Mac OS X Text to Speech

I recently worked on a project that required making audio files out of text files, which is something I’ve done before, but haven’t done regularly since 2000 or so when I was making cassette tapes of web pages. There’s a simple way to do this using Mac OS X.

Keyboard System Preferences

Open you System Preferences and go to Keyboard and select the Keyboard Shortcuts pane. Click on Services and scroll down to Text until you see Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track and check that box.


Now open TextEdit and select some text and control-click (or right click depending on your computer input device) and you’ll see a contextual menu item for Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track. Select it.


Now jump over to iTunes and you’ll see the track. It’ll be called Text to Speech.

M4A audio file

In iTunes you can highlight your track and select the File menu and then Show in Finder (or just hit command-R) and the Finder will open the folder containing your file. It’s an MPEG-4 Audio file (also known as an AAC file) with an m4a extension.

ITunes can obviously convert the file to an MP3 for you, but if you want another format (like OGG) you can use Audacity. You should be able to do whatever you need to do with it from there, (And that whatever you need to do with it bit was the deciding factor for this specific project.)

I was really hoping to use an existing test-to-speech API on the web to automatically generate the audio. Google has an unofficial Text-To-Speech API (go on, try it.) Seeing as it’s “unofficial” and didn’t work in the way I wanted to use it, and there is an awesome group where people ask about APIs and ToS and no one answers, I skipped it.

AT&T also has a great text to speech demo online, which clearly spells out how you can’t use it, which is quite helpful. (Basically you can’t use it for anything public or commercial, which sucks, but I’m glad they come right out and say it.)

There are other options (almost all commercial) including services like iSpeech, which I may look into. There may be some open source text to speech options, but as to how good they are, or how easy they are to get up and running, that is yet to be seen… or heard, as it were.

(Note: I’ve got a follow-up post coming about Mac OS X Text to Speech via the command line.. stay tuned!)