Speech recognition is one of those features that has been present in the Mac OS for many years, and yet it’s not widely used—for any number of reasons, including practicality in noisy office environments. However, it’s actually a fairly powerful technology, as today’s tip may help demonstrate. (If you’re familiar with how speech recognition works on OS X, you can skip directly down to the hint below.)
Before you can use speech recognition on OS X, you must first enable it. Open System Preferences -> Speech, and click the On button next to Speakable Items on the Speech Recognition tab. A small round window will appear; that’s the speech recognition controller. The Esc in the blue box indicates the key you’ll press to activate recognition—by default, it’s set to Escape, though you can change this in the Speech System Preferences panel. It’s also set up to only listen while you have the Escape key held down.
Now that it’s enabled, exactly what can you do with it? Quite a bit; click the small arrow at the bottom of the circle and choose Open Speech Commands Window from the drop-down menu. This window contains a list of commands that you can say to your Mac—things like
get my mail
open my browser
, for instance, can be found in the Speakable Items section of the Commands portion of the window. You can do quite a bit with the commands shown here; have fun!
When you’re in certain applications, you’ll also see an entry for that application in the Commands section. Launch Safari, for instance, and look at the Commands section of the Speech Commands window, and you’ll see a Safari entry. Click the triangle, and you’ll see Safari’s speech commands library. One of those commands, Make This Page Speakable, is the key to making speakable bookmarks. The process is actually quite simple: load the page you want to turn into a speakable bookmark (note that it does
have to be a page that you’ve bookmarked in Safari). Then press and hold Escape (or whatever keys you’ve set to activate speech recognition) and say
make this page speakable
. If you do it right, you’ll hear a “whit” as the system recognizes you’ve sent it a command, and you’ll see the dialog pictured above right.
Enter a short, easily-pronounced name into the text box, then click OK. That’s it; you’ve created a speakable bookmark! I created a short movie demonstrating how you can load sites by speaking the name you’ve assigned (while pressing Escape to activate speech recognition); it also shows how to create a new speakable bookmark:
As you can see, speakable bookmarks do work—as long as your environment is quiet enough to allow speech recognition. There’s much more you can do with this feature, of course; enable it and you may find yourself talking to your computer more often.