Immersive Reader is a reading support tool built into many Microsoft 365 programs, including Word, OneNote, Powerpoint, Teams and Edge. The tool provides a set of features that can be used to make a text document easier to read, particularly, but not only, for people with literacy difficulties.
The exact features provided within Immersive Reader can vary between programs, but are generally drawn from: text-to-speech, coloured themes, a choice of fonts, size and spacing for text, grammar, line focus and picture support. The Microsoft Immersive Reader web page has a table giving a summary of which features are available in which programs.
We will use Word Online to show the features available in Immersive Reader. Bear in mind that the Online version of a program usually has more features than the desktop version.
Click on 'View', then 'Immersive Reader' to get into Immersive Reader.
Click on the Play button at the bottom of the screen to read the text. You can vary the speed at which text is read back, but note that you only have a choice a Female and a Male voice. Immersive Reader provides continuous reading of text, which can be paused, but it does not easily allow for reading a single 'difficult' word or phrase.
You may be able to change the voice by right-clicking within the document and choosing 'Read Aloud', then 'Voice Options', but you will not be able to use a Scottish voice.
Clicking on the Text Preferences icon provides various options:
The Immersive Reader tool has been a fantastic addition to Microsoft programs, over recent years, providing easy access to a set of generally excellent and useful tools to support learners with reading difficulties, and raising expectations with regard to the assistive tools that should be available in all applications.
Immersive Reader can be confusing, with some tools not available in every program, different ways of accessing the tools and new features being added on an almost weekly basis, but we would encourage people to explore the various Microsoft programs and see what is available. Have a look at the various videos in the resources, below, to get an overview of the tools available in different programs.
Immersive Reader isn’t always going to be the answer for somebody with reading difficulties trying to access text with technology, so there will always need to be a ‘back-up plan’ allowing use of a general-purpose text-to-speech program, such as NaturalReader or ATbar for Windows to read text. Similarly, if somebody needs a coloured background for reading text in a PDF, or an ePub, it may be possible to change the page colour, but it may be necessary to use a screen overlay program such as ssOverlay. (We recognise that some PDFs can be converted into Word documents, and read with Immersive Reader, but this doesn’t always work.)