If you work with digital documents a lot, there have likely been times when you’ve gotten tired of staring at a screen and reading so much. Perhaps you’ve wished you could just listen to what they say instead. Well, there are actually a few different ways to have your computer read your documents to you.

There are both built-in tools and third-party software that can do this. This guide will cover an online tool that should work for all systems, as well as solutions specifically for Mac and Windows. This way you can have documents, or pretty much any text for that matter, read aloud on any device.

Online text to speech tool

To have text read aloud to you on any desktop system, you can try out Natural Reader’s free online text to speech.  If you want to have documents read to you on mobile devices, there are apps like Voice Aloud Reader for both Android and iOS.

To use Natural Reader you can either copy and paste text directly into the text box, or click on Open Documents and upload one of a variety of different file types to be read aloud, including PDF, TXT, and DOC files.

Once the text that would read to you has been entered or the document uploaded, you can click  the Play button at the top of the page to begin the reading. You can also click on the voice drop down box to select from a wide variety of voices and languages, as well as the drop down box next to it to change reading speed.

With the free version there’s a 20 minute limit on reading time for the premium voices, but there are two free voices that can be used for an unlimited duration.

Text to speech on macOS

There are two ways you can have things read to you that are already on Mac systems. The first is with Preview, the other is macOS’s Text to Speech keyboard shortcut. To have Preview read to you, you’ll first need to open a document file in it, such as a PDF.

Once you’ve done this, highlight the section that you want to be read aloud, or go to the Edit menu and click on Select All to select the entire document. Now click on the Edit menu, then go to Speech and click on Start Speaking. When you want to stop the reading, go to the Edit menu and then Speech again and click on Stop Speaking.

To be able to select and have any text read aloud by your Mac, you can set up the Text to Speech hotkey in System Preferences. To do this, click on the Apple menu in the top left, then on System Preferences. From here, click on Accessibility and then on Speech in the pane to the left. Now click to check the box by Speak selected text when the key is pressed. You can change the key setting and any voice options that you wish and then exit the Accessibility settings. Now you simply select text anywhere on your Mac and press the key shortcut to have that text read to you

Text to speech on Windows

Windows has a similar text to speech feature known as Narrator. You can set it up through the Ease of Access settings. To do this is in Windows 10, go to Windows search by the Start menu and start typing in Settings, then click on the entry when it comes up. Once in Settings click on Ease of Access and then from there click on Narrator in the left pane.

From the Narrator settings you can turn on Narrator which will likely bring up a window explaining changes that have been made to the keyboard layout so that it’s more like other screen readers. You can check the checkbox next to Don’t show again and then click OK to prevent this from coming up again. Then Narrator Home will come up which will explain how Narrator works and can take you to guides and settings.

With Narrator activated it will automatically read what’s on screen as you go to things as you go to them. You can press Ctrl to make Narrator stop reading at any time. To have Narrator read text from a certain point on a document, double-click on the word where you want to start and a blue square should outline the word. Then press Caps Lock + R to have the text be read aloud from that point. As Narrator is designed as an accessibility tool there are a lot of different settings you can tweak, such as what is read, how much detail is given, reading speed and much more.

If this seems a bit too complicated or tedious to deal with and you want a simpler way to have your computer read documents to you, Adobe Reader may be what you’re looking for.

After downloading and installing it if you don’t already have it, open the document you want to be read in Adobe Reader. Once it’s open, click on the View menu and then go to Read Out Loud and click on Activate Read Out Loud.

With the Read Out Loud feature activated, you can click on a section of text in the document and it will begin reading through a single paragraph. A progress bar showing how far you are through the selection may appear. For more options go back through the View menu to Read Out Loud where you can click either Read This Page Only to have the page you’re on read aloud, or Read to End of Document to read through the entire document from the current page.

Once you’re done you can return to the menu once again and click on Deactivate Read Out Loud. If you prefer, you can also use the key shortcuts rather than going through the menu each time. Ctrl + Shift + Y activates Read Out Loud, Ctrl + Shift + V reads the page you’re on, and Ctrl + Shift + B reads to the end of the document from the page you’re on. You can pause reading with Ctrl + Shift + C, stop it with Ctrl + Shift + E and deactivate by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Y again.

That does it for this guide on having your computer read documents to you. Now you should be able to use text to speech no matter what system you’re using.

About The Author

Ryder Lund

Since he was young Ryder has been drawn to technology and had a knack for working with and learning about it. He often ends up being tech support for friends and family because of this, so it feels natural to him to help out others by writing guides on how to use it. He enjoys living in the Pacific Northwest where he is close to both nature and the bustling tech hub of the Seattle area.