Even if you haven’t seen the abbreviation, you’re probably familiar with the concept of TL;DR. It stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read, and it can happen when you pass up reading an article or email message that’s too long for the time you have. To combat the problem of TL;DR, try having your iPhone or iPad read the article to you, perhaps while you’re cooking dinner or doing yardwork.
Few people realize that Apple’s iOS devices can speak pretty much anything that they can display on the screen, and this Speak Screen function is useful not only for listening to long articles and messages—and ebooks!—but also for proofreading.
Follow these steps to begin using Speak Screen:
- Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech, and turn on the Speak Screen switch.
- If you’ll be using Speak Screen as a proofreading tool, tap Highlight Content, turn on the Highlight Content switch, and set up the options. Highlighting shows which bits of text are being read, making it easier to spot an error as you hear it.
- Back on the main Speech screen, give Speak Screen a try—following the instructions written beneath the Speak Screen switch, swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen. (It’s fine to practice on the Speech screen, since we aren’t done here.) The playback controls appear.
- Try the playback controls. Besides the Play/Pause button in the bottom center, there are turtle and rabbit buttons that make the speech slower or faster—keep tapping to make it even slower or even faster. The left- and right-pointing double-arrow buttons skip the text back and forward by a paragraph or so, or to the next element. After a few seconds, the controls shrink into a small black box; tap it to expand the controls again. To cancel playback, tap the X button at the upper-right of the playback controls.
- Still on the Speech screen, tap Voices and assuming you want an English voice, tap English.
- Experiment with different voices to find your favorite. If a voice has a cloud icon beside it, tap the icon to download the voice—the best ones are generally the largest downloads. Then tap the voice to enter its screen and see any available variants. On a voice’s screen, tap a Play button to hear a voice and tap a voice itself to select it as the default reading voice. The images below show an example—where to tap to download the Ava voice, viewing the two Ava voices and where to tap to hear Ava (Enhanced), and finally with Ava (Enhanced) selected.
(If you download voices you don’t want to keep, swipe left on their entries for a Delete button.)
- Back on the Speech screen, under Speaking Rate, set the slider to specify the default speaking rate.
Congratulations, you’ve completed setup! Now it’s time to try Speak Screen with real content. Bring up a screen of text, such as an email message, Web article, or Pages document, and swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers. The playback controls appear, and your device starts talking.
The Speak Screen feature is extremely literal: if text appears on the screen (or in a menu, sometimes even in a hidden menu), it gets spoken, so you may hear the names of a few menu items or navigational controls before you hear the desired content.
For an article in Safari, put the Web page into Reader View before you invoke Speak Screen. This cuts down on the menus, advertising, and other ephemera you probably don’t want to listen to. If Reader View is available, you’ll see a Reader View icon to the left of the Address field at the top of the page. Tap this icon to switch to Reader View. The icon becomes white on black to indicate that Reader View is active; tap it again to turn off Reader View.
We’ve found Speak Screen to be genuinely useful for proofreading, and we like letting it read long articles to us. It’s just another way that the iPhone and iPad enhance our daily lives.