Sometimes hearing Siri’s voice is comforting and meaningful. Other times it can be frustrating when she doesn’t come remotely close to providing you with the information you wanted. For all those times she didn’t deliver, Siri makes up for it by reading ebooks, webpages, or pdfs for you.
At first glance, this iOS 8 feature may not sound all that great or even something you would use. Think about this though, if there’s an ebook you’ve been meaning to read, why not have Siri read it to you on the way home from work? How many more times do you really want to hear Taylor Swift sing “Shake It Off” before you want more variety in your life?
In order to take advantage of this feature, you must visit Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech. From here, turn on Speak Selection so your iOS device can read to you.
With this feature turned on, swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers. A window will pop-up showing different control options for speech. You’re able to decrease speech rate, go back, pause or play, go forward, and increase speech rate. After a short period of time, this screen will minimize down to just an arrow you’re able to select in order to view the control menu.
If you use Speak Screen to read webpages, you’re probably going to want to enable the Reader Mode on the page you want read to you. If you choose not to use Reader Mode, Speak Screen will read all the menu items on the page. While in Reader Mode, you might still get some unwanted information, like image names and resolution, but you’ll definitely cut out a lot of the non-essential information. If you’d like to learn how to enable Reader Mode, you can read about it here.
Reading books or webpages isn’t the only thing you can use this feature for. If there’s a long email you need to read, but need to accomplish something else, like pick up around the office, simply highlight the text you want read to you and select Speak from the pop up options. Now the email is being read to you while you get something else done, which saves you precious time.
This feature does take some getting used to if you don’t change the default voice. If you would like to try and get rid of the robot sounding voice that’s speaking to you, go back into Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > Voices > English (or your preferred language) > and then choose some of the other options available. I have selected Alex, which is a male voice, since I feel it sounds a bit more realistic than the female voice that’s used as the default. Speech rates that are too slow sound terrible and if it’s too fast it’s hard to understand. Finding a happy medium allows me to enjoy the feature a lot more.
If you start using this feature a lot, you may run into some problems if you don’t follow some proper speech etiquette. If you’re using Speak Screen while in an app, make sure to tap the X in the upper right hand corner of the controls before switching to another app you want to use Speak Screen in. If you fail to do this, eventually Speak Screen quits working. In order for you to get it working again, you must restart your iOS device and follow proper speech etiquette. It’s very easy to make a mistake and upset this feature. Hopefully an update will correct its touchiness.
When it comes to ebooks, I prefer to use my Kindle. Therefore, I have the Kindle app on my iOS devices where I download and purchase all my books. With Speak Screen, I can open one of these books on my iPhone 6 Plus or iPad mini and have it read the book for me without having to turn a page. The only stipulations are you must not leave the Kindle app without exiting Speak Screen first (reread above paragraph) and you cannot let your iOS device go to sleep. If you let your device go to sleep, Speak Screen will finish the page it’s on and will stop there. If you would like to have it continue through the book, just make sure you don’t let your device go to sleep. You can adjust speech rate or your devices auto lock setting to ensure this doesn’t happen.
When it comes to books on my iOS devices, 99 percent of the time I use the Kindle app. There are a few titles I have in iBooks and I did venture over there to make sure this feature works there too. Speak Screen works the same as it did for me in the Kindle app.
A friend from work informed me Speak Screen didn’t appear to work at all with Nook. I don’t use the Nook app, but I did get a chance to tinker around with his iPhone 6 Plus and I couldn’t get it to work at all. Not sure why, but if Nook is your preferred app for reading books, I’m not sure Speak Screen will read them for you.
Once you get used to this iOS 8 feature, you’ll be finishing those ebooks you’ve been meaning to read for years. You knew it was only a matter of time before you read them, or should I say have someone read them to you.
If you find this feature extremely helpful, you just might enjoy an amazing app called GoodReader 4. This app allows you to organize and store some of your most important documents while allowing you to add notes to them as well. GoodReader 4 also will read your documents too. Check out iOS Etc’s continuing coverage of this amazing productivity application.