Updated July 8th, 2019.
The iPhone and iPad will read out loud to you. This is more than a party trick; it’s very handy to let your iPhone or iPad read a news article or a long email to you while you drive home, or while you pour yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal (for example). It’s also sort of fun, and perhaps a learning tool, to highlight a page in an iBooks book and have your iPhone or iPad read that page to you. It’s all very easy though you have to be on iOS 5 or higher (Mom, you are).
Here’s how you do it. (Screen shots are from an iPhone but it’s almost exactly the same on the iPad.)
UPDATED September 18th, 2014: iOS 8 gives us new capabilities! More info at the end of this post. Click here for my iOS 8 blog post that discusses this new feature.
First, go to the Settings. Tap General, then Accessibility, then Speak Selection.
Speak Selection is off by default. You’ll be turning it on here. Set the Speaking Rate closer to the turtle and further from the rabbit. It’s hard to understand what’s being said if it’s said too rapidly. When you drag the Speaking Rate knob your device will speak some standard text to you, giving you a good idea of how things will sound.
Now find something that you’d like to have read out loud. Here, I’ve gone to the Mail app and found an email that is pretty long. Tap and hold anywhere in the text to create an initial selection, then tap Select All.
Remember, the reading feature is called “Speak Selection” so you could drag the selection to include any or all of the text. If you want all, the Select All button is the easier way to go. That’s what I did here, and you can see the result.
Tap the Speak button, then sit back and listen. Or pour yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch. Actually it works with any cereal.
I used Mail as an example here but it works similarly with iBooks and Safari. In every case it’s tap, hold, drag the selection knobs (or do Select All where available), then “Speak.”
There are a few shortcomings (you can’t choose the voice, you can’t do Select All in iBooks or Safari, and you can’t trigger it from Siri), but even so, Speak Selection is worth exploring.
Up next: I’ll show you how to do the same thing on your Mac.
UPDATE September 18th, 2014:
iOS 8 gives us a new read-out-loud capability!
It works in iBooks (hooray!) and in Safari and probably a lot of other places. First, you have to turn it on: Settings/General/Accessibility/Speech/Speak Screen (turn ON).
It is off by default. Now, go to a book, or a web page, and do a TWO-FINGER down-swipe, starting above the screen. You’ll get some controls, which can be collapsed, and by golly it reads and reads and reads!
It does NOT stop at the end of the screen in iBooks– it just keeps going. It does NOT stop at the end of the screen in Safari– it just keeps going. This is just what we’ve always wanted.
See my September 22nd, 2014 post about this here. There are links at the bottom of that article to seven other iOS 8 tips, part of my “Eight for 8” series of tips for iOS 8.Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.
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Thank you, I've been trying to figure this out for months now.
Glad it helped you. I've found that if I drag one of the selection knobs down to select more stuff the other knob moves up to the beginning of the text block! It works in the other direction too. A pleasant surprise!
Hi, why there is no sound whn i select speak? and my setting at speak selection is fine. Please help. Thanks
Hi Anonymous. Do you get sounds in general? It could be as simple as having the volume down… but, I wouldn't bet on it. How about you restart the iPad (or iPhone)– turn it off all the way– and let me know.
Thanks!!! I've been trying to figure this out! Great!!!!
Glad to help. They could make it a little easier to find this feature! Maybe next time.
Thank you! Now I can hit the gym and read through way to many homework assignments at once.
One thing I did find though was that I needed to copy the text from the internet page and paste it into a note. I tried reading it through evernote like I usually would, but "speak" was only an option for me under a note or an email..not websites. It takes a little more work, but still work it.
Yes, it does take a little work. But you are right, it's worth it. I use Keyboard Maestro to automate that on my Mac (no way to automate it on the iPad or iPhone):
The stuff at the top of that post, about Keyboard Maestro, is the part you'd want to read about.
Do you generally take into account optimizing your articles for search algorithms?
No, I generally do not. I have enough to do just writing the articles to begin with! My thinking is, write good, useful articles, period. I would rather the search algorithms get good at finding good, useful articles than have me get good at gaming Google. In the long run this is the way to go. I care more about real people than about the search engines. Nothing I like less than searching for something on the web and finding a page that is nothing but ads and links. Yuck.
I want to use the voice over for hands free reading while I'm making dinner or cleaning house. But I have to tap each paragraph. It even stopes with bold or italicized words, lists and paragraphs how can I get this program to keep reading u ntill I make it stop,
Jenn, how about you do a Select All first?
Thanks! Worked for me. Now to figure out how to get it to speak highlighted PDF portions without needing to first copy it to Notes.
That would be handy. Nice tip, going to Notes.
I'm so bummed… I want to use this to read some books in iBook. I can only select… One. Word. At. A. Time!
I know. Major shortcoming of iBooks. I want it too.
WOW WOW WOW! iOS 8 lets you read at LEAST a whole chapter of an iBook. It's an option in the settings– General/Accessibility/Speak Screen ON (it is off by default). Then, get an iBook up and use TWO fingers to swipe DOWN from the top. Start above the screen. It will start reading and you will see an overlay with options (speed, pause, fast forward, rewind). It also works with Safari. Probably many other places.