Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I work with a disabled user who controls their iMac using keyboard and mouse input from their communication-aid. They have dyslexia and would like to use voiceover to read certain paragraphs or sentences that they are finding tricky.

I'd a like a global method whereby just the paragraph or sentence under the cursor can be readout. Enabling voiceover for everything is too verbose and unnecessary.

share|improve this question
I'd love to work out an answer here, but I don't have time to debug it tonight. If anyone wants to beat me to this one, I'd find the amazing answer at to be a great starting point — triple-click to select the paragraph, send keystroke ⌘C, the run the command /usr/bin/say /usr/bin/pbpaste – Daniel Mar 20 '13 at 21:22
Triple click has put me on the right track! I can send that command from the comm aid and then an addition keyboard shortcut to trigger an Automator service to speak the selected text - only issue is I cannot send the'command' key (see my other question!) – Mike Thrussell Mar 20 '13 at 21:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted

While there is a contextual menu for Speech » Start speaking that will speak the selected text, it requires navigating several menus. If you want to be able to speak the selection without navigating menus, create an automator service that receives text in any application. Give it a single action: Run shell script. The shell script is utterly simple: /usr/bin/say (it will take the argument of what to say from stdin, which in this case will be the selected text). Save the service (I called it "Say paragraph").

Then, in System Preferences, you can assign this action a keyboard shortcut (I gave it the keystroke ControlShift1). So triple click, then ControlShift1 and it speaks what's under the mouse pointer.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
Looks perfect, so accepted - although I cannot get keyboard shortcuts to work unless I use 'command' in the process. Any idea why? – Mike Thrussell Mar 21 '13 at 16:06
I'm not sure. I've got control-shift-1 working fine for me — I just got it to speak your comment by triple-clicking and then pressing it. – Daniel Mar 21 '13 at 20:13

OS X has a contextual control to speak only the selected text so your user could select the text to be spoken and right click to bring up the contextual menu and speak only whatever text is selected.

There are alternate controls if right click is difficult, but hopefully this helps to reduce the wait time when you don't want to start speaking from the beginning of the document.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.