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Eliminate Errors with Text to Speech in Excel 2013

Excel’s Text to Speech feature can help you flag and then correct some errors that otherwise you would have to check and verify by comparing cell to cell. Usually, you do this by checking the columns and rows of data in a spreadsheet against the original documents from which you generated the spreadsheet.

Excel’s Text to Speech feature reads aloud each entry that’s been made in a selected range of cells or data table within the worksheet. As the data entries are read aloud, you can then verify their accuracy against documents used in the original data entry.

The Text to Speech translation feature requires no prior training or special microphones: All that’s required is a pair of speakers or headphones connected to your computer.

Unfortunately, the various Text to Speech command buttons are not available from any of the tabs on the Ribbon. The only way to access them is by adding their command buttons either as custom buttons on the Quick Access toolbar or to a custom tab on the Ribbon.

The figure shows the Quick Access toolbar with the Speak Cells, Speak Cells - Stop Speaking Cells, and Speak Cells on Enter buttons added. These buttons are needed to check cell entries by having them read aloud.

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To add the Speak Cells, Speak Cells - Stop Speaking Cells, and Speak Cells on Enter command buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Customize Quick Access Toolbar drop-down button and then choose the More Commands option from its drop-down menu.

    Doing this opens the Quick Access Toolbar tab of the Excel Options dialog box.

  2. Choose Commands Not in the Ribbon from the Choose Commands From drop-down menu.

    The Text to Speech command buttons include Speak Cells, Speak Cells - Stop Speaking Cells, Speak Cells by Columns, Speak Cells by Rows, and Speaks Cells on Enter.

  3. Click the Speak Cells button in the Choose Commands From list box on the left and then click the Add button to add it to the bottom of the Customize Quick Access Toolbar list box on the right.

  4. Repeat the process outlined in Step 3, this time adding the Speak Cells - Stop Speaking Cells and Speak Cells on Enter buttons.

    If you want to reposition the Text to Speech buttons on the Quick Access toolbar, select each button in the Customize Quick Access Toolbar list box and then move it left on the bar by clicking the Move Up button or right by clicking Move Down.

    If you want to set off the Text to Speech buttons as a separate group on the Quick Access toolbar, add a <Separator> icon ahead of the Speak Cells command button (and following the Speak Cells on Enter button if you have buttons not related to the Text to Speech function that follow on the Quick Access toolbar).

  5. Click the OK button to close the Excel Options dialog box.

After adding the Text to Speech buttons to the Quick Access toolbar, you can use them to corroborate spreadsheet entries and catch those hard-to-spot errors as follows:

  1. Select the cells in the worksheet whose contents you want read aloud by Text to Speech.

    If you want to check a table of data, simply position the cell cursor in the first cell, and Excel will then automatically select the entire table when you click the Speak Cells button.

  2. Click the Speak Cells button to have your Windows device begin reading back the entries in the selected cells.

    The Text to Speech feature reads the contents of each cell in the cell selection by first reading down each column and then across the rows.

  3. To pause the Text to Speech feature when you locate a discrepancy between what you’re reading and what you’re hearing, click the Speak Cells - Stop Speaking Cells button.

Keep in mind that you can click the Speak Cells on Enter button to have your computer speak each new entry that you make as you complete it by pressing the Enter key. Excel also moves the cell cursor down one row.

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