When your Windows speaks to you

No, you haven’t gone off the deep end, but you could be hearing voices—from your Windows. It’s all a part of an enhanced administration experience: alerts when events pop up on the screen but not in the logs. Called Narrator, it is a speech synthesizer that comes with Windows as part of the Accessibility tools. Here’s how to use it:

  1. If you didn’t add them when you installed Windows, insert the Server CD and go to Start | Settings | Control Panels | Add/Remove Programs, and click the Add/Remove Windows Components button.
  2. When the dialog appears, enable the check box next to Accessories And Utilities. If it’s already there, highlight the item, click the Details button, and turn on Accessibility Wizard at the top of the list.
  3. Close everything up, answering Yes to all options, and log off.
  4. Log back in, go to Start | Programs | Accessories | Accessibility, and open the Narrator item. A small window will appear in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. It comes with Sam, listed as a human male voice, and feel free to experiment.

Start with these settings:

  • Speed = 2
  • Volume = 9
  • Pitch = 4 or 5

You’ll have to work with it to get the most appealing voice. A word of caution, however: When something happens, Narrator speaks! First it names the item, then it tells you what the default action is (if there is one). Then it starts reading everything from top to bottom, even the items it just read. So you’ll want to make sure it’s on a server that only rarely shows events on-screen, or you won’t hear the end of it!

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