- How to read aloud web pages from Safari, Twitter and other apps?
- How to import files from iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box etc?
- How to import multiple files in one step?
- How to import emails?
- How to change the language of the text?
- How to listen to the headlines from web sites and add articles from them?
- How to use the app in an accessible way?
- How to add voices?
- How to customize pronunciations?
- How to backup data?
- How to sync data among iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac?
- Can I use Siri voices?
- What to do if the app is not working?
- How to get the API key and region for Microsoft Neural voices?
- How to get the Apple Watch app?
- Can I receive the app as a donation?
How to import emails?
You can import email messages by dragging and dropping one or more messages from the iOS Mail to Speech Central.
If you want to drag multiple messages first click the ‘Edit’ button in the Mail app and select those messages. After that if you start to drag any of them other selected items will join to your dragged group.
From iOS 15 you can switch apps with another finger/hand while dragging so it is possible to drag content between apps. For a video tutorial on how to do this, take a look at this video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=ab_Ty5fxSWc&feature=share
How to listen to the headlines from web sites and add articles from them?
1. In the Headlines tab of the app add a home page or some other site section that contains headlines or site’s RSS feed using the ‘+’ button. You will see three options:
- Popular Sites – first pick the category of the site (e.g. Sports, News) and then check all the sites that you want to follow from that category.
- Web Site – type the name of the site and tap ‘Add’.
- Type Address – type in the address of the feed or web site to add it
2. Tap on the item and the app will start to read the headlines from the page
3. To add linked articles you can swipe left over the item and tap on the “Add to Articles & Books” button (visually it appears as “+”). You can also long tap on the item and pick this option from the menu. Finally, you can tap on the “More” at the top right of the screen, pick “Select Articles to Add”, select all articles that you would like to add and press the “Add to Articles & Books” button at the bottom toolbar.
4. You can even add articles while the screen is off (e.g. when you are using headphones and walking or while driving and the app speaks through connected Bluetooth speaker).
- First go to the Extras tab then to the Settings and finally to Button Functions in the Headlines subsection. Set the action of the Next button to ‘Add to Articles & Books’.
- When the item is read and the screen is off hit the next button to add the article related to it to the Articles tab. On the headphones the next button is invoked by double clicking on the center button.
- When reading of headline item(s) is completed, the app will proceed to read the article items that you have added in the previous step.
How to read aloud web pages from Safari, Twitter and other apps?
1. Invoke sharing of the link – in Safari it is done by pressing the Share button in the middle of the toolbar, in Twitter by performing tap and hold on the link.
2. If you use this function for the first time, additional steps are needed:
2a. In the first row where the apps are listed scroll to the right and tap on “More”.
2b. In the next screen ensure that the switch for Speech Central is set to ‘On’. You may also reorder Speech Central to appear closer to the top.
3. Tap on Speech Central in the first row of icons.
4. Tap on ‘Listen Now’.
5. The web page is added to the end of the Articles tab and read aloud.
How to import files from iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box etc?
1. When file is stored on the storage other than iCloud ensure that you have installed the required storage app from the App Store (e.g. Dropbox app) and after that log in to that app.
2. In the Articles & Books tab tap the ‘+’ button and then ‘Import File’
Follow the steps bellow (you may also read the official Apple support on this topic):
3. If you are using for the storage other than iCloud:
3a. Select the ‘Browse’ tab
3b. Go back to the first page (ensure that you see ‘Cancel’ in the top left)
3c. Under ‘Locations’ if you see your storage provider click on it otherwise tap on the ‘More Locations’
3d. Ensure that the switch next to your cloud provider is turned on and tap on the ‘Done’ in the top right
3e. Browse to the file
4. If you are using iCloud:
4a Tap on the ‘Browse’ tab at the bottom
4b. Navigate through the folders and tap on the file you want to open.
How to import multiple files in one step?
1. From the device home screen open the Files app.
2. Navigate to the files that you want to import. If you need more info on how to do this it is explained in a separate help topic.
3. From the ‘More’ menu (‘…’ icon in the top right of the screen) pick ‘Select’ command.
4. Select the files that you want to import.
5. Click on the ‘Share’ icon in the toolbar. From there pick the ‘Speech Central’ and then ‘Add to Books & Articles”. If you need more detailed instructions on how to access options in shared sheet read this help topic.
How to change the language of the item?
The language of the item is automatically detected based on its text. If the language is not properly detected it may be changed on the Item edit page. This page can be opened:
- From the main screen by swiping left over the item and tapping on the button ‘More’ and picking ‘Edit’
- From the player screen by pressing the ‘…’ button (in the top right of the screen) and picking ‘Edit’.
How to add voices?
1. Go to the iPhone home screen.
2. Tap the ‘Settings’ icon
3. To add more voices (more detailed description available under 4) go back to the first screen of the Settings app and then to Accessibility > Spoken Content > Voices (before iOS 13 to General > Accessibility > Speech > Voices). Also tap on the language for which you want to manage the voices (e.g. ‘English’).
4a. To install new voices tap on the cloud sign to the right and the cloud should change to the play icon when the voice is installed. For some voices that have the arrow sign instead of the cloud tapping anywhere on the row will open the new page where you will see the list of available voices that were grouped under that option with the cloud sign on the right that is used to install them.
4b. To delete the voice first ensure that it is installed (you should see the play icon on the right and not the cloud or arrow) and then swipe over it to the left and click on the ‘Delete’ button that appears.
How to customize pronunciations?
For Apple voices you can add custom pronunciations by using system Settings. Go to Accessibility > Spoken Content > Pronunciations, and press the ‘+’ button on the top left.
How to backup data?
By default your data is saved to iCloud as part of operating system backup. Assuming that you have enough space on the iCloud you can always restore data to another iOS device using this operating system function.
If you don’t use this function or you want to backup for different purposes, you can export data to .docx file format, which is ISO standard file format and can be easily accessed in many apps (including that you can re-import items back to Speech Central with preserving the annotation). To export the whole list follow this procedure:
- Press the ‘Edit’ button in the top left of the screen.
- Press the ‘Select All’ button that will appear on the same position.
- On the bottom of the screen press the ‘More’ button (‘…’).
- Pick ‘Export to Word Doc’.
- If you want to save .docx files to a folder pick ‘Save to Files’ in the share sheet.
How to sync data among iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac?
To sync data across devices ensure that:
- You are logged in to those devices with the same Apple account.
- That the option ‘Sync across Apple devices’ is enabled on each device (on Apple Watch it is always enabled as the app doesn’t have its source of data). There are two settings to enable syncing of Headlines and syncing of Books & Articles. On the iOS devices it is toggled by going to the Extras tab, then Settings. On the Mac it is available from the main menu on the top by going to Speech Central > Preferences
Please note that the sync is optimized for the energy consumption and real-life use cases. The item may not appear immediately on another device and if you keep both apps open you may need to perform the manual refresh (pull than on the iOS and use the menu File > Sync on the Mac).
Can I use Siri voices?
Apple restricts Siri voices only to the operating system functions. This is done to protect the user privacy as the user might be sharing his private data with Siri. While this sounds reasonable Apple has already proved that such risks can be managed by implementing the mechanism in which an app asks the user for the permission to use a potentially risky resource. Please encourage Apple to implement such mechanism by sharing your feedback using the Apple’s feedback assistant. In the header press the icon to start the new feedback, then pick ‘iOS & iPadOS’, and then mention that you would like Apple to implement the mechanism that would allow you to give apps permission to use Siri voices.
Also you may want to sign the petition that asks Apple to improve on this.
How to use the app in an accessible way?
- From the Extras tab open Settings.
- By tapping on the ‘Button functions…’ (available separately for Headlines and Books & Articles) you can customize on what Previous/Next/Skip forward/Skip back/Quick volume up-down/Quick volume down-up do – audio buttons are available on most headphones (e.g. Apple’s stock EarPods that came with all iPhones except for the iPhone 12 and also AirPods Pro) and as physical objects they should be quite accessible. Most people are not aware how to activate those buttons as they usually mean using some sort of gestures (e.g. if you want to activate the ‘Next’ command using the stock Apple EarPods you should double click the button on the headphones that is used to accept the calls).
- Assigning command to quick volume down-up and volume up-down works with the iPhone/iPad volume buttons so that’s an interesting accessible option available to everyone
- Customization also affects the buttons on the screen. The iPhone it may show more buttons in the landscape mode which may be more useful.
- Finally customization of buttons goes a bit beyond just navigation so you can also add some commands like bookmarking or adding the article linked to the currently read title from Headlines to Articles & Books.
What to do if the app is not working?
First check if you are affected by some known issue in the iOS operating system. If you are not using the latest version of Apple’s operating system ensure that you have updated to the latest version.
If you find some specific bug use the support contact to report it.
If the app is not working at all or some major function is not working in most cases there is the problem on your device. The app is tested by Labsii and Apple before each release and it is highly unlikely that such problem may occur.
In most of such cases it is enough to just restart the device to restore the functionality. If it doesn’t help it is very likely that it will be resolved by reinstalling of the app.
So please ensure that you have tried the options mentioned above. If you still find problems please report the problem to the support.
How to get the API key and region for Microsoft Neural voices?
If you want to first preview voices available on Azure service, you can do this on the official page (the app uses the default style).
- Create the Azure account and subscription (note: currently there is a version with free limited tier and paid version) from here.
- Create the Speech Service from here
- You should be able to see the Speech Service in the Azure Portal. When you open it in the left sidebar there is the option ‘Keys and Endpoints’ that you can use to create and get data about API key.
Please note that:
- Speech Central is in no way affiliated with Microsoft. Your relationship with Microsoft is in no way connected to your relationship with Speech Central as Speech Central doesn’t take any fee from your eventual payment to Microsoft.
- Microsoft paid tier is fairly expensive (the price at the moment of writing of this article is 16$/million characters which means that listening to larger books would cost 10$ or more). We have picked to support Microsoft as it has a generous free tier that may be enough for most use cases, most other providers (Amazon, IBM) charge the same amount but don’t have a free tier at the moment.
- If you use their paid tier it is strongly suggested for you to track your costs in their portal and avoid unpleasant surprises (there is a page ‘Cost Analysis’ that can be activated from the option right below ‘Keys and Endpoints’ that you have used in the previous step).
To activate those voices go to Extras tab > Settings > Voice > Microsoft Neural Voices (activated from the menu at the top right of the screen).
How to get the Apple Watch app?
Due to technical limitations the Apple Watch is distributed as part of the beta channel. To get the access to Apple Watch app do the following:
- Install the TestFlight app from the App Store on the iOS device.
- Install the beta version of the app using TestFlight by following this link: https://testflight.apple.com/join/7vK4ptgz.
- In the TestFlight app click on the ‘Speech Central Nextgen’. In the following page ensure to turn on the toggle for ‘Show App on Apple Watch’.
- You will see the app on your Watch that you can use now. If you haven’t already ensure that you have activated the iCloud on your Watch in the system Settings app, as it is required to gain the access to your data.
To setup your Apple Watch for the best experience, please follow the Apple Watch specific post.
Can I receive the app as a donation?
Speech Central is happy to donate to the community. Currently the app is made free for all blind users as the eligibility can be tested automatically by the app. This exceeds donations of any other similar app by far.
However the developer doesn’t have the infrastructure to process individual requests for donations. Trying to process such requests would put the business sustainability in question. As such if you have the need to use this app and believe that you should be generally eligible for a donation you should try to contact some local non-profit that may have the infrastructure to process your request and help you.