How to make your computer speak text aloud in Windows XP

This page explains step-by-step how to use Narrator, the built-in speech function in Windows XP. It is a basic screen-reading programme - it offers speech feedback for all menus and dialogue boxes, Windows Explorer and Notepad but will not speak out a whole document or web page. Most vision-impaired people will find that they require fully-functional screen-reading software (see Overview: Screenreaders and talking browsers for other options).

Turn on and customise Narrator

Step 1: Turn on Narrator

Open the 'Start' menu by clicking on the 'Start' button, or by pressing the Windows key or Ctrl + Esc.

Click on 'All Programs', or press P until 'All Programs' is selected and then press Enter. In the same manner, click on 'Accessories' (or press A), then 'Accessibility' (or press A) and finally 'Narrator' (or press N).

The 'Microsoft Narrator' dialogue box (shown in Fig 1) will appear. Narrator immediately starts talking and reads out the instructions on how to use this feature. Click on the 'OK' button or press Enter.

Fig 1'Microsoft Narrator' dialogue box

Step 2: Customise the settings for Narrator

Once you have turned on Narrator, you can select which things Narrator will read aloud and customise other options, as shown in Fig 2.

Fig 2'Narrator' window

Tick the box next to each of the options that you want to turn on by clicking on it, or press Tab until the option is highlighted and then press the Spacebar to tick it.

You can adjust the voice settings by clicking on the 'Voice' button or by pressing V.

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.

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More ways to: Make your computer talk

Overview: Screenreaders and talking browsers

An overview of third-party screenreaders and talking browsers

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