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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Rob Woodgate Rob Woodgate
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.
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