I’ve sometimes found myself distracted while reading a passage or two and then having to track back to re-read the sentence. Other times, I’ve been on a walk and wanted to read a blog post. Although it’s not a silver bullet, I found a solution that works in most cases–a hidden Apple accessibility feature. It’s called “Spoken Content” and it’s pretty easy to set up.
On your iOS device, go to
Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content and turn
Speak Selection. Also make sure that
Highlight Content is turned on.
If you then hop into
Voices, you can pick a voice to narrate the content. I
Siri Voice 1 which is not the default.
It’s a pain to select text and then tap on the screen to speak. That’s where the
second trick comes in. Another feature hidden in accessibility is an alternative
input method. If you head over to
Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap,
you can set either of the taps to turn on
Speak Screen. I personally, set
Triple Tap : Speak Screen.
On macOS, it’s a similar process. Head to
System Preferences > Accessibility > Spoken Content and turn on
Speak Selection. The default keyboard shortcut is
⌥ + Esc.
The thing I like the most about this setup is that it’s native–so I know it’ll work on all my apps, system-wide. (I used the Wavenet Chrome extension in the past) I often find myself using it on my Mac to read things I’ve written back to me to catch typos. Anecdotally, I’ve also found that I retain content better if I’m listening to it while I’m reading it. This seems to be borne out in the literature as well.
It works great with iBooks and also with blog posts and longer news articles.
Sometimes the articles have superfluous bits of text (ads, call to actions, and
so on) that you might want to avoid. Safari has a built-in reader mode that
works well on most articles. Just tap the left part of the address bar on iOS,
and it’ll swap to a reader view that works much better with
Spoken Content. On
desktop Chrome, you can do something very similar by heading to
chrome flags and setting
Enable Reader Mode : Enabled.
I also set up keyboard shortcuts for this by going to
System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts and adding an entry for
Enter Reader Mode and
Exit Reader Mode. I use
⌃ + ⇧ + R.