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Sunday, 7 September 2008

HowTo: Create an Audio File from a Text File

The new voice for Leopard, Alex, is an extremely comprehensive and realistic voice module, so it is worth looking at how you can use it to help you work. Got a long document to read, or a speech to memorise? This 3-step tip will show you how to get it into an audio file so you can listen to it on an ipod while commuting, or even turn a free online novel into an audiobook.

1) The first thing you need to do is ensure your document is in plain-text format. The easiest way to do this is to copy the contents into "", go to the Format menu and select "Make Plain Text". For simplicity save this file as "wordstosay.txt" in the root folder of your "Macintosh HD".

2) Now our document is ready, open using spotlight or from the Utilities sub-folder of your Applications folder. When it opens, type "cd /" and hit return. This tells terminal that you are working in the root of Macintosh HD, and makes finding the text file much easier.

3) To get your mac to read out this text file to an audio file, type the following and hit return: 

say -v alex -f wordstosay.txt -o spoken.aiff

Lets have a look at what this command means. The "say" bit is simply the name of the program used to make your mac talk, and "-v alex" sets the voice as Alex. "-f [filename]" tells your mac where the text file to read from is, and "-o [filename]" tells it to output the speech to an audio file instead of reading out loud. If all has gone well, you should now find a file called "spoken.aiff" in the root of your "Macintosh HD" that you can load into iTunes.

Tip: If you want to get Alex to read content out for you regularly, a useful tip is to set a keyboard shortcut like ctrl-s by going to System Preferences > Speech > Text to Speech > Speak selected text when the key is pressed.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Dockulicous is a great little app which lets you choose your own skin for your leopard dock. Many users have already uploaded dock skins, which you download and then drag the zip file onto the main app. It includes the original settings just in case you decide a bright pink dock isn't your thing. If you've ever fancied your dock looking like a picnic table, piano keys or covered with lasers, this is the app for you.

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Applejack is your friend if you can't boot up a GUI on your mac. Once installed, if you have a problem, boot into single user mode by hitting cmd-S and typing 'applejack'. You're then presented with a prompt which lets you repair disks, permissions, cashes and remove your swap file. Thankfully, I have never needed to test this in a real situation, but it's a comforting thing to have installed on your system.

Developer's site

Thursday, 28 August 2008


Proximity is a neat little app which automatically runs Applescript when a bluetooth device approaches or leaves your bluetooth-enabled mac. For example, if you set it to pair with your phone, on approaching your mac you could have it run an applescript to sync your calendar and address book for you. Alternatively you could use it as a proximity security tag, so on leaving your machine the screensaver triggers and becomes password-protected, and on approaching it returns to the desktop. For useful scripts, check out this blogger's code.

Monday, 11 August 2008


WolfQuest is a free game with an educational slant developed for Minnesota Zoo. You take on the role of a wolf and have to hunt and find a mate. It supports single or multiplayer play, and in the game attempts to be as realistic as possible, down to the body language of the wolves when communicating. A special scent-view mode lets you find food and fellow wolves.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


My major frustration with safari was that it could only support Google as it's search engine, and there was no way to change this without editing Safari's coding, a risky process that crashed safari if your modified version didn't have exactly the same file size as the original.

Enter Glims, a small app with allows you to add about 20 different search engines to safari and put them in order of your preference.

Other long-awaited features include:
  • Full screen browsing 
  • Undo close tab using Cmd-Z
  • Favicons show at the top of tabs
  • Thumbnails in Google and Yahoo searches.
  • Session saving
If safari supported all the features that Glims provided, a lot fewer mac users would be switching to firefox.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Main Menu

Main Menu is a small app that sits in your menu bar and provides you with easy access to a large number of maintenance tasks for your mac, such as force emptying trash, cleaning cashes and logs, and repairing permissions and indexes. It also lets you create scheduled tasks and execute these every set period of time for you. Everything it does is posted to you via Growl.