How can I get a PDF to Read Aloud for free?

A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format developed by Adobe in the early 1990s to present documents in a consistent manner across different operating systems and hardware ([1]). PDFs can contain not only text, but also images, hyperlinks, videos, and interactive elements. They allow content creators to control exactly how their document looks on any screen.

PDFs are widely used for documents like ebooks, reports, flyers, forms, manuals, presentations, invoices, etc. They provide a fixed layout that retains the original formatting and cannot be easily edited by readers. This makes PDF a preferred format when creators want to preserve the integrity of their content.

There are many reasons why someone may want a PDF document read aloud to them. Some examples include:

  • Visually impaired users who rely on text-to-speech for accessibility.
  • Auditory learners who comprehend information better when they hear it.
  • Multitaskers who want to digest a document while doing other activities.
  • Non-native speakers improving their language skills through reading aloud.
  • Busy professionals absorbing reports or documents during commutes.

Text-to-speech allows PDF documents to be consumed hands-free and enables broader access to their content. The rest of this article explores the various options to get text-to-speech for PDFs for free.

Benefits of Text to Speech for PDFs

One of the biggest benefits of using text-to-speech (TTS) for PDF documents is increased accessibility for people with visual impairments or reading disabilities. TTS allows the content of a PDF to be read aloud by a computerized voice, enabling those who have difficulty reading on screens to access the information.

For those with blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or other print disabilities, TTS can be a crucial accommodation to make digital content accessible. It allows them to listen to PDF documents, articles, books, and more at their own pace. This increases independence as people don’t have to rely on others to read content aloud.

Studies show using TTS helps improve reading comprehension for struggling readers. The combination of listening while words are highlighted builds phonics and reading skills. It also reduces fatigue from decoding text, allowing readers to focus on meaning.

TTS makes absorbing long, text-heavy PDFs much easier, since listening can be less taxing than visual reading. People with mobility issues who have difficulty holding books/devices can also benefit from hands-free TTS.

Overall, TTS tools create more equitable access to information by overcoming print barriers. They empower people with disabilities to consume content independently.

Built-in Text to Speech in Operating Systems

Many operating systems come with built-in text-to-speech capabilities that can read text aloud from PDF files and other documents. This provides a free and convenient option for those needing accessible materials.

On Windows 10 and 11, the Narrator tool can read text aloud. To use it, open a PDF in an application like Edge or Acrobat Reader and select Narrator from the Start menu. You can then listen to the document.

macOS has the Speak Screen feature built into the operating system. Once enabled in System Preferences, it can read text from any app aloud. When viewing a PDF, tap the Touch Bar or a hot key to start reading.

On Chromebooks, Select-to-speak is a ChromeOS accessibility feature that can read text from web pages, documents, and more. To use it, highlight text in a PDF and select the “Read aloud” option.

Many Android phones also have built-in screen readers like Select-to-speak and Voice Assistant that can read text from apps aloud. Turn these on in Settings > Accessibility.

Third-Party PDF Readers with TTS

In addition to built-in text-to-speech capabilities in operating systems, there are many third-party PDF reader apps that offer TTS functionality. Popular options include:

Adobe Acrobat Reader – Adobe’s PDF reader has a built-in “Read Out Loud” feature that will read the text in a PDF aloud. This can be accessed by going to View > Read Out Loud in the top menu. You can customize the reading speed and voice.

Foxit PDF Reader – Foxit offers a free PDF reader for Windows that includes text-to-speech capabilities powered by the speech engines SAPI 4 and SAPI 5. You can control reading speed, volume, and more.

NVDA – NVDA is a popular open source screen reader program for Windows that can also read PDF files aloud using text-to-speech. It is designed specifically for the visually impaired.

These PDF readers allow you to leverage text-to-speech to have any PDF read aloud on Windows devices. They offer more robust TTS options and customization compared to built-in text-to-speech.

Online Text to Speech Tools

There are many free online text to speech (TTS) tools that allow you to convert text from PDF files and other documents into natural sounding speech. Some popular options include:

NaturalReaders provides a free online TTS tool that supports PDF conversion. You can simply upload a PDF document and have it read aloud with NaturalReader’s realistic AI voices. It also allows you to customize speed, volume, and pitch.

TTSMaker is another free web-based text to speech tool that works for PDFs and other documents. It supports over 100 languages and offers voice customization options.

The TextMagic text to speech tool allows you to convert typed or pasted text into speech. You can also upload PDF and Word documents. It uses natural sounding voices and comes with adjustable playback speed and volume controls.

These online TTS converters provide a quick and easy way to get any PDF or text document read aloud for free without any software downloads required.

Browser Extensions for TTS

One popular option for getting text-to-speech functionality for PDFs in your browser is using a browser extension. There are many Chrome and Firefox extensions that can read text aloud, including PDFs and webpages.

Some top options include:

Read Aloud – This Chrome extension can read PDFs, webpages, Google Docs, ebooks, and more aloud using natural sounding voices. It’s customizable with voice speed and highlight options.

Voice Aloud Reader – Another popular Chrome extension that reads PDFs, webpages, and documents aloud with natural voices. You can highlight text as it’s read and customize speed.

The benefit of using a browser extension is it works across any website or PDF you view in Chrome/Firefox. The downside is it only works within that browser. But extensions provide a quick, easy way to add text-to-speech to your browser.

Text to Speech Mobile Apps

Mobile apps provide a convenient way to get text-to-speech functionality on your smartphone or tablet. Some popular free text-to-speech apps for Android and iOS include:

  • Voice Aloud Reader ( Allows you to import PDFs, ePubs, and other documents for it to read aloud. Customize speed, pitch, etc.
  • NaturalReader ( Features natural-sounding voices and adjustable playback. Can also convert text from photos to speech.
  • Narrator’s Voice ( Offers high-quality voices in multiple languages. Options to highlight text as it’s read.

These apps allow you to get the benefits of text-to-speech easily on mobile. They can read documents, web articles, emails, and more aloud using synthesized voices. Some key features include playback speed control, highlighting, voices in different languages, and more. The apps are free to download but may include in-app purchases or ads.

Tips for Best TTS Experience

To get the best results from PDF text to speech, it’s important to optimize the PDF document for accessibility. Here are some tips:

  • Use built-in PDF accessibility features like tags, alternate text, and logical reading order. This helps screen readers and text-to-speech engines understand the structure and content of the PDF. See Adobe’s guide on creating accessible PDFs.
  • Avoid scanned PDFs of printed documents. Scanned pages are just images to a screen reader, so the text cannot be read aloud. When possible, create PDFs using the source document rather than scanning.
  • Simplify the PDF layout and formatting. Very complex layouts with multiple columns can be confusing. Remove unnecessary text boxes, shapes, and images.
  • Use a simple, easy-to-read font like Arial or Verdana at 12pt size or higher. Avoid thin, tightly spaced, or decorative fonts.
  • Add hyphenation and increase spacing between words and lines for better pronunciation.
  • Correct any OCR errors if the PDF was created by scanning. Incorrect words negatively impact text-to-speech.

By optimizing PDF accessibility, the text-to-speech experience will be much smoother and more natural sounding. The PDF content will be easier to understand when read aloud by a screen reader or text-to-speech engine.

Limitations of PDF Text to Speech

While text to speech technology has improved greatly, it still has some limitations when reading PDF files aloud. One major limitation is accuracy of optical character recognition (OCR). OCR software attempts to identify text in image-based PDFs, but it often struggles with complex formatting and unusual fonts. According to Docsumo, OCR accuracy rates are typically around 70-90% on clean printed documents, but can be much lower on PDFs with poor image quality or complex layouts (

Another disadvantage of relying on OCR is that any recognition errors will be read aloud verbatim. As noted by GeeksforGeeks, OCR works well for printed text, but still has trouble precisely converting stylized fonts and handwriting ( So creative text formatting like callouts and speech bubbles may not convert properly to speech. Overall, the more visual design elements on a page, the higher likelihood of garbled or nonsensical TTS output.

Finally, PDFs with multiple columns, images, tables, and other complex layouts can pose a challenge. The text order may not flow logically for TTS, which could impact comprehension as passages are read out. Proper formatting and structure is key for an optimal text to speech experience with PDF files.


Reading PDFs aloud can greatly expand accessibility for people with vision impairments or reading difficulties. With built-in screen readers, free PDF readers, browser extensions, websites, and mobile apps available, getting text-to-speech for PDFs is easy and often completely free.

The best options provide natural-sounding voices, customization of speech speed and volume, highlighting of words as read, and text selection capabilities. Look for TTS tools optimized for reading long-form content like books and articles for the best experience.

While text-to-speech technology has limitations and may not always provide perfect pronunciation, it can enable anyone to convert text from a PDF into an audiobook. With a small amount of testing, you can find the right tool to make PDFs more accessible across devices.

To summarize, anyone can get PDFs to read aloud for free through built-in screen readers or third-party software. While the technology still has room for improvement, TTS offers an invaluable service today in empowering people to hear previously inaccessible content.

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