Read Aloud is a new powerful text-to-speech feature built into Microsoft Word that reads out documents to you. It is a wonderful tool that reads the contents of your Word document in more realistic and natural-sounding voices. However, you will need a Microsoft 365 subscription to use the natural-sounding voices, otherwise, you will have to use the three default voices. Read Aloud is only available in the versions of Office 2019, Office 2021, and Microsoft 365.
Sometimes, listening to a document can help you find errors, repetitive words, or clumsy words that you may have missed or skipped over while editing or reading the document. Plus, listening to a document can improve your comprehension, learning pronunciations, and language skills if the document is not in your primary language. This feature is very useful for readers with learning disorders and visual impairment.
Don’t confuse ‘Read Aloud’ with another text-to-speech feature called ‘Speak’ in Microsoft Word. While ‘Read Aloud’ can read you any and all parts of your document, the Speak feature can only read the selected text. If you want to find out more about Word’s Read Aloud feature and how to use it, read on.
Using the Read Aloud Feature in Word
Read Aloud is an advanced tool that uses the Windows enhanced Narrator and Accessibility technology to play back written text as spoken words. There are two ways the Read Aloud reads out your content. It will either read the content starting from wherever you placed the cursor or it will read only the highlighted text.
The offline versions of Word 2019 and 2021 only have three different voices. If you want to hear the content of your document in natural-sounding voices, you will need a Microsoft 365 subscription and an internet connection. In Microsoft 365, you can choose from over 142 different voices.
Starting from where you placed the cursor, it reads one word at a time and highlights each word when reading it aloud. It uses auto-scroll to move from word to word, line by line, and paragraph to paragraph to read and reads the content out loud.
Access Read Aloud in Microsoft Word
First, open the document you want to read aloud in Microsoft Word. Next, place the cursor where you want to start listening from or highlight the text that you want to be read aloud.
Then, go to the ‘Review’ tab and click the ‘Read Aloud’ button in the ribbon or simply press Alt+Ctrl+Space.
This will launch the Read Aloud controls at the top right corner of your open document, under the Ruler, and start reading the content automatically. The little control panel will have 5 controls: Previous, Play/Pause, Next, Settings, and Stop.
You can click the ‘Pause’ or ‘Play’ button in the middle of the panel to pause or resume the reading. Once the reading starts the middle button turns to pause and when paused, it will turn to play. Each word will be highlighted while reading it aloud as shown below.
You can also use the ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons to jump back and forth between paragraphs. When either of the buttons is pressed, it will resume the reading at the beginning of the next or previous paragraph.
To stop the Read Aloud tool, you can click the close button in the controls or click the ‘Read Aloud’ button again in the Word ribbon.
If you wish to changes the reading speed and the reading voice, click the ‘Settings’ button (Speaker with the gear icon) on the right.
You can also use the Reading speed slider to increase or reduce the reading speed.
To the change reading voice, click the ‘Voice Selection’ drop-down and choose one of the voices. If you are using Word 2019, or Word 2021, you will have only have three preset voices: Microsoft David, Microsoft Zira, and Microsoft Mark. If you are using Microsoft 365’s Word, you will have hundreds of different voices to choose from.
You can also control the Read Aloud tool with the following keyboard shortcuts:
- Ctrl+Alt+Space – Launch the Read Aloud tool
- Ctrl+Space – Play or Pause
- Alt+Left Arrow – Decrease reading speed
- Alt+Right Arrow – Increase reading speed
- Ctrl+Left Arrow – Jump to the start of the previous paragraph
- Ctrl+Right Arrow – Jump to the start of the next paragraph
Read Aloud in Immersive Reader mode
Immersive Reader is a built-in interactive reading tool that helps learners improve their reading skills, pronunciation, and grammar skills, regardless of their age or ability. It removes formatting and other visual distractions to provide an immersive read-aloud experience. To have text read aloud in immersive reader mode, follow these steps:
Open the document you want to read aloud, switch to the ‘View’ tab and click the ‘Immersive Reader’ button in the Immersive section.
This will open the document in Immersive mode. Now, click the ‘Read Aloud’ button in the Immersive Reader section of the ribbon.
Then, the Read Aloud controls will appear at the top left corner of the window and automatically start reading the content.
Use Read Aloud on Microsoft Word Online
If you are using a computer that doesn’t have Microsoft Office 2019, 2021, or Microsoft 365 subscription, you can still use the Read aloud feature on Microsoft Word online for free. With this method, you listen to your document anywhere on any computer. Here’s how you can do that:
Open a browser and go to office.live.com/start/word and sign in with your Microsoft login credentials.
On the Office home page, click the ‘Word’ button on the left-hand side panel.
If you already have the document that you want to listen from is uploaded to your OneDrive, open that document or create a new document. If you want to upload the document from your computer, click the ‘Upload and open…’ link.
When the document opens, go to the ‘View’ tab and click the ‘Immersive Reader’ button in the ribbon area.
This will open the document in Immersive Reader mode. Now place your cursor where you want to start the reading and click on the green ‘Play’ button at the bottom.
You can pause the reading by clicking the same button. When reading, the tool shows focus only on the line and the word that is being read out aloud as shown below.
To change the reading speed and voice selection, click the ‘Voice settings’ button next to the play/pause button. You can change the voice speed using the slider and change between male and female voices.
If you click on a word, it will show you a pictorial representation of that word for better comprehension. Also, you will see a little speaker button that you can click to listen to the pronunciation of that word.
To exit the immersive reader mode, click the back arrow (Exit) at the top-left of the window.
Moreover, using Word Online to read aloud a document will sound better than the offline version.
Use the Read Aloud in Microsoft Word Mobile App
If you are too busy with some other work like commuting or doing chores, you can still use the read-aloud feature while using Microsoft Word on your mobile device.
Open the Microsoft Word app on your mobile phone, and open a document from OneDrive. Alternatively, you can tap the ‘Open’ button at the bottom right corner of the app and select the document you want to open from your device’s local storage, Google Drive, etc.,
After the document opens up, tap/press the three dots button in the top right corner of your screen.
Then, select ‘Read Aloud’ from the menu.
Now, the playback controls will appear at the bottom of the screen and it will automatically start playing the contents of the document.
To change voice speed and voice selection, click the ‘Settings’ icon in the controls.
Note: The Read Aloud feature stops when your phone goes to sleep and you need to restart the reader after you wake up your phone. In order to keep listening to the document, increase your mobile’s display or backlight duration.
Read a PDF Aloud Using Microsoft Word
Most of the official documents come in PDF format, so listening to PDF files in Word could be useful. Here’s how you can do that.
First, open the Microsoft Word app on your device, click on the ‘File’ tab, and select ‘Open’. Or, press Ctrl+O. Then, click the ‘Browse’ button on the right pane.
And select the PDF file from your computer that you want to read aloud.
A warning box will be shown stating that the PDF file will be converted into an editable Word document and the resulting document may not look exactly the same as the original file. Here, click ‘OK’ to continue.
Then, as usual, switch to the ‘Review’ tab and click the ‘Read Aloud’ in the ribbon area.
Now, you can control the read-aloud with the playback controls just as you would do when reading a Word document.
How to Add Read Aloud Button to the Quick Access Toolbar
For quick access, you can the Read Aloud button to the Quick Access Toolbar in the upper left corner of the Ribbon in Word. The Quick Access Toolbar is customizable, you can add or remove any tool or option in there. Here’s how you can do that:
Go to the ‘File’ tab and select ‘Options’ from the backstage view
In the Word Options dialog window, click the ‘Quick Access Toolbar’ section on the left pane.
On the right pane, click the ‘Choose commands from:’ drop-down menu, and select ‘All Commands’.
Then, scroll down the list box below until you see ‘Read Aloud’. Then, select it and click the ‘Add’ button. This adds the tool to the box on the right.
After that, click ‘OK’ to apply changes.
You can then click the ‘Read Aloud’ icon in the Quick Access Toolbar to quickly launch or stop the tool.
Use Read Aloud on Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge also has a built-in read aloud feature that allows the webpage to be read aloud to you.
First, open the webpage you want to be read aloud to you and click where you want to start reading or select only the text or paragraph on a page that you want to listen to.
Then, right-click and select the ‘Read aloud’ or ‘Read aloud selection’ option from the menu.
Once you do that, the Read aloud control panel with playback controls will appear at the top of the screen below the address bar and the tool will start reading the text to you. The reading line will be highlighted in blue while the word that is being read will be highlighted in yellow. You can use the control to manage the playback.
To change the reading speed and voice, click the ‘Voice options’ button in the Read aloud bar.
Then, you can use the ‘Speed’ slider to adjust the reading speed and the ‘Choose a voice’ drop-down to change the voice to one of the hundreds of different voices and languages.
Another great thing about using Read aloud in the Edge browser is that if you choose a voice in a different language, the tool will automatically translate the content to that language and read it to you in that voice. But you will need an active internet connection for this.
For instance, if I enable the read-aloud tool on a webpage that is in English and change the voice to ‘Microsoft Joana Online (Natural) – Catalan (Spain)’. Then, the tool will translate and read this English content in the Spanish language using that voice.
Enable and Use Speak Feature to Listen to Documents
In case, you are using any Office version older than Office 2019, you can use the built-in Speak feature to listen to your documents on Word. The Speak tool is not present in the ribbon, so you have to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar or the Ribbon. Here’s how:
Go to the ‘File’ tab and select ‘Options’.
In the Word Options dialog window, click the ‘Quick Access Toolbar’ section on the left pane and then choose ‘All Command’ from the ‘Choose commands from’ drop-down menu.
Then, scroll down the list box and select the ‘Speak’ command. After that, click the ‘Add’ button to add the ‘Speak’ command to the box on the right.
Then, click ‘OK’ to apply changes.
After adding the Speak command, select the block of text in your document or select the whole document (Ctrl+A). Then, click the ‘Speak selected text’ icon in the Quick Access Toolbar to start listening to the document.