Mount Lion's VoiceOver Technology and Utility

Mountain Lion’s VoiceOver technology is designed primarily for the visually impaired, but you might find it useful even if your vision is 20/20. VoiceOver not only reads what’s on the screen to you, but also integrates with your keyboard so you can navigate around the screen until you hear the item you’re looking for.

When you’re there, you can use Keyboard Access to select list items, select check boxes and radio buttons, move scroll bars and sliders, resize windows, and so on — with a simple key press or two.

To check it out, launch the System Preferences application (from Launchpad, the Applications folder, Apple menu, or Dock), click the Accessibility icon, and then click VoiceOver or press Command+F5 (Command+Fn+F5 on notebook/laptop models and most Apple keyboards).

After VoiceOver is enabled, you can turn it on and off in the Accessibility System Preferences pane or by pressing Command+F5 or (Command+Fn+F5 on notebook/laptop models and most Apple keyboards).

While it’s on, your Mac talks to you about what is on your screen. For example, if you clicked the Desktop, your Mac might say something along the lines of “Application, Finder; Column View; selected folder, Desktop, contains 8 items.” It’s quite slick.

Here’s another example: When you click a menu or item on a menu, you hear its name spoken at once, and when you close a menu, you hear the words “Closing menu.” You even hear the spoken feedback in the Print, Open, and Save (and other) dialogs.

VoiceOver is kind of cool (talking alerts are fun), but having dialogs actually produce spoken text becomes annoying really fast for most folks. Still, check it out. You might like it and find times when you want your Mac to narrate for you.

The VoiceOver Utility lets you specify almost every possible option the VoiceOver technology uses. You can adjust its verbosity; specify how it deals with your mouse and keyboard; change its voice, rate, pitch, and/or volume; and more.

You can open the VoiceOver Utility by clicking the Open VoiceOver Utility button in the Accessibility System Preferences pane or the usual way: by double-clicking its icon (which you find in your Applications/Utilities folder).

Of course, you might get the machines-are-taking-over willies when your Mac starts to talk to you or make sounds — but if you give it a try, it could change your mind.

VoiceOver Help is extensive and clear, and it helps you harness all the power of VoiceOver and the VoiceOver Utility.

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