Samantha is Hiding in my Computer

We’re a family that uses the built-in Text-to-Speech capabilities of Mac OS X more than most: Catherine, Oliver and I all have different uses for it, but we all have our Macs reading to us every once in a while.

Macs have been able to speak for a long time, and the capability got a lot better when the new “Alex” voice was introduced in 2007 with the release of  Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. And it’s been Alex that we’ve been using for our reading ever since.

It turns out that there’s an even better voice than Alex in recent versions of Mac OS X, a voice called “Samantha” that sounds remarkably similar to the one that Siri uses on iOS devices. Apparently Samantha has been lurking in my Mac for some time, but I didn’t know about her. Here’s how to enable this voice.

Open System Preferences and click on Dictation & Speech:

Dictation Settings

Click on the Text to Speech tab and then on the list of “system voices”:

Alex Voice

From the pop-up list of voices, select Customize…:



And in the pop-up list of customized voices, search for and then check the box beside Samantha:


Finally, select the Samantha system voice (it will take a few minutes to download):

Samantha Select

Now, inside almost any Mac app you can select a passage of text and the, on the menu, select Edit > Speech > Start Speaking to hear Samantha read it to you:


Speak It!


But wait, there’s more! You can also have the Mac convert Samantha’s reading of any text into an audio file for later playback: just select the text, then right-click and select Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track:

Record It!

You’ll see a pop-up asking you to select a voice and a filename:

Record It and Save

A few moments later you’ll find a new track in iTunes:


Here’s what that I paragraph I selected sounds like:


Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 31, 2016 - 11:05

I note that the “A” section of my iTunes library is about as good an overview of my broad musical tastes are you’re likely to find: from Allan Rankin to Ani Difranco (albeit misspelled).

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