5 Ways to Make Your Computer Read Documents to You

Dan Price Updated 19-08-2019

Want to know how to get your computer to read to you? Several different approaches are available. Both Windows and Mac have native tools that can read documents and MS Word files aloud, while there are bevies of third-party apps.


Want to know more? Keep reading to learn how to get your computer to read documents out loud.

Can Microsoft Word Read to You?

For many people, the main reason for getting their computer to read to them is so they can listen to an audio output of a Microsoft Word file.

It helps give your eyes a break if you’re reading something that’s dozens of pages long. And it’s also a great way to spot typos and other grammatical errors in your work.

But can Microsoft Word read to you directly? The answer is yes.

The app has its own built-in document reader called Speak; you don’t need to use your operating system’s native narrator. Better yet, you can get Word to read to you on both Windows and Mac versions of the software, leading to a seamless experience across both platforms.


How to Make Word Read to You on Windows

How to get Word to read to you.

To make Word read to you on your Windows computer, follow the step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Open the document you want Word to read.
  2. Place the cursor where you want to the Word reader to begin.
  3. Go to Review > Speech > Read Aloud.

The narration should start immediately. If not, click the Play button in the upper right corner of the window. You can also use the Speak panel to edit the speech output; both the reading speak and the voice used are customizable.

The voices available are determined by the language setting you are using in the document. To change the language of the text, use the button in the Status Bar at the bottom of the page.


How to Make Word Read to You on Mac

To get a Mac to read text from a Word file, you can use the same process as Windows:

  1. Open the document you want Word to read.
  2. Place the cursor where you want the reading to begin.
  3. Go to Review > Speech > Read Aloud.

On Mac, the playback controls and settings button appear in floating on-screen widget that you can drag around.

How to Make Your Computer Read to You

We’ve looked at how to make Microsoft Word read aloud, but what about the rest of the Windows or Mac operating system?

Both operating systems have built-in tools, but there are also some third-party apps available.


How to Get Windows to Read to You

How to make your computer read to you with the Narrator app in Windows.

In Windows, the native screen tool is called Narrator. It’s one of the Ease of Access tools. You can find it in the Start menu or by using a Cortana search.

When you use Narrator for the first time, Windows will prompt you to work through a 13-stage setup process. You can customize many aspects about the way Narrator works, including startup settings, voice settings, and custom commands. All the settings are available in Narrator’s app window.

When Narrator is running, you can toggle it on and off by pressing Ctrl + Windows + Enter.


How to Get Your Mac to Read to You

macos voice settings

A Mac can also read any on-screen text. The Speech tool available in the Accessibility Tools menu. To start it, head to Apple > System Preferences > Speech.

At the top of the window, you can choose various speaking voices. The options available are connected to the language packs you are running on your Mac’s operating system. There are also settings for speaking speed, system/app announcements, and an option to enable an on/off toggle.

Third-Party Apps to Make Your Computer Read Documents to You

If you need an app that’s capable of reading all the text within an operating system, the native tools are your best bet.

However, if you just want another document reader, a PDF audio reader, or choices for similar text-to-speech tool, there are plenty of third-party options available.

1. Balabolka

Balabolka is probably the best third-party document reader thanks to its impressive list of features. However, that also means the app is one of the least accessible for beginners.

The app supports a wide list of document types, including DOC, TXT, PDF, EPUB, and HTML. It even lets you save the audio output voice files in the various formats (including WAV and MP3), so you can share them with other people.

Finally, there’s a bookmark feature. This is handy if you’re listening to a narrator of a long document and don’t want to lose your place.

The app is only available on Windows.

Download: Balabolka (Free)

2. Natural Reader

natural reader app prices

The other widely-used text-to-speech app is Natural Reader. It has both a free and a premium version.

The free app has unlimited use, a scanner bar that lets you read any text on the screen, a built-in browser that lets you access the web and read websites aloud in a single interface, and support for DOC, PDF, TXT, and EPUB files.

If you want something a bit more powerful, you can buy the full app for $99.50. It includes two natural voices and downloadable audio files. For $199, you get unlimited OCR to read aloud from images and scanned PDFs.

Natural Reader is available on both Windows and Mac.

Download: Natural Reader (Free, premium version available)

3. eSpeak

eSpeak is an open source document reader that’s available for Windows and Linux computers.

The output is synthesized, unlike many larger big-budget apps which now use human voice recordings to sound more realistic. But on the positive side, the app is tiny—its size is less than 2MB, including all the language data. All major world languages are available, though some are still a work in progress.

Download: eSpeak (Free)

Other Ways to Read Text Out Loud

The tools we’ve discussed in this piece should be suitable for the vast majority of users. Make sure you let us know about your favorite document readers in the comments below.

If you would like to learn more about document readers and accessibility tools in general, read our articles on the best accessibility tools in Office and the best text-to-speech software for Windows The Best (Free) Speech-to-Text Software for Windows Looking for the best free speech-to-text software on Windows? We compare speech recognition options from Dragon, Google, and Microsoft. Read More .

Related topics: Accessibility, Productivity Tricks, Speech Recognition, Text to Speech.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Devin
    April 11, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I have been using WordTalk for about a year and have been very happy with it. It is free, simple to use, allows you to vary the reading speed, define shortcut keys. Just open your Word doc, click the cursor where you want to start reading, and off you go. No need to highlight text to be read, copy and paste to another program or web site.

    Unfortunately, with my upgrade to Windows 10, Office 2016 WordTalk seems to have a little trouble remembering my settings for voice, speed, keys; and this can be a little frustrating.

    Otherwise, I highly recommend it

  2. Lynne Richards
    December 8, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    I got the speak thing working - thanks - it's great - I'm writing a sci fi novel so I am enjoying hearing what I wrote - let me think better about rewrites. However, it will only read about 4 paragraphs then stops no matter how much text I highlight and select as I kick it off. Any way to adjust that?

  3. Heather Carrasco
    October 22, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I normally use narrator on windows but it is difficult to navigate through, which can be frustrating. I just needed a reader for Microsoft Word and I was not aware this was offered until now. Thank you very much for this article!

  4. Ellie
    January 30, 2016 at 11:59 am

    On the first step when you have to click on the arrow, all my arrow is saying is to move it below the ribbon?? Help please!

    • Justin Pot
      January 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      What version of Office are you using, Ellie? This article is a few years old and my not apply

  5. CA
    January 15, 2016 at 4:04 am

    Thanks so much for this information. I have been trying to do this forever to have my textbooks read to me (I copy and paste them into a doc) Then I added the Speak command. Amazing. I am so happy to be able to do this and even be able to have it talk in the background while I do other things on the computer.

    • David
      February 23, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      If your Word is an older version Wordtalk a free macro from University of Edinburgh may have greater function for you.

      • David
        February 23, 2016 at 11:12 pm

        Sorry forgot - Central Access Reader from Central Washington University will also read word documents

  6. deborah
    December 4, 2015 at 12:28 am

    my nephew is dyslexic and cant read but would like to play computer games all of which require him to read the instructions. what would you recommend for this?

  7. shivang
    November 12, 2015 at 10:29 am

    i have office 2007 and i'm not getting the speak option in the way you said please tell me what should i do

    • Justin Pot
      November 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      I think that 2007 doesn't have this feature, it's in 2010 and later. Sorry about that.

    • David
      February 23, 2016 at 11:15 pm

      The Wordtalk macro may work for you.

  8. Yara
    January 9, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    So I have Office 2013... I managed to get the speak command just fine but I'm not sure how to edit the voice settings (the speed, the pitch...etc)

    • Justin Pot
      November 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      I don't think you can change all that, sadly.

    • Jess
      November 2, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      I have office 2016. Why doesn't the speech work for me though?? I have the button but it never really glows if you get what I mean.

  9. Juan D
    November 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    dont forget libreoffice, read text extension is the one you seek

  10. faisal khan
    November 1, 2013 at 6:18 am

    what about pdf? is there anything for that because i have alot of pdf books but don't get time to read them completely.

  11. Josue A
    October 15, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I use Balabolka, have a lot of features and is small. Besides I can have it portable through Liberty key portable applications

  12. Falloo
    October 8, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Awesome, I never knew about the Microsoft word text to speech option. Thanks guys

  13. Andrew
    October 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    The best option that I have found with the highest quality is Ivona. A little bit pricey but makes everything above look like absolute rubbish.

  14. Doug D
    October 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    That "Quick Access Bar" is on 2010.

    • Jason Weiss
      October 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

      2007 also has a Quick Access Bar. But I guess 2010 was the one that added speech. Figures :)

    • Steve Costello
      October 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      When I search for "text to speech" in Word 2007, it returns that it is only available in Excel.

  15. Jason Weiss
    October 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    What version of Word has the "Speak" command? I have 2007 and it's not there.