Increasing Responsiveness of Voiceover on a Mac

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
The other day, a few folks and I were comparing stories about switching to a Mac, and trying to build a case for some others to switch as well. The greatest complaint that evening was how Voiceover is less responsive than a screen reader in Windows. This got me to thinking of what the differences were, and through experimentation, have figured out a few tips to make Voiceover as responsive as you want it to be. At this point, I dare to say my Voiceover is just as responsive as the leading Windows screen reader, and it won't take near the chunk out of the wallet, either! The voice: While the RealSpeak voices sound wonderful when they talk to you, and Alex breathes between sentences, these are not the most responsive voices for Voiceover. If you can stand it, switch your voice to Fred, which has been around on a Mac since the beginning, but is small, and responsive. Granted, he sounds like he has marbles in his mouth, but switching to this voice really does increase Voiceover's responsiveness. Sounds: While all the navigation clicks, squalks, beeps and chirps are great for quickly identifying things, they actually decrease VO's responsiveness. Turn them off by going to the Voiceover pain with VO-F8, navigating to sounds, and unchecking the box. Other considerations: If sounds are off, you will have to change some of the other options that you may have set to play sounds so they will speak, but the trade-off really is decreased lag in the UI while using Voiceover. I made all these changes on my Quad-core MacBook Pro, but if you have anything specked less than that, I'm sure you will really notice a difference. I'd be curious to know of any other tips you may have about improving Voiceover's responsiveness.


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Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I actually find that the Legacy Macintalk voices are even less responsive than Vocalizer, even with premium voices. It's also a lot more intelligible at high rates, while fred has this tendency to just not pronounce syllables. While I can't understand him even at 70%, I can easily do any Vocalizer voice at 100.

On my system, which is a Quad-core I7, 4GB memory, the vocalizer voices studder. It may be different with the compact voices, but the big ones definitely are problematic for me. You're right though, you can't get the MacinTalk voices up past about 60 percent without them becoming unintelligible. These were just tips I've found on my system.

Submitted by WildmanJoe on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not bad at all. Yes, I love the real speak vboices, but one thing that really grinds my gears is the studder effect, especially with Alex. Case in point, I was reading this exact entry with him, and it kept studdrring. So, I finally god mad, I decided to use Fred. He's actually not that bad. It isn't the first time I have used him either. I actually like the idea of turning off all the sounds, as fred is much softer than alex, even at max volume, and the sounds are quite loud. This will date me, but he also somewhat reminds me of Dectalk. I had an express when I got my first ever computer back in 1998. Anyway, there is my thought. I think I will keep it like this for a few days to see how I like it.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In reply to by WildmanJoe

I actually am using the nuance voices and they hardly studded and I'm on a mac in tell cool core 2.3ghz processor with 4 gigs of ram. I think you need to look at the fact of what you are doing. do you have 20 apps open at a time? Are you giving apps time to finish processes and release memory? And I actually have some of my voices hacked to speak at 130 percent. it's pretty nice when I need to do some fast reading. As for the sounds I actually leave them on as I do rely on them. I did not notice a speed difference when I turned them off and that was under at the time snl. Fred for me stutters like crazy, like me on a bad day so I don't use the voice. Take care.

I never have more than two apps open at a time. I forget the exact specs of my machine, but I know for a fact I have 8 GB of ram. Regarding voices, I usually have Alex at 65 percent. Maybe I'll try speeding him up and see what happends.

Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I've heard Alex on a few podcast episodes, both at fast and somewhat slow rates and he doesn't sound bad at all. The breathing thing is kinda creepy though, but I think I'll get used to it. I guess when you think about it, Apple has simulated an actual human being with Alex's breathing. I've also heard Fred a couple of times, and I think the Pipe Organ voice once or twice. I'll just have to play around with all these when I get my Mac, and see what works best for me.

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alex funnily enough was one of the reasons I wanted a Mac. Sure, it wasn't the most important, but it was there, probably because I read far too many books. And sure enough, it is amazing when you read. Now if we had a good book reader app... but that's for another discussion.