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I was going to install two additional voices through Speech preference pane. I noticed the size of two voices is 1,3 gigabytes, which is a lot but manageable.

Looking at the list of already installed/downloaded voices (say -v ? in Terminal) I saw & heard many obscure voices that I probably wouldn't ever use; and I value having a few hundred megabytes (or few gigabytes) of free space a lot more than hearing someone talking while drowning or getting tickled.

How can I properly delete some of these (en_US "Funny") voices? By properly I mean in a way I don't accidentally break anything in the process. For example, directly deleting files from /System/Library/Speech/Voices feels a bit dubious…

Many of the voices that say -v ? lists are actually deactivated in the Speech preference pane, but if I tick them I won't get a warning that they have to be downloaded — so they reside somewhere on my Mac.

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There is no "proper" way to delete anything from the default installation of OS X. Any answer that you get should feel a bit dubious. –  TJ Luoma Nov 19 '11 at 16:07
    
@TJLuoma, ok, so, properly is out of question. How about "What is the least–damaging & possibly–reversible kind of way?" :-) –  koiyu Nov 20 '11 at 9:22
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@koiyu Removing them from the Voices directory under System is the only way and it does so cleanly. There is nothing "dubious" about it. I've done it myself. But one thing to note, whenever you update Lion to a new build, some of the voices will re-appear. If you are only after saving space, just delete Alex. He's by far the most bloated one. The rest don't weigh much at all. –  cksum Nov 20 '11 at 11:13

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Removing voices

All voices are in /System/Library/Speech/Voices. Just like most other Library items in OS X, they are inherited, which means you could install them in /Library/Speech/Voices and ~/Library/Speech/Voices.

Removing items from /System/Library is indeed usually not a good thing to do, but here, it does not have any practical consequences beyond making the deleted voices unavailable. Indeed, the list in the System Preferences is dynamically generated from the items found in the said folder, just like the Sound alerts, or the wallpapers. You can confirm this by adding / removing / renaming elements in the /System/Library/Sounds folder, for example.

There's no other way to manage the speech items, but since this one is without consequences as long as you leave at least one voice, it is actually pretty nice to simply manipulate the filesystem. I have personally long removed Alex, along with other /System/Library and /Library items.

Installing voices / what to back up

As you underlined, Lion provides a “Customize” item in the list of voices that allows you to download voices in many languages. Therefore, if you ever delete the original “Alex” voice (the heavy one, 400+MB), you can download it again through this menu.

The “funny” voices, however, are not downloadable. You'll need to back them up if you want to remove them but keep a way to get them back (or you could use a package manager like Pacifist to extract only them from the Lion installer package, but that's a lot of hassle for not much). Nevertheless, considering they weigh, all together, less than 35MB, I'd let them in place.

Please note that you must leave at least one voice for the “Customize” item to be accessible. So, even if you want to remove all voices, leave at least one there, or you won't be able to install any again. “Fred” is the lightest “serious” voice, so I'd advise leaving it in any case.

Size note / a bit of history

As for the relative sizes, Alex is very heavy because it is of much higher quality, and is actually from a totally different generation than the others: it shipped with Leopard, while others have been around since Mac OS 7 (had a lot of fun with them, actually ;) ). Of course, Alex would have filled a full hard drive at the time. There's no "logic" that's shared between voices in those packages, hence the heavy weight of installing new “modern” voices in other languages.

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With "[-- does not have any practical consequences beyond making the deleted voices] unavailable" do you mean "gone forever"? At least that seems to be the case. –  koiyu Nov 20 '11 at 9:20
    
... rarely something vital for the system. How about /System/Library/Frameworks/ or /System/Library/Extensions/? –  ؘؘؘؘ Nov 20 '11 at 9:32
    
@koiyu yes, unless you reinstall them, they will be deleted from your system. –  MattiSG Nov 20 '11 at 10:15
    
@Lri that's two folders out of sixty. But you're right, “rarely” was probably an over broad adverb. I'll change it. –  MattiSG Nov 20 '11 at 10:17
    
@Matti if you tell me whether I can reinstall the voices from somewhere (where?) or should I provide my own backups (if I change my mind later) that's worth a bounty! –  koiyu Nov 20 '11 at 10:24

They are in /System/Library/Speech/Voices

However the whole /System/Library/Speech folder is "only" .5GB in space, so you wouldn't save much.

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It also seems that if one deletes a folder e.g. Hysterical.SpeechVoice it is also deleted from the Speech prefpane — meaning that you can't just re-activate it by ticking it in the preferences and download the voice files, the whole record is gone. –  koiyu Nov 9 '11 at 13:42
    
Ah, and regarding the size: Alex is by far the largest of the lot (over 400 MB). Maybe the other voices use its logic and apply only some voice filters (funny voices) or new sounds (female voices). The reason my download would be 1,3 GB might then be because of I was going to download voices for two distinct additional languages. –  koiyu Nov 9 '11 at 13:48
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Yes, there's probably some replication in the other voices. Anyhow deleting stuff from /System is never recommended. As a side note, try from terminal say -v cello d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d –  Gio Nov 9 '11 at 14:15
    
I should've elaborated more on what I meant with "properly delete" — a way that doesn't directly deal with the /System files; if there's a way that is intended to be followed. Or, conversely, are the voices meant to stay there? –  koiyu Nov 9 '11 at 17:01
    
Just wild guessing, but moving the standard out might break Voice Over –  Gio Nov 9 '11 at 17:43

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