Read-aloud PDFs

September 23, 2009

Are you aware that PDF documents are readable by your computer? You can listen to any PDF instead of reading it!

In Adobe Reader, go to the View menu, select Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud. Once it’s activated you can go to the same menu and select what you want read (entire document or just this page).

The read out loud option works best with PDFs that have been tagged. According to Adobe Acrobat’s Help:

In tagged PDFs, content is read in the order in which it appears in the document’s logical structure tree. In untagged documents, the reading order is inferred, unless a reading order has been specified in the Reading preferences.

Read Out Loud uses the available voices installed on your system.

If you can’t hear a voice, check your audio settings: Control Panel > Sound and Audio Devices > Audio tab — make sure what you’re listening with (e.g. a headset) is selected as the Default device for Sound playback. And check that you haven’t muted or lowered the volume!: Control Panel > Sound and Audio Devices > Volume tab.

If you don’t like the voice or its speed, you can change it here:  Control Panel > Speech > Text to Speech tab. However, the default voices in Windows are pretty horrible — if you really want to get into ‘text to speech’ listening, consider purchasing some better voices.

See also:

[Links last checked July 2009; prices correct as at July 2009]


  1. You might also consider linking to Apple’s article about setting up and configuring VoiceOver options on Mac OS X: http://www.apple.com/accessibility/voiceover/, and Festival for Linux: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/TextToSpeech, for people who don’t rely solely on Windows.

  2. […] PDF’s have been able to talk to you for some time; see my blog post about getting a PDF to ‘read’ to you: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/read-aloud-pdfs/ […]

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