Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How to make your Mac read your tweets to you

If you’re a Mac user, then it’s probably likely that you have Growl installed – a notification framework that allows applications to display messages on the screen. Quite why Apple haven’t yet made it part of Mac OS X is beyond me, as it’s incredibly useful.

What’s less known about Growl, is that as well as visual notifications on the screen, notifications can also be sent via email, SMS, or read out using your Mac’s text-to-speech feature. We’re going to combine this with Growl’s ability to set specific notification methods to specific applications, so that all tweets received in your timeline using the official Twitter app get read out to you.

If you haven’t got Growl already, download it from the Mac App Store if you use Lion and are happy to pay a little something to the developers. If not, download an older version for free. For this guide, I’m using the Mac App Store version on Lion. You’ll also need the official Twitter app. Install them both, and login to Twitter in the app.

Next, open Growl preferences – on version 1.3, click on Growl’s footprint icon in the menu bar and choose ‘Open Growl Preferences’, and on earlier versions, open the System Preferences application and choose the Growl icon. First of all, select the Displays tab and choose Speech, then select a voice. If you have Leopard or Snow Leopard, Alex is the best voice; in Lion, there are several good new voices – I chose Serena who sounds a bit like she works on BBC Radio 4. Don’t make it the default style as otherwise every Growl notification from every app (unless you’ve specified otherwise) will be spoken to you!

Next, go to the Applications tab, and find Twitter. Select it, then click ‘Configure’ below. Switch to the Notifications tab, and choose Timeline from the list of notifications. Then, select ‘Display style’ to ‘Speech’. And you’re done.

It’s a bit clunky – the speech service will try to read URLs (I follow someone who uses the service a lot, and get ‘cont deck lie m k q g v’ after each of her tweets), and even with the new and improved voices in Lion, the software still doesn’t quite get the tone right in some sentences.

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