Yesterday, I found myself transferring numbers from a graphical PDF to Excel—manually. I was making a lot of mistakes. I tried using OCR, but the resulting file was so error-filled and formatted so poorly that it would have taken longer to fix the formatting, find the errors, and fix them than to type the data manually.
I was thinking about how great it would be if Excel 2007/Vista would simply tell me what I’d just typed each time I pressed Enter. That would be a good way to verify as I typed. All of a sudden, a little bell went off somewhere in the back of my mind, as I remembered that this wasn’t just a pipe dream. Rather than chalking it up to creeping senility (the usual reason for my hearing things that aren’t really there), I pressed F1 and typed “speak cells”. Bingo! A few clicks later, my Quick Access Toolbar was sporting a new tool, and Excel was doing exactly what I’d hoped for a minute earlier.
Right-click the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar. In the Customize window, set Choose commands from: to Commands Not in the Ribbon. Click in the list of commands and tap the S key to go to the commands that begin with S. Scroll down to the Speak commands. The one I was after was Speak Cells on Enter. Don’t panic when you see my QAT list of commands. I use the QAT extensively, so it has a lot of stuff on it. I also place mine below the ribbon for more ergonomic usage.
It’s a toggle, so you don’t need a Stop command, too. Click on the desired Speak command, and click the Add button. If you don’t want it at the end of your QAT, click on the command immediately above where you want the new command to reside before clicking Add. Click OK, and you’re done! Click on it to turn it on; click on it again to turn it off.