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Voice-Prompt for Excel Marksheets

by Charles D.H. Williams

Please note that the software on this page was written for use in 1996 and will not work with current versions of the Mac operating system.


VPE (Voice-Prompted Entry) is an Excel-4 macro for the Macintosh. It speaks the name of a student, waits for you to enter their marks, then reads back what you typed before moving down to the next student. It's pretty trivial but it allows you to keep your eyes on the graded papers or hand-written marksheet and I find it greatly improves speed and accuracy of entering marks.

Getting set-up

The BINHEX files referred to by this page are can be decoded by the free StuffIt Expander 4.5 (Mac)

You need to have the Text-to-speech component of Apple's Plaintalk package installed. This (also known as Speech Synthesis) converts text to spoken words and is supported on just about any Macintosh ever made, from the Macintosh Plus to the Power Macintosh. The speech synthesizer engines, called MacinTalk 2, 3, and Pro, automatically scale to your system configuration.

English Speech Synthesis System Requirements

  • Any Macintosh or Power Macintosh Computer
  • System Software 6.0.7 or later, depending on voice quality
  • From 300K to 1.5 MB of available RAM, depending on voice quality 5 MB of available hard disk space
Recent Mac's come with it as part of the standard installation but you can also download it from Apple for free.

With MacinTalk installed, suitably enabled software, e.g. SimpleText, will be able to speak text. To proceed, download Richard Buckle's XLTALK add-in which is also available from his mirror site. Finally, download the marksheet example MARKSHEET.XLS.hqx and then the voice-prompted entry macrosheet VPE.XLM.hqx.


MARKSHEET.XLS is an example of a typical marksheet prepared by using the headings to 'Create Names' for the corresponding columns: Surname, Forename, etc. Open this and then VPE.XLM . (You may be asked to locate the "Excel Talk" add-in which, unless you've moved it, is in the "XLTALK folder".)

A "Speech" menu should have appeared just to the right of the standard Excel ones by this stage. Select Help from this menu and XLTALK should speak its version number. If you hear nothing then either the sound has been turned down on your Mac or you need to install the Apple Speech Manager.

Select the PHY101 column-heading cell on MARKSHEET.XLS by clicking it, and run the Mark_Entry macro by typing ctrl-A, or going via the MACRO/RUN... menu command. The selection should move down a row and your Mac will anonounce the column and say 'Aquinas'. Type Aquinas's mark and use the "enter" key on the numerical keypad to move to the next candidate. When all the marks have been entered press the "esc" key which restores the keyboard definitions to their default behaviour.


More than one mark at a time can be entered, providing they are in put in adjacent columns. The "return" key is redefined to act like a "tab" key for this purpose.

The cursor can be repositioned in the usual way to skip blocks of students or re-enter incorrect values.

If the students are sorted into alphabetical order, students with the same surname will have their forenames or initials given.

If there is no range named "Surname" on the sheet, one will be created in the first column. If there is no range named "Forename" then "Initials" will be used to distinguish students with the same surname. If "Initials" doesn't exist the column to the right of "Surname" will be used.

Use the Speech/Voices... menu command to speed up the voice. I find 220 words per minute is about right. The volume is adjusted with the standard Apple Sound control panel.

Legal Stuff

The VPE.XLM macro is provided as is, without warranty of any kind. It may be used freely and without further permission.

All trademarks recognised.


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