If you’ve got a daily commute or if you travel often, podcasts are a great way to keep up with the latest news and your favorite entertainment; you can listen while you drive, fly, or take the subway, train, or ferry. But wouldn’t it be great if you could also absorb other information - say, articles you found online, email messages or attachments, documents you need to read for work, or even your daily RSS feeds - the same way?
That question seems to have been the inspiration for Bit Maki’s Textcast, a nifty utility that lets you turn such text-based information into spoken-word audio files. And not just standard audio files, but podcast files handled by iTunes and synced to your iPod or iPhone, which means you can listen anywhere you normally listen to podcasts.
To manually create a new episode (an audio file generated from text) using Textcast, first you select a textcast (a podcast consisting of one or more episodes) on the left-hand side of the Textcast window. Then you click on the New Episode (+) button at the bottom of the window, enter a name for the episode, and type or paste the text your want your Mac to “read.”
You can get a preview of how the episode will sound by clicking on the Preview button, and you can edit the text of the episode (or any other textcast episode) right there in the program’s window.
(Yes, it’s confusing that the name of the program is the same as the name of one of the things you create using the program. I use Textcast to refer to the program and textcast to refer to a podcast created with the program.)
Clicking on the Sync To iTunes button creates audio files - Leopard’s high-quality Alex voice “reading” the text - for any new episodes, and then syncs those files to iTunes. Each textcast shows up as a separate podcast in iTunes, with each audio file organized as a separate episode in that podcast.
A number next to each textcast on the left-hand side of the window shows how many episodes in that textcast haven’t yet been created. Selecting a textcast displays its episodes to the right, with “sync” symbols indicating the particular episodes yet to be processed. (When you first launch Textcast, there will be only one textcast, but you can create as many as you want to better organize your episodes. Whenever you create a new episode, it will be part of whichever textcast is selected at the time.)
Textcast also provides several convenient features for automating the process of getting text into the program. For example, if you’re reading an article in Safari and click on the Import Safari button, Textcast will create a new episode, name the new episode based on the name of the Web page, and then paste the text of that Web page into the episode’s text area. Syncing with iTunes creates the podcast episode for that Web page.