We live in a world of information overload. Sometimes our jobs require us to read so much information every day, there seems little time to do anything else. How nice would it be to take a bunch of documents you need to read, and have them converted into an audio file that you can listen to whilst in the car, or anywhere else you might want to listen to your iPod or iPhone (or other music player)?
Mac OS X has a nifty programming environment called Automator, which allows users to drag and drop actions into sequence to create applications or workflows that can automate a lot of tasks, making your life simpler. All sorts of routine tasks can be combined into sophisticated sequences. I have designed workflows that combine PDF files, batch rename files, convert batches of files, and the subject of this post, convert a Word document into an MP3 file that you can listen to.
To get started, download the file below. Open it on your Mac, and then, open a Word document as well. Press "Run" from the upper right corner of the Automator window, and in a few seconds you will have an audio reading of your Word document in a playlist in iTunes, ready to be synced to your iPod or iPhone. If you'd rather not download the pre-assembled workflow--so you can try your hand at building it yourself, just follow the outline below:
You can experiment a bit and find many other uses for this workflow, aside from reading briefs, pleadings, or other Word documents you might have to read. See a bunch of article online you want to read but haven't got time for? Safari has an excellent feature called "Reader" which, when invoked, presents you with a view of just the webpage's text, unencumbered by ads, links, and other junk. You could copy and paste a bunch of articles from Reader into a Word document, run the workflow, and have all your news articles of interest compiled into a handy audio file to listen to on the drive to work. To invoke Reader in Safari, look for the blue box at the right side of the URL bar that says "Reader", and click it, which will give you the view below:
I like loading a bunch of BBC articles into a document, then having them read to me by one of the British voices that you can download for free within OS X (You can browse the available voices, and download dozens more in many languages, free, in the Speech and Dictation pane within System Preferences.)
Get it here:
Word Document Text to Speech Automator Workflow
- Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
Ronald C. Schoedel III is an attorney, former broadcaster, student of Welsh, and Sinophile. He has lived in Alaska, Wales, and China (Hong Kong specifically), and presently calls Utah home. He has been teaching and training Mac users for nearly a decade, and started blogging as a software reviewer in 2004.