+ R). In other words, you don’t have to open up a special application to interface with the program you are using. Text-to-speech is always available.
Possible Uses of the Mac’s Text-to-speech software:
- Read an attachment sent to your email.
- Read anything on the Internet.
- Read your favorite magazine or newspaper (online).
- Follow written multi-step directions.
- Edit your papers or presentations by rereading them along with text-to-speech software. This is especially helpful for catching spelling errors, omissions, and substitutions.
- Improve your reading rate by silently reading along with text-to-speech.
- Increase your reading comprehension by seeing and hearing the text.
- Build up your vocabulary by decoding hard-to-pronounce words.
- Practice your reading fluency for a presentation by chorally reading along with it.
You will only have to set this up one time, and then you will always have access to this tool. Here are the step-by-step instructions.
- Go up to the apple in the upper left-hand corner of your screen.
- Click “System preferences”.
- Click the microphone, labeled “speech”.
- Select “Alex” (under system voice).
- Adjust the speaking rate (with the sliding bar).
- Check the box “Speak selected text when key is pressed”.
- Click “set key”.
- Highlight the text you want it to read, and press the command that you set up.
- Try highlighting text in a document on your computer. Read along for one sentence or multiple pages of text. Try editing with “Alex” (text-to-speech). Try it out with this website or a favorite online magazine or newspaper.
iMovie is another powerful and versatile tool that is ready-to-use on the Mac. It is a powerful way to get feedback on your speech or reading fluency. It can give you an alternative means of obtaining information (in addition or in place of the written form). iMovie can also be a powerful practice tool if you are working on your reading with someone else. Using your built-in camera, you can record a video and archive it without any need for saving or transferring it from a camera to your computer. You can transfer any of these movies to an iPod or iPhone for easy reference, repetition, and portability.
Possible Uses of the Mac’s iMovie software:
- Record a meeting or lecture to accompany (or eliminate) notes.
- Receive instant feedback on your presentations before you give them.
- Practice reading fluency at home (chorally reading a text) with a “model” from a teacher, therapist, or volunteer. Remember, repetition is key for mastery!
- Monitor your progress for reading fluency by comparing “before” and “after” videos in your video archives.
- Record a video of yourself to send to someone (instead of an email or text).
- Record someone reading (and demonstrating) complex directions rather than writing them down.
- Record key terms for an upcoming test.
There are just a few buttons to familiarize yourself with, and then you are ready to record.
- Open iMovie (the icon is a star with a movie camera) in the toolbar (along the bottom or side of the Mac.
- Record (click the video camera icon in the middle tool bar)
- Name the recording
- Click OK (This will start the recording, so be ready to start. You will know it’s recoding by the red circle on the bottom of the pop-up window).
- Click “Done”, or make additional movies.
- Play your movie.
If you have a digital camera, iPhone, or iPod with a built-in camera, you may wish to make iPhoto a tool in your toolbox. iPhoto is an easy way to store, categorize, and archive your photos; however, you might also consider using it for some of the following tasks.
Possible Uses of the Mac’s iPhoto software:
- Make vocabulary or name flashcards. Anatomy and Physiology students may take pictures of 3-D models and label the photograph. This may also be helpful for foreign languages. You can review the photos in a slideshow, by clicking through one-at-a-time, or by printing them out. If you’re in an occupation where you have to learn a lot of names, you can use the same approach.
- Capture something off of the board without copying it down. This may be written directions, assignments, notes, etc. It may be more effective to snap a picture to review later with the written content.
- Give a presentation. If you have photos that you wish to share, it may be easier to give an oral presentation using the slideshow as you talk, than using a Power Point format.
- Send a photo email or card to a loved one rather than writing a lengthy letter (A picture is worth a thousand words).
- Make a personal book. Tell your story with words and pictures using the desired photos and “Book” feature in the bottom toolbar (in the iPhoto application). Photo books make great gifts and keepsakes. The hard cover book is shipped to your house, and is ordered right through iPhoto (Each book is 20 pages long and costs approximately $30.
- Connect your phone, iPod, or camera to the computer to import your photos.
- Categorize your photos
- Name your individual photos
- Get a hard copy of your photos with the names
- Start your slideshow
This software does cost the user, but can be very useful for you if you struggle with writing, typing, or spelling. It is available for Mac OS X Snow Leopard. It is accurate, easy to use, and much faster than typing. One caveat is that you will likely have to “train the voice” by reading several short passages. You can select the level of difficulty for these training passages and have multiple attempts at reading them. Dragon Dictate is available at macspeech.com.
Possible Uses of Mac’s Dragon Dictate:
- Create notes
- Dictate articles
- Orally create email.
- Create reports
- Develop research notes
- Install software (only the first time).
- Train the voice
- Select the passage you wish to read
- Follow the arrow as you read. The training module will tell you when it is done. (Note: if the reading is difficult, someone can sit beside you and whisper the words chorally with you as you read or practice with you prior to reading a passage.
- Complete the training to help you know the commands for editing and punctuation.
- Begin dictating!
You can try some new tools on the Mac or find new uses for old tools. Whatever the case, you can create, read, study, and prepare presentations with more ease and confidence. You will want to share what you’ve created with others, and will be easy to do so. You may even find that the Mac gives you more of an opportunity and motivation to practice your reading, writing, editing, and organizational skills. Now you are ready to let your Mac work for you!