Windows has long offered a screen reader and text-to-speech feature called Narrator. This tool can read web pages, text documents, and other files aloud, as well as speak every action you take in Windows. Narrator is specifically designed for the visually impaired, but it can be used by anyone. Let’s see how it works in Windows 10.
Turn on Narrator
If you want to use Narrator, the feature must first be turned on. Click the Start button and open Settings > Ease of Access > Narrator to view the Narrator pane. Turn on the Narrator button and a message may appear explaining how the Narrator keyboard layout has been updated to more closely match your experience with other screen readers.
Click OK to dispense with this message, and check the box next to “Don’t show again” if you don’t want to see this message each time Narrator starts.
How to Use Narrator
Now, if you want to use Narrator as a helpful text-to-speech reader, you’re ready to go. You just have to turn on the functionality when inside a web page, document, or file. Move your cursor to the area of text you want Narrator to start reading. Press Caps Lock + R and Narrator starts reading the text on the page to you. Stop Narrator from speaking by pressing the Ctrl key.
Change Narrator Settings
First, let’s look at the different
Narrator settings available as you scroll down the screen.
- Open Narrator Home. This opens a “Welcome
to Narrator” screen where you can learn how to use and customize the tool and
find out about new features.
- View the complete guide to Narrator online.
This takes you a web page that offers complete information on using Narrator
with a table of contents and a description of new features.
- Allow the shortcut key to start Narrator.
If this box is checked, you can use the keystroke Win key+Ctrl+Enter to turn
Narrator on and off.
- Start Narrator after sign-in for me. This
starts Narrator after you sign into Windows with your account.
- Show Narrator Home when Narrator starts.
This automatically takes you to the Welcome to Narrator screen when the tool
- Minimize Narrator Home to the system tray.
This minimizes the “Welcome to Narrator” screen to the taskbar.
Personalize Narrator’s Voice
You can change the Narrator’s voice a number of different ways. From the Narrator settings screen, use the drop-down menu to choose which voice you want to use for Narrator.
You can also change the speed, pitch, and volume of your chosen voice through the sliders on the settings screen. Certain keystrokes can also be used to change these elements.
Additional voices can be added to Windows, including those for other languages, by navigating to Settings > Time & Language > Language. Click the “Add more voices” link, and on the next screen, click the Add voices button. Choose the language you wish to add and click Add.
Change What You Hear
By default, Narrator will speak aloud any buttons, screens, or windows you hover over or select, as well as any text on those screens. If you want to change this level, click the drop-down menu next to “Change the level of detail Narrator provides about text and controls.” For example, to hear only text and not controls narrated, select the option for Text only or Some text details.
Below the drop-down menu are additional options to check that will have Narrator emphasize formatted text, read aloud by character, use punctuation to determine pauses, and speak advanced details, like help text, on buttons and other controls.
The second drop-down menu in this section allows you to set the level of context that Narrator provides for buttons and other controls. You may want to first try the highest option, “Full context of old and new controls,” and then lower the level if you wish to hear less context. You can then set when Narrator provides details about buttons, either before or after you activate them. Next, you can try the other
three options for this section: Hear hints on how to interact with buttons and
other controls; Hear Narrator announce why an action can’t be performed; and
Hear audio cues when you perform actions.
Under the “Change what you hear when typing” section, you can determine whether you want to hear letters, numbers, words, function keys, navigation keys, toggle keys, and modifier keys as you type them.
Additional Settings to Change
Under the “Choose keyboard settings” section, you can select your keyboard layout and pick the Narrator modified key. Click the link for “Create your own keyboard commands,” and you can choose from a variety of commands to use with Narrator.
In the “Use Narrator cursor” section, you can determine how and where the Narrator cursor works and how you can control it with your mouse or keyboard. Under the “Use braille” section, you can install and set up braille software to use a braille display with Windows.
Under the “Sync my settings” section, click the “Use current settings before sign-in” button to save any changes you made to Narrator settings so they automatically apply to anyone else who uses Windows on this computer.