Hear Alex Speak
The Alex Voice
Alex is the voice of Mac, and he uses advanced technologies to deliver natural-sounding speech. While most text-to-speech systems analyse and synthesise text one sentence at a time, OS X analyses text a paragraph at a time to decipher the context of words more accurately. This helps Alex more closely match the nuances of how people really talk. He sounds so natural, he even pauses for a breath between long passages. So when Alex reads longer passages in books, articles and news stories, you understand them more easily.
You can control VoiceOver using many of the same gestures you use on iOS. Touch the trackpad to hear a description of the item under your finger, drag to hear items continuously and flick to move to the next item. Enable the VoiceOver Trackpad Commander, and the trackpad surface will represent the current window or document, so you can navigate quickly to any corner or edge with a tap. Using VoiceOver with gestures, you get a clear sense of how items are arranged on the screen.
VoiceOver features a virtual control called the rotor. Turning the rotor — by rotating two fingers on the trackpad as if you were turning an actual dial — lets you access an array of commands without having to learn new gestures. Use the rotor to do things like browse a web page more quickly, or navigate a document to check spelling and grammar. When you’re typing, turn the rotor to hear settings like “word” or “character”. Then flick the trackpad to choose how you want to navigate your text — by word or character. Move through web pages with similar ease. The rotor lists common elements like “headings”, “links” and “images”, and lets you navigate just that element. You can customise your rotor elements from a variety of options.
The rotor also gives you access to the Content Chooser, providing quick access to content-lists found in many applications. For example, if the Mail viewer window is in focus, the Content Chooser lists the messages from the current mailbox that are shown in the messages list. If you’re in Day view in Calendar, it lists the events for the current day. This makes it quick and easy to navigate through long lists of information.
VoiceOver is the first screen reader to provide plug-and-play support for refreshable braille displays. Plug in or sync up a display, and the VoiceOver description is presented to you in braille. OS X includes software drivers for more than 50 USB and wireless braille displays, so they work straight out of the box.
Learn more about braille displays
The Braille Panel
To help sighted users like teachers, parents and co-workers who work alongside braille users, VoiceOver includes an onscreen braille panel. It displays both braille and a plain-text version of the descriptions spoken by VoiceOver, so sighted users can follow along.
Braille Display Mirroring
VoiceOver is the only screen reader that supports more than one braille display at a time. A feature called braille display mirroring lets you connect up to 32 USB braille displays simultaneously to a single Mac. So in a meeting or class, you can present what’s on your screen to multiple braille users at the same time — in much the same way sighted users project their screens. Deaf and blind users can collaborate on the same computer. And students using braille can follow what the teacher is demonstrating.
VoiceOver is unique because it’s not a stand-alone screen reader. It’s deeply integrated in OS X. So as developers update their apps to take advantage of the accessibility interfaces provided by Apple, their apps can start working with VoiceOver straight away.
VoiceOver in OS X includes built-in voices that speak over 30 languages: English (US), English (UK), English (Australia), English (Ireland), English (Scotland), English (South Africa), English (India), Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Colombia), Spanish (Argentina), French (France), French (Canada), German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Mainland China), Mandarin (Taiwan), Cantonese (Hong Kong), Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish (Belgium), Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Thai and Turkish.