"Make Speakable"  

Posted by Wayne Bretski in ,

Incredible discovery today, one that may cause others to look strangely at me: I can talk to my computer and make it do things.

Let me explain: there are speakable commands (for handicapped/disabled users) for the Finder in OS X along with a few other native applications like Safari and Mail.app. Some are silly, like "Tell me the time" or "Tell me what day it is", which are both immediately obvious by looking at my menu bar:

The real joy is in Finder, which has a list of probably 20 speakable commands programmed in. The best command is "Make Speakable" which takes that window and makes it, well, speakable. For instance, one of my most used folders, the only one on my desktop in fact, I call "Inbox". All my downloads go there, so every so often I visit the inbox and sort through it. It keeps the desktop clear (each icon on the desktop is treated as an open file, taking up RAM), and it's easy sorting in the finder: mp3s go here, crosswords here, pictures here, open disk images to try out new apps, etc. So my new way of getting to the inbox is: Hold 'Escape', say "Inbox". That's it!

Safari bookmarks are also speech-ready. With any open page, hold escape and say "Make Speakable". A little dialog box opens where you can call the bookmark something simple, like "Gmail" or whatever. Then just hold Escape and say the name of the bookmark, and it opens in a new tab in the open window.

I probably won't use this much in public for two reasons: I can't imagine that it recognizes speech very well with background noise, and you'll look a little strange talking to your computer.

In honor of this geekery, here's Home Computer is More Fun to Compute by Kraftwerk.

I'll take this time to briefly explain my menu bar, which has grown significantly in importance to me after I found out how much RAM the Dock uses. From left to right:

Milky Way is a program that replaces Preview on OS X. When I want to look at a picture in Finder, I click on it and M.W. pops up a slightly larger image. If I want to see it full scale, just click on the pop up and it opens full screen. No opening of programs, no need to "Quit" Preview.

Meteorologist is a nice little app that displays an image of the current weather, along with the temperature. Fairly customizable, and very stable.

Tiger Launch is an application launcher. Clicking on the paw opens up a customizable list of applications. I only keep ten things in the Dock, including Finder, System Preferences, and Namely (which I will discuss some other day) - none of which go away anyhow. The remaining Dock apps are "frequently used" in some sense.

The envelope is a Google Notifier for Gmail, the number next to it is how many unopened messages are in my inbox. Also, when I get a new email, a Growl notification pops up, identifying the sender, the re: line, and about eight words into the first sentence. Which is nice.

The scissors is a sweet app called JumpCut, which holds *everything* that goes to the clipboard. Anytime "Copy" is invoked or Command-C is held, that text goes to JumpCut; from the menu bar I call pull down the last ten, or with a key command I can toggle through the last fifty (!) copies. Which is really nice for when you want to copy several things without switching tabs, windows, programs, whatever.

The small numbers on top of each other are Top: internal temperature of my Mac and Bottom: fan speed, in RPM. I stick with Apple defaults for the most part, but if it's getting really hot I'll turn up the minimum fan speed to more quickly cool down the laptop. Things like playing movies or music with full Internet-browsing can run up the temp pretty fast.

MainMenu is a "system optimizer" with a couple of nice features. It makes some "command line" stuff a lot easier: things like running maintenance and chron scripts, repairs, cleaning, and some other tasks. My most used features are probably Restart Dock, and enabling/disabling Dashboard (another memory hog).

The rest are Apple prefs: Battery, showing the graphic and how much time til the battery runs out, AirPort show the wireless signal, Microphone for audio volume, and my customized Date and Time bar. This one was tough to figure out, but you can pretty much make that say anything up there. I abbreviate the day to save space, but I like to have the whole month there, along with AM/PM. Not that I don't usually know, it's just nice. The profile is "Fast User Switching", a nice little feature that lets me log into another account very quickly, by choosing the account from the drop down menu, then typing the password. Bypasses the Login Window entirely. Which brings us to Spotlight, the much-maligned and actually doomed feature that searches your harddrive for keywords. I don't hate Spotlight, but I only use it occasionally. If I upgrade to Leopard in October, though, it's gone.

OK, Computer lovers. And OK Computer lovers. Radiohead, with Lucky


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