This chapter explains how to customize your VoiceOver environment to 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.
Change the speaking voice used by VoiceOver, and settings such as rate or pitch.
The new settings are applied only to the default voice.
You can set options for voices, and add compact or premium voices, in the Voices pane of the Speech category in VoiceOver Utility.
If you install voices that are compatible with 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 Mac, install the voices in /Library/Speech/Voices.
If you’re using portable preferences on a guest computer when you change voice 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.
Change the Web rotor to list only the items that you use most often to browse webpages, such as links or tables.
The items you include in the rotor determine the statistics VoiceOver speaks in the webpage summary.
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.”
The menu lists open apps and Find App, so you can select an app that isn’t open. To use the pronunciation in any app, leave All Apps selected.
You can customize pronunciations by using the commanders to assign the Add Pronunciation command to a key or gesture. The command displays a dialog to add a new pronunciation, which is added to the list in the Pronunciation pane.
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.
Assign VoiceOver commands to the keys of your keyboard or the numeric keypad (if available).
To use the default key assignments, just enable the commanders.
A modifier is optional for numeric keypad keys; you must use a modifier with keyboard keys.
Use the Custom Commands menu to assign scripts and Automator workflows to gestures.
When the NumPad Commander is on, its commands are included in the VoiceOver Commands menu.
Reset basic, custom (such as hot spots or Keyboard Commander key assignments), or all VoiceOver preferences to their default values.
Important:Export your preferences first, so you have a backup copy.
Open VoiceOver Utility (press VO-F8 when VoiceOver is on), choose File, then choose a reset command.
If your portable preferences are on a removable storage drive and you reset basic or all VoiceOver preferences on your Mac, VoiceOver no longer recognizes the drive and doesn’t sync VoiceOver preferences on your Mac and the drive. To sync VoiceOver preferences again, you must set up the portable preferences drive again.
Export all or specific VoiceOver preferences to a file as a backup copy.
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 the export.
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 is no longer available in VoiceOver, it’s not imported.
Make your VoiceOver preferences “portable” by storing them on a removable storage device. You can then easily use your settings on other Mac computers and 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 Mac, VoiceOver detects the drive and asks if you want to use it. How VoiceOver uses the portable preferences drive depends on the Mac you’re using:
If you’re using the Mac 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 Mac (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 Mac where it was set up, VoiceOver synchronizes preferences on the Mac and the drive, based on the most recent change to a preference.
When you’re done, eject the portable preferences drive using the Finder, or click Stop in the General category 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, then click Start in the General category. 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, then set up the portable preferences drive again.
If you have portable preferences on a removable storage drive and you reset basic or all VoiceOver preferences on your Mac, you must set up the portable preferences drive again.
Use VoiceOver activities to create groups of preferences for specific uses. For example, create an activity to use a certain voice and faster speaking rate when you shop online, then create a second activity to use a different voice and slower speaking rate when you read online articles.
To rename an activity, select the activity in the table, press Enter, 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 app can be associated with only one activity. If you select an app that’s associated with another activity, you’re asked if you want to change it.
To disassociate an app, select it again; the checkmark next to its name is removed.