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Bind hot keys to speech services in OS X

While Apple's Dictation service has a hot key already, you can customize this and add key bindings for other speech services if desired.

As OS X has progressed in development Apple has included more and more speech services options, including enhancing the text-to-speech features with smoother and more realistic voices, and also making this service more globally available to applications. In addition, Apple has provided a dictation service in Mountain Lion to allow conversions of spoken words back to text.

If you use these services, you may find it convenient to create hot-key shortcuts for them. The Dictation service has a default hot-key option, but the Text to Speech option does not, and by default requires you to select a body of text and then choose the speech option from either the system menus or the contextual menu.

If you want to control these services through hot keys, then you can do so by selecting a predefined hot-key option or defining your own custom options, which can be done in two ways:

  1. Speech system preferences
    If you go to the Dictation & Speech system preferences, you can set or change the default hot keys used to activate the Dictation and Text-To-Speech services. By default Dictation is activated by pressing the Fn key twice, but using the Shortcut drop-down menu this can be changed to other predefined keys or a custom hot key. For the Text to Speech option, there is no default hot key, but you can check the box in the Text to Speech tab to enable this. When enabled the hot key is Option-Esc, but this can be changed to a custom sequence that can be used to start and stop the system speech.
  2. Keyboard shortcuts for text to speech
    If you use custom keyboard shortcuts you will need to specify one for starting speech and another for stopping it. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  3. Custom keyboard shortcuts
    An alternative to using the system's hot keys for these services is to define your own as custom keyboard shortcuts. To do this, open the Keyboard system preferences and go to the Keyboard Shortcuts section. Then select Application Shortcuts and add a new shortcut in the All Applications section. For the shortcut Menu Title field enter "Start Speaking" and then provide a hot-key sequence of your choosing. Do the same procedure again to create another ho-tkey entry, but this time change the Menu Title field to "Stop Speaking" and use a different hot-key sequence.

    Unfortunately there is no global keyboard shortcut option for enabling the Dictation service, so to do this you will have to use the Dictation system preferences.

After assigning hot keys, you can then use the shortcuts in almost any application to activate or deactivate the speech services that are available in OS X.

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