Playing sounds

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Playing sounds

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Macs have been capable of displaying sound and graphics—no add-on sound, graphics, or video boards required—from day one

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  1. Chapter 15. Sound, Movies, and Speech For years, as other computer companies whipped themselves into a frenzy trying to market one multimedia computer or another, Mac fans just smiled. Macs have been capable of displaying sound and graphics—no add-on sound, graphics, or video boards required—from day one, years before the word multimedia was even coined. The Mac's superiority at handling sound and video continues in Mac OS X. QuickTime, for example, is software that lets you play digital movies on your screen and watch live "streaming" broadcasts from the Internet. This chapter covers both creative pursuits: creating and using sound, and playing and editing movies. As a bonus, this chapter also covers Mac OS X's speech features (how to command your Mac by voice, as well as making your Mac talk back); and Front Row, the full screen, across-the-room, remote-controlled presentation mode for movies, sounds, photos, and DVDs. 15.1. Playing Sounds You can have a lot of fun with digital sounds—if you know where to find them, where to put them, and how to edit them. You can play almost any kind of digitized sound files, even MP3 files, right in the Finder—if you put its window into column view or Cover Flow view (or use Quick Look). But that's just the beginning. 15.1.1. Controlling the Volume Adjusting the volume of your Mac's speakers couldn't be easier: Just add the speaker menu let to your menu bar, as directed in Figure 15-1. That illustration also shows the Sound pane of System Preferences, which offers another way to go about it. Tip: Actually, all current Macs offer an even more direct way to control the speaker volume: speaker-control keys right on the keyboard ( and ). (The key next to them is the Mute button, which instantaneously cuts off all the Mac's sound—a wonderful feature when you find yourself trying to use the Mac surreptitiously in a library or church.) Figure 15-1. The tiny speaker silhouette in the upper-right corner of your screen turns into a volume slider when you click it. To make this sound menulet appear, open the Sound pane of System Preferences and turn on "Show volume in menu
  2. bar" (bottom). (Of course, another way to adjust the overall speaker volume is to drag the "Output volume" slider in System Preferences.) The Output tab of this pane, by the way, is designed to let you adjust the left-to-right balance of your stereo speakers, if you have them. The stereo speakers on most Macs that have them (iMacs, laptops) are already perfectly centered, so there's little need to adjust this slider unless you generally list to one side in your chair. (You may find additional controls here if you have extra audio gear—an old iSub subwoofer system, for example.) Tip: In the Audio MIDI Setup program (in Applications Utilities), you can set up and configure much fancier speaker setups, including 5.1 and 6.1 surround-sound systems. 15.1.2. Alert Beeps and You Error beepsare the quacks, beeps, or trumpet blasts that say, "You can't click here." (Try typing letters into a dialog box where a program expects numbers, for example.) Choosing an alert beep To choose one that suits your own personal taste, open the Sound pane of System Preferences (Figure 15-1, bottom). The Sound Effects screen offers a canned choice of 14 witty and interesting sound snippets for use as error beeps. Press the up and down arrow keys to walk through them, listening to each. The one that's highlighted when you close the window becomes the new error beep. You can also drag the "Alert volume" slider to adjust the error beep volume relative to your Mac's overall speaker setting. Adding new alert beeps Mac OS X's error beeps are AIFF sound files, a popular Mac/Windows/Internet sound format—which, as a testimony to its potential for high quality, is also the standard sound- file format for music CDs. (The abbreviation stands for audio interchange file format.) As with fonts, Mac OS X builds the list of error beeps that you see in the Sound panel of System Preferences from several folder sources:
  3. • System Library Sounds folder. This folder contains the basic Mac OS X set. Because it's in the System folder, it's off-limits to manipulation by us meddlesome human beings. You can't easily delete one of the original Mac OS X error beeps or add to this collection. • Home folder Library Sounds folder. It's easy enough to add sounds for your own use—just add them to this folder. • Library Sounds folder. If you, an administrator, want to make a sound file available to all account holders on your Mac (if there's more than one), create a new Sounds folder in the main hard drive window's Library folder. Any sound files you put there now appear in every account holder's list of alert sounds. The sound files you put into these folders must be in AIFF format, and their names must end with the extension .aiff or .aif. Note: Any changes you make to these Sounds folders don't show up in the Sound pane until the next time you open it.  
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