Sunday, 29 March 2015

Speak Easy

I love reading. I do a lot of it. But every now and then I find a wall of text off-putting. 

I've recently switched to using Word's Speak function for Wiki, news articles, blogs and e-mails. 

Here's how to enable it (plus tips on other read-out-loud programs).

Speak seems to have a finite reading time (couple of minutes, or around 700 words), perhaps Narrator is a better option, I'll have to try it out.

For me, though, it's perfect. 

It doesn't take the place of an actor for audiobooks, as the voice is heavily synthesised and gets a lot wrong, both in terms of pronunciation and inflection, but it's a helpful tool nonetheless. 

I'm a notorious multitasker. Often, I see an article I'd like to read, but, considering its length, think of other things I should probably get done. Speak has been especially useful with the heavy weight of research and fact-checking I've had to do for my current novel. I can follow all the Wiki links I want, and set them reading whilst I reply to emails and brows social media. It's not much different to having the radio playing, and I only need half an ear on it to pick up the important points. If I hear something of interest, I can pop back and check the text any time.

The other thing I find it really useful for is clearing my in-box. That sinking feeling you get when faced with twenty e-mails you're supposed to respond to... Speak is like having a PA. If I've opened the blank document in US English, I get an American PA, in UK English, I get a British PA. 

It's also useful when things get heated, such as customer complaint back-and-forths. You dread having to give up your attention to them, so having things read takes the ugh factor out of it. Plus, the voice on the screen always sounds a lot calmer than the voice in my head, thus my responses tend to be calmer too. 

The hotkeys you might want are: highlight the text from the web you want read, ctrl+c for copy, ctrl+v for paste (into the word doc), ctrl+a for select all, then hit play.

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