How to make your computer speak text aloud in Windows 7

This page explains step-by-step how to use Narrator, the built-in speech function in Windows 7.

Note: The 'Ease of Access Center' has replaced 'Accessibility Options' (which was used in earlier versions of Windows) in the 'Control Panel' of Windows 7. For more information, read the Introduction to the Ease of Access Center.

Video how to guide

Text version

Making your computer speak text aloud in Windows 7

Turn on and customise Narrator

Step 1: Use Narrator now

Open the 'Ease of Access Center' window by pressing the Windows key + U, or by clicking the 'Start' button, followed by 'Control Panel', then 'Ease of Access', then 'Ease of Access Center'.

Under the 'Quick access to common tools' header, shown in Fig 1, click 'Start Narrator', or press Alt + N. This will start Narrator for current use.

Fig 1Detail from 'Ease of Access Center' window

Step 2: Set Narrator to start every time

Follow these steps to make Narrator start automatically when you log in.

Open the 'Ease of Access Center' window as in Step 1. Under the 'Explore all settings' header, click on 'Use the computer without a display', or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Under the 'Have text read aloud' header, tick the box next to 'Turn on Narrator', as shown in Fig 2, or press Alt + U to tick it.

Fig 2Detail from 'Use the computer without a display' window

Click the 'OK' button, or press Tab until it is highlighted and then press Enter.

Step 3: Tell Narrator what to read

Once you have turned on Narrator, you can select which things Narrator will read aloud, as shown in Fig 3.

Fig 3'Microsoft Narrator' window

If you want text to be read aloud as you type, tick the box next to 'Echo User's Keystrokes' by clicking on it, or press Alt + K to tick it.

If you want to have system messages read aloud, tick the box next to 'Announce System Messages' by clicking on it, or press Alt + M to tick it.

If you want to hear screen scrolls, tick the box next to 'Announce Scroll Notifications' by clicking on it, or press Alt + N to tick it.

If you want the settings box minimised at start-up, tick the box next to 'Start Narrator Minimized' by clicking on it, or press Alt + Z to tick it.

When you are finished, minimise the settings window by clicking on the 'Minimize' button on the title bar, or press Alt + Spacebar and then press N.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

Step 4: Keyboard shortcuts in Narrator

To read text from a screen, use the following shortcuts when Narrator is running.

  • Insert + F3 - Read the current character.
  • Insert + F4 - Read the current word.
  • Insert + F5 - Read the current line.
  • Insert + F6 - Read the current paragraph.
  • Insert + F7 - Read the current page.
  • Insert + F8 - Read the current document.
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