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Mac Automation: listen to a text document

Don't have time to read that Word, Pages, or TextEdit document at your desk? Why not listen to it on your iPod instead? In this Automator how-to, I am going to show you how to create an audio file using text that you have in an open document, then sync that using iTunes to your iPod or iPhone.

Creating the workflow
For this workflow, you need the following Automator actions (placed in the same order):
  • Get Contents of TextEdit Document
  • Text to Audio File
  • Import Files into iTunes

Continue reading to learn how to build this workflow.

Now let's tweak some of the settings in these Automator actions. For both the "Text to Audio File" and "Import Files into iTunes," select the options button and check "Show this action when the workflow runs." This will allow you to change the files and playlist when you save and import to iTunes. In the Import Files into iTunes action, select "New playlist" from the drop-down box; you can specify a new name here or when you run the workflow.


Saving the workflow
You can breathe a little because you're half way done. Now, let's save the workflow as an application so it can be re-used at your whim. To save:
  1. Click File > Save
  2. Choose "Application" from the Format drop-down box
  3. Choose a location and file name, then click Save
Your workflow has now been saved as an application to the location that you specified.


Running the workflow
To run the workflow, just open TextEdit (this application comes with Mac OS X and can be found in your Applications directory). Type a document in TextEdit, or copy and paste any text you want. When you are ready to convert your TextEdit document into an audio file, just double click on your workflow that you saved in the last step.

The text will then be copied from the document and a dialog will ask you where you want to save the audio file that it will create. You can also specify a system voice to be used. If you are using Mac OS X Leopard, Alex is by-far the best voice for this job.


Once your audio file is saved, the workflow will ask you for the playlist name in iTunes to add it to. If you already have a playlist created, you can add the audio there; or if you want to create a new playlist, select "New playlist" from the drop-down box. When you click continue, your audio file will be added to iTunes to the playlist your specify.


You can then sync your playlist to the iPod or iPhone of your choice. You will then be listening to your text in no time! You can also combine this with last weeks Mac Automation post to create audio version of websites!

Remember -- if you have a special automation request, feel free to leave a comment or use our contact form.

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