Getting Outlook 2010 to read your emails out loud


I stumbled across a feature of Outlook 2010 today and as well as being great fun it could also come in handy for people with accessibility issues so I thought I would share it

You can add a “Speak” button to the Quick Access Toolbar (or a custom ribbon) that will enable Outlook to read your email aloud

From Outlook 2010 help
The Speak feature in Microsoft Office 2010 enables text-to-speech (TTS) in OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word [Excel uses a seperate TTS system]. By downloading additional TTS engines for other languages, you can change the voice selection to hear the text read in those languages. The Speak feature will not work with Windows XP

imageThe button (AFAIK) is hidden away and not shown on any ribbon by default. To add the Speak button do the following;

  • Right Click anywhere over the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Select “Customize Quick Access Toolbar…”
  • On the dropdown command menu select “Commands not in the Ribbon
  • Scroll down to find and select “Speak”
  • Click Add
  • Click OK

Now simply select the text in an email and click “Speak” to have it read aloud. Mine comes out as a well-spoken British gentleman but this apparently changes depending on the language of your computer. It will only be able to read a language if you have the relevant TTS Engine installed (there is a download list here).

The button can also be added to the toolbar when you are reading/composing an email. Another good button to add is the “Select All” button. I have mine sitting next to each other on the Quick Access Toolbar.

It’s not perfect, especially at pausing in the right places, but it is a heck of a lot better than the robotic Microsoft Anna voice that comes with the Windows 7 Narrator program.

You might also be interested in the “Say It” desktop gadget available on the Windows Live Gallery

See how long you can use it for before you regress into childhood and start typing in swear words Winking smile

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