iOS 5: Making Your Device Speak Selected Text Aloud

I once discussed using the Services menu to add text to iTunes as a spoken track (and this should in no way be construed as a plug for a past article of mine, nope, no sir). Using that is kind of like creating your own little audiobooks to listen to as you go about your day. You can also right-click on a selected block of text in Mac OS X and choose Speech > Start Speaking to make things even easier. Similarly, you can force your iOS 5 device to recite blocks of text to you, which is especially cool if you want to hear news stories read in Siri’s voice. Hearing it from her can somehow make things seem less stressful.

So first, you’ll need to toggle the option on. It’s in Settings (naturally) under General > Accessibility > Speak Selection. Once you turn that on, you can adjust the rate of speech, too. Apple’s slider range for that is from “turtle” to “rabbit,” but if you listen to the sample that plays when you adjust the setting, it sounds more like “stoner” to “coke fiend.”

So now how do you use your new ability? Go to pretty much any app that has selectable text (I’m using MLB At Bat ’11 in my screenshots below), then tap and hold briefly to get the familiar blue text selectors to drag around. After you’ve highlighted all the text you want to hear, touch Speak.

When you grow tired of your device’s babbling, tap Pause. If you’ve accidentally deselected your text, just do the quick tap-and-hold thing again to get the menu back.

As I noted, this works almost everywhere in iOS 5, but sadly, it will not work in iBooks. Darn you, Apple, and your throttling of my dreams of free audiobooks. This feature’s still pretty great, though—I’m going to stop writing now and go make my iPhone read me my e-mails from my family. I tell you, things just sound better coming from Siri’s voice.