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How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He’s also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together. Read more.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Outlook includes an accessibility tool called “Read Aloud” that will read an email to you. This is useful for people with vision problems, but also if you prefer to hear a long passage rather than read it. You can even use it to understand how words are pronounced if you’re not sure, making it an ideal tool if you’re working in a non-native language. Here’s how to use it, and how to hide it if you don’t need it.

The Read Aloud tool is, by design, simple to use. Select the message you want to read and then click Home > Read Aloud.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

If you’ve opened the message in a separate window, click Message > Read Aloud instead.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Whichever route you use, when you click “Read Aloud” the narrator will start reading the body of the message and Outlook will display the Read Aloud controls.

You can use these controls to decide what the narrator reads and how they read it. The rewind and forward buttons cause the narrator to go back or forward a line. Because Outlook determines the start and end of a line by where the line breaks are (which generally means where the author of the message hit Return), the rewind and forward buttons usually move the narrator back or forward one paragraph. You can use the pause button to pause the narration and the play button that appears in its place to resume the narration.

The Settings button lets you choose the Reading Speed of narration and the Voice Selection of the narrator.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

These two options are persistent, so they’ll stay the same every time you use the Read Aloud tool—at least until you change them again.

To stop Read Aloud, click the “x” on the far right of the controls, or close the message. You can also use Read Aloud in a calendar event or a task by opening the item and clicking Review > Read Aloud.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Read Aloud won’t read the subject line of an email, event, or task, or any other part of an item—just the body. The narrators that are available are the only ones you can choose, although it is possible to add language packs for other languages, so if you fancy a different voice you’ve got the option to choose Australian, Canadian, Indian, UK, or US language engines.

If you don’t need the Read Aloud functionality, you can turn it off. Go to File > Options > Ease of Access and disable the “Show Read Aloud” setting.

This hides the Read Aloud button throughout Outlook and gives you just a little more real estate in the Ribbon.

Since Office 2013 and Office 365 you can have Outlook and Word read your email messages and documents to you! Speak and Read Aloud is a built-in feature of Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote. You can use Speak to have text read aloud in the language of your version of Office.

Text-to-speech (TTS) is the ability of your computer to play back written text as spoken words. Depending upon your configuration and installed TTS engines, you can hear most text that appears on your screen in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For example, if you’re using the English version of Office, the English TTS engine is automatically installed. To use text-to-speech in different languages, see Using the Speak feature with Multilingual TTS.

Add Speak to the Quick Access Toolbar

You can add the Speak command to your Quick Access Toolbar by doing the following in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote:

  1. Next to the Quick Access Toolbar, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar .
    Add Speak to the Quick Commands
  2. Click More Commands.
  3. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
  4. Scroll down to the Speak command, select it, and then click Add.
  5. Click OK.

Note: In Office 2007, the Speak command is only available in Excel 2007.

Use Speak to read text aloud

After you have added the Speak command to your Quick Access Toolbar, you can hear single words or blocks of text read aloud by selecting the text you want to hear and then clicking the Speak icon on the Quick Access Toolbar.

Microsoft Office can read aloud, talk or speak the text of documents to you. It’s possible in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote.

Computer speaking text is mainly suggested for various disabled users under the ‘Accessibility’ name. But ‘Speak’ is also useful if you’re just tired of reading the screen or are proof-reading from another document.

Officially it’s called TTS ‘text-to-speech’ and is part of Windows. Office makes use of that Windows sub-system. Configuration of the Speak/Read feature is done in Windows, as we’ll see below.

Word 365 and Word 2019 for Windows has two similar features:

Read Aloud – is a new, improved version of Speak available in the most recent Word 365 and Word 2019 releases. Read Aloud in Word 365 and 2019 in depth

Office for Mac has a Read/Speak option. Rather, the macOS has a speech feature which can be used in Office. See Make Office for Mac speak.

Vice-versa, Speech to Text

Converting what you say into text is also possible in Office – see the new Dictate add-in for Office 2013 and Office 2016.

Word Speak

Let’s look at ‘Speak’ first since it’s been in Word for some time. It’s also the same basis as ‘Read Aloud’.

You’ll find Speak on the ‘Commands not on the Ribbon’ list. The easiest choice is adding it to the Quick Access Toolbar.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Now it’s on the QAT, select some text and click the Speak button.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

A somewhat mechanical voice will talk to you.

If there’s no selection, Speak will say the current word at the cursor.

Changing Voices

The controls for Speak or Read Aloud are in Windows | Control Panel | Speech Recognition | Text to Speech.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Voice Selection – the English language options are ‘David’ or ‘Zira’ – male or female.

Preview Voice – click to hear the current voice.

Voice speed – faster or slower than the Normal setting.

Read Aloud

Read Aloud is much the same as Speak. It’s the same voice selection and settings in Windows.

What’s different aside from the name and a fresh round of Microsoft hype?

Essentially, it’s an improved interface for Speak.

‘Read Aloud’ is promoted to the Review tab.

If it’s not there, add it to the Quick Access Toolbar, as shown for ‘Speak’ above.

Click on Read Aloud and Windows/Word will start speaking the text from the cursor onwards.

New in Read Aloud is a little control panel on the top right of the document window.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Back – jumps back to the start of the current or previous paragraph.

Play / Pause

Forward – goes forward a paragraph.

Settings – change the reading speed and voice without switching to Windows.

Shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + Space will start or close Read Aloud.

We can’t find a keyboard shortcut to pause / play the talk. That seems like an obvious, if not essential, part of the feature.

Read Aloud in Read Mode

In Read Mode, Read Aloud is available from the bottom of the View menu.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Read Aloud spelling suggestions

Text to Speech is also available in other parts of Word 2016 for Windows (Office 365 subscribers).

One of the extended spell check right-click options is ‘Read Aloud’ to speak the suggested word.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Office 365 has a built-in text-to-speech (TTS) feature called Speak. This means that on top of hearing text aloud in your Outlook, you can also do it in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Simplify your Outlook with the help of email management.

The Benefits of Text-to-Speech

TTS is an obvious benefit for people with impaired vision. However, they’re not the only ones who can find value in this feature.

15-20% of the US population has a language-based learning disability, and a feature like Speak can provide access to a deeper understanding of written content. This can even extend to people who are auditory learners.

Many companies have gone paperless and instead of sending documents via the post, they now send them via email. TTS would be ideal for the elderly population as it can make their digital experiences easier.

Speaking of easier experiences, sometimes you’re just tired of looking at your screen, so why not just hear your email text instead of read it?

Adding the Speak Button to Quick Access Toolbar

To apply this feature, you first have to add the Speak button to the Quick Access Toolbar. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Click Customize Quick Access Toolbar , which you can find next to the Quick Access Toolbar.

Step 2: Click More Commands .

Step 3: Pick All Commands from the Choose commands from list.

Step 4: Scroll until you find the Speak command, select, and click Add .

Step 5: Hit OK!

Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be able to use the Speak feature to hear chunks of text read aloud. To do this, simply highlight the text you want to hear and then click the Speak button on your toolbar.

Multilingual Text-to-Speech

An estimated 43% of the worldwide population speaks a second language. If you’re someone who makes up part of this percentage, you’ll probably be thrilled to discover multilingual text-to-speech.

There are two things you need to hear the text in another language:

  1. The right speech platform for your computer
  2. Downloaded TTS engines for other languages

To hear the text in another language, you have to first download the Microsoft Speech Platform (or whichever speech platform is suitable):

  • Head to the Microsoft Download Center and down the Microsoft Speech Platform for the operating system platform you have.
  • Install the speech platform in accordance to the instructions that pop up.

Then, you have to download additional TTS language engines:

  • Choose your desired TTS language from this list and follow the installation instructions accordingly.
  • Restart your computer to ensure the changes appear.

Date: 30. Jul 2019
Author: Dinnie Muslihat
Tags: Features Microsoft Office Microsoft Outlook

Immersive Reader in Outlook for the web and Read Aloud in Outlook desktop allow you to hear the text of an email read out loud while following along. Outlook for the web also offers tools for changing the spacing of lines and words to make them easier to read, as well as tools to highlight parts of speech and syllables.

Use Immersive Reader for Outlook for the web

Log in to your account at Office.com, and select Outlook.

Select the More Options icon ( . ), then Show in immersive reader.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Using Immersive Reader

Once your document opens within Immersive Reader, you can do one or more of the following, depending on how you want to focus on the content in your document:

To hear the paragraphs read to you, select the Play button.

To listen from a certain point on your page, select that word.

Voice Options

Select the gear icon to open Voice Options.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

The Voice Speed slider controls the playback speed of the reader.

Select Voice Speed, then drag the control to the right or left. Move to the right to increase speed and to the left to decrease it.

Press Play to hear the different speeds.

Text options

You can change the appearance of your document by using Text options. The choices you make in text options can help remove visual distraction and improve text readability.

The Text Options menu lets you:

Change text size

Reduce crowding between letters

Change the font

Change background color

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Parts of Speech

Parts of Speech controls grammar highlighting and helps readers understand complex sentences.

To use, select Parts of Speech (looks like three books).

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Choose what to highlight:

Syl·la·bles splits words by showing small dots between syllables.

Under Parts of speech, turn on Nouns, Verbs, or Adjectives to highlight every noun, verb, or adjective on the page in a color that corresponds to the color of the label.

Click the Close icon to exit Immersive Reader.

Reading preferences

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Line Focus enables readers to narrow the focus of their reading experience by highlighting sets of one, three, or five lines within their chosen material in Immersive Reader. Use the toggle to turn it on or off.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Picture Dictionary gives you the ability to click on any single word and have it read aloud.
How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Translate allows you to change the language preferences.
How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Shortcut keys for Immersive Reader

Use keyboard shortcuts to navigate.

Up/Down arrow scrolls line by line

Page Up/Page Down scrolls screen by screen

Left/Right arrow goes to previous/next page in your OneNote Notebook

Esc key closes the reader or menu

Tab advances to the next control in Immersive Reader settings

Space selects the current tool

Use Immersive Reader in Outlook desktop

First, enable Read Aloud.

Open your Outlook desktop application.

Select File > Options > Ease of Access.

Select the checkbox next to Show Read Aloud.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Next, launch Read Aloud.

From an email you’re reading, select Read Aloud in the Message tab.

From a reply message window, select the Review tab, then Read Aloud.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

The reader will start reading immediately. To listen from a certain point in an email, select that word. Otherwise, the reader will begin with the first line of text in your message.

A toolbar will appear after you’ve selected Read Aloud. Select the Pause icon to stop listening.

Voice and speed options

Use the toolbar to Play, Pause, and skip to the next or previous paragraph using the arrows.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Select the settings icon to adjust the reader’s voice and playback speed:

Drag the Reading speed control to adjust reading speed. Move to the right to increase speed and to the left to decrease it. Press Play to hear the different speeds.

Use the Voice Selection dropdown menu to choose different voices for the reader. Select a voice and then press Play to hear it.

Select the X to close Read Aloud.

Keyboard shortcuts:

Use the following keyboard shortcuts for Read Aloud in Outlook:

How do I get my read aloud to work on my Outlook 2016 professional, Windows 10

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Replies (1) 

Hi Jrooney,

It’s possible that a conflict has occurred in Outlook that affects the functionality of the Read Aloud feature. Just to confirm, when does the issue has started? Were you able to use the Read Aloud feature before?

Can you also verify the Outlook 2016 client version that you’re using? See this article: What version of Outlook do I have?

If you’re able to use this feature before, then let’s try isolating the issue by launching Outlook in safe mode. This will help us identify if there are add-ins that may cause it not to work. Follow these steps:

  1. Find the shortcut icon of Outlook.
  2. Press and hold the CTRL key, and click the application shortcut.
  3. Click Yes when a window appears asking if you want to start the application in safe mode.

Note: To stop Office Safe Mode, exit and restart your Office application. It will start in normal mode unless there’s a problem opening the application.

If the issue doesn’t persists while on safe mode, you can use the instructions below to identify which add-in is causing it to happen:

  1. Click File >Option >Add-ins, then click Go in the Manage: COM Add-ins.
  2. Clear the checkbox if you’ll see any add-ins, then disable them.
  3. Close the Outlook app and relaunch it after.
  4. Check if you’ll still get the same behavior.

Make sure also that you have the latest version of Office so that you’ll have the updated features and functions of your Office applications. Check this link for steps on how to install Office updates.

Additionally, you may use the Use the Speak text-to-speech feature to read text aloud which is similar to the Read Aloud option.

If you would like me to provide additional advice, simply respond to this thread. I will get notified and I’ll reply to you as soon as I can.

What ‘Read Aloud’ feature in Office applications like Outlook does, is fairly easy to understand. It reads back to text, that’s it! Officially, this feature is a part of Windows’ TTS ‘text-to-speech’ capability and is beneficial for people suffering from hearing or visual disability. How is it configured, used and activated when not working in Outlook? We’ll see all that in this post.

Configure Read Aloud feature in Outlook

When you’re looking at mail or reading it either in the main Outlook window or an individual message, the Read Aloud button can be seen towards the far right of the Home tab under the ribbon menu.

Select the File tab and then from Backstage View, select the Options category. The Outlook Options dialog box appears displaying various options.

Select the ‘Ease Of Access’ category from the left. There, under the ‘Ease Of Access’ category, locate ‘Applications Display Options’ and under its heading, activate ‘Show Read Aloud’ feature by checking the box marked against it.

When done, press the OK button to return to Outlook.

Now, open a Message that you would like to be Read Aloud. Position the cursor to a place from where you would like Outlook to start Reading Aloud. Then, hit the Read Aloud button.

Using Read-Aloud Control Player settings, you can set the speed of the Speech. Other commands visible under the ‘Control Playeer’ include-

  1. Previous
  2. Play
  3. Next
  4. Close.

Outlook Read Aloud feature is not working

If you find Outlook Read Aloud feature isn’t working as desired then, try isolating the issue by launching Outlook in safe mode. This helps in finding add-ins that might conflict with the feature. Follow these steps.

Find the shortcut icon of Outlook. Press and hold the CTRL key and click the application shortcut to launch Outlook in Safe Mode. If prompted with a message, click ‘Yes’.

Next, choose File > Options. Select Add-ins from the left sidebar menu and hit the ‘Go’ button adjacent to Manage: COM Add-ins option.

Clear the checkbox against add-ins, if seen. This will temporarily disable them.

Now, close the Outlook app and relaunch it. Check if the erroneous behavior is resolved or persists. In most cases, it is resolved.

To exit Outlook Safe Mode, close Outlook and restart the application. It will start in normal mode unless there’s a problem opening the application.

Date: January 4, 2019 Tags: Outlook

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A post-graduate in Biotechnology, Hemant switched gears to writing about Microsoft technologies and has been a contributor to TheWindowsClub since then. When he is not working, you can usually find him out traveling to different places or indulging himself in binge-watching.

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How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

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Microsoft Outlook is a popular desktop email program used by corporations and individuals alike. The Outlook Reading Pane, also called the preview pane, helps users quickly scan messages, preview the first few lines of messages, and even break up long messages by splitting the message window.

Some users find Outlook’s Reading Pane helpful, but others aren’t fans. Fortunately, it’s easy to disable this feature.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2013, 2016 and 2019, as well as Outlook for Microsoft 365. Outlook for Mac instructions are included below, separately.

Disable Outlook’s Reading Pane

The Reading Pane is enabled by default. When you disable the Reading Pane, it turns off the pane for the currently selected email account.

Go to View and select Reading Pane.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

Select Off.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

If you prefer, select Right or Bottom in this box to reconfigure your Reading Pane.

The Reading Pane is now closed, and the message list expands to fill available space.

How to use (or hide) outlook’s read aloud tool

To turn off the Reading Pane in Outlook 2007 and 2003, select View > Reading Pane > Off.

Turn off the Reading Pane for Multiple Folders

When you select Off to close the Reading Pane, it applies only to the folder you’re currently in. Here’s how to turn off the Reading Pane quickly for multiple folders:

Open Outlook and select the View tab.

Select Change View > Apply Current View to Other Mail Folders.

Choose the folders you want to be affected in the Apply View dialog box.

The Reading Pane is now disabled in all your selected mail folders.

Turn off the Reading Pane in Outlook for Mac

These steps apply to Outlook for Microsoft 365 for Mac, Outlook 2016 for Mac, and Outlook 2019 for Mac.

Select Organize > Reading Pane.

Select Off.

Alternatively, select Right or Bottom to reposition the Reading Pane.

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