This chapter explains how to customize your VoiceOver environment to best suit your needs. You’ll learn how to customize settings for voices, spoken details, braille displays, pronunciations, and more. You’ll also learn how to reset, export, and import your preferences, as well as use portable preferences and VoiceOver activities.
You can change the speaking voice used by VoiceOver, and change the settings, including the voice, rate, pitch, volume, and intonation. You can add compact or premium voices to the list of available voices. Use a keyboard command or VoiceOver Utility to customize voice settings.
If the last adjustment you made was to pitch, that’s the first setting you hear; for example, “Pitch 50 percent.”
The new settings are applied only to the default voice.
You can type a number in the fields or use the steppers next to each field to adjust the values.
If you install voices that are compatible with Mac OS X in your ~/Library/Speech/Voices folder, they appear in the list of available voices. To make the voices available to other users who have access to your computer, install the voices in /Library/Speech/Voices.
If you’re using portable preferences on a guest computer when you change settings, the settings are saved to the portable preferences drive and not to the guest computer.
By default, VoiceOver provides a high level of detail to help new Mac and VoiceOver users. You can choose a different default setting, and choose a verbosity level for specific controls, such as checkboxes or scroll areas, that you want to hear or receive on a refreshable braille display. You can also change the order in which VoiceOver provides the details.
To change the order in which VoiceOver provides the information, choose Customize from the Verbosity pop-up menu, and then follow the instructions in the pop up. Or you can navigate to Description and type the elements (Status, Type, or Name) you want to hear in the order you want to hear them.
If you have a refreshable braille display connected to or paired with your computer, you can customize its layout. For example, you can choose to use contracted braille or specify which status cells you want to use.
For a description of the options, click the Help button in the lower-right corner.
You can change the Web rotor to list only the types of items, such as links or tables, that you use most often when browsing webpages.
For a description of the options in the pane, click the Help button in the lower-right corner.
The types of items you include in the rotor determine the statistics VoiceOver speaks in the webpage summary.
You can specify how you want VoiceOver to pronounce certain text or symbols by providing substitutions for them. For example, you can substitute “8 oh 2 dot eleven b” for “8 zero 2 point one one b.” Or substitute “Wink Smiley” for “semicolon dash right parenthesis.”
The menu lists open applications and Find Apps, so you can select an application that isn’t open. To use the pronunciation in any application, leave All Apps selected.
Do one of the following:
Select the pronunciation and click Remove (-) in the lower-left corner of the pane.
You can quickly customize pronunciations by using the Commanders to assign the Add Pronunciation command to a key or gesture. The command displays a dialog where you can add a new pronunciation, which is then added to the list in the Pronunciation pane in VoiceOver Utility.
You can create or rename the label for user interface elements (such as images, buttons, tables, and more) and for links. You can export your custom labels to a file to share with other users.
When you create a custom label, VoiceOver associates pertinent information about the element or link and its location with your label. If the element or link changes in a significant way, such as moving to a new location, VoiceOver may not recognize it as the same element or link. If this happens, re-create the custom label.
You can’t create labels for scroll areas, toolbars, or groups.
When you import a preference file that contains custom labels, VoiceOver merges those labels with your current set of custom labels.
If your computer has a numeric keypad, you can use the NumPad Commander to assign VoiceOver commands to numpad keys, so you can enter the commands using only the numeric keypad. You can use the Keyboard Commander to assign VoiceOver commands to keyboard keys.
The NumPad Commander already has some basic navigation and interaction commands assigned to some keys. The Keyboard Commander has scripts and shortcuts for opening applications assigned to some keys. To use the default key assignments, just enable the Commanders. You can change the defaults or add your own.
Using a modifier key with numpad keys is optional; you must use a modifier key with keyboard keys.
In the Keyboard Commander pane, choose the Left Option key, the Right Option key, or both Option keys as the modifier key.
When the NumPad Commander is on, the NumPad Commander commands are included in the VoiceOver Commands menu. To display the Commands menu, press VO-H-H.
You can use the Custom Commands menu to assign scripts and Automator workflows to keys. For example, you could run a script (such as a Perl, Ruby, Python, or AppleScript script) when you press a specific key on the keyboard.
If you have changed your VoiceOver preferences, you can reset all or specific preferences to their default values.
Important:It’s recommended you export your preferences before you reset them, so you have a backup copy of your preferences in case you want to use them again.
You can choose to reset basic, custom (such as hot spots or Keyboard Commander key assignments), or all preferences.
If you have portable preferences on a removable storage drive and you reset basic or all VoiceOver preferences on your computer, VoiceOver no longer recognizes the drive and doesn’t synchronize VoiceOver preferences on your computer and the drive. To synchronize VoiceOver preferences again, you must set up the portable preferences drive again.
You can export all or specific VoiceOver preferences to a file that you can use as a backup copy.
Note that if you want to easily use your settings on other Mac computers and keep an up-to-date copy of your current settings always available, use portable preferences.
To choose from more folders, click the disclosure arrow after the filename.
The default filename indicates the type of preferences exported and has the filename extension “voprefs.” The file will not reflect changes you make to preferences after you export it.
VoiceOver replaces the current preferences of that type with those in the file. If you’re importing web spots or labels, VoiceOver merges them with your existing web spots or labels.
You can import preference files from VoiceOver in Mac OS X 10.5 or later. If a preference existed in Mac OS X 10.5 or later but no longer exists in Mac OS X 10.7, the preference is not imported.
You can make your VoiceOver preferences “portable” by storing them on a removable storage device. You can use portable preferences to easily use your settings on other Mac computers and to keep an up-to-date copy of your current settings always available.
Do this set of steps once for each removable drive you want to use.
VoiceOver creates a VoiceOver folder on the drive.
When you connect your portable preferences drive to a computer, VoiceOver detects the drive and asks if you want to use it. How VoiceOver uses the portable preferences drive depends on the computer you’re using:
If you’re using the computer where you set up the drive: Any changes you make to VoiceOver preferences until you eject the drive are automatically saved to the drive. For example, if you increase the speech rate, your change is instantly saved to the portable preferences drive.
If you’re using another computer (as a guest): VoiceOver uses the preferences stored on the drive. Any changes you make to VoiceOver preferences until you eject the drive are automatically saved to the drive and not to the guest computer. The next time you use the drive on the computer where it was set up, VoiceOver synchronizes preferences on the computer and the drive, based on the most recent change to a preference.
When you’re done, eject the portable preferences drive using Finder, or click Stop in the General category table in VoiceOver Utility (in this case, the drive is not ejected).
If you choose not to use the portable preferences drive when VoiceOver asks you, but later want to use it, open VoiceOver Utility and click Start in the General category table. If you choose to always use the portable preferences drive, but later want to use it only sometimes, delete the preferences file from the drive, and then set up the portable preferences drive again.
You can export all or specific VoiceOver settings as a file to save or share. This file is not updated and will not reflect changes you make to preferences after exporting. You can import preference files from VoiceOver in Mac OS X 10.5 and later.
If you have portable preferences on a removable storage drive and you reset basic or all VoiceOver preferences on your computer, VoiceOver no longer recognizes the portable preferences on that drive and doesn’t synchronize VoiceOver preferences on your computer and the drive. To synchronize VoiceOver preferences again, you must set up the portable preferences drive again.
You can use VoiceOver activities to create groups of preferences for specific uses. For example, you can create an activity to use a certain voice and faster speaking rate when you’re shopping online catalogs, and create a second activity to use a different voice and slower speaking rate when you’re reading online newspapers. You can switch activities manually or have VoiceOver switch automatically based on the applications you use.
To rename an activity, select the activity in the table, press Enter, and then type a new name.
To show all the preferences you can include, click the disclosure triangle to the far right of Hot Spots.
An application can be associated with only one activity. If you select an application that’s associated with another activity, you’re asked if you want to change it.
To disassociate an application, select it again; the checkmark next to its name is removed.
To exit the Activity Chooser without making a selection, press the Escape key.