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How to Read a PDF on a Mac Using VoiceOver

Did you know you could get PDFs read to you using your Mac’s VoiceOver feature? Learn how to enable VoiceOver below.

What is VoiceOver?

Every Mac is equipped with accessibility features. One of them is VoiceOver, a built-in screen reader that converts text to speech and talks users through actions like editing a video or building a presentation. 

You can use VoiceOver to have the content of PDFs read to you out loud. 

How to turn on VoiceOver

To start making use of this accessibility feature, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu button on the top left.
  2. Choose System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.
  4. Choose VoiceOver.
  5. Check Enable VoiceOver.

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command+F5 to enable VoiceOver.

Once VoiceOver is turned on, you can customize the settings to make it work for you. To learn more, we recommend checking out A Beginner’s Guide to Using macOS with VoiceOver.

Read a PDF with VoiceOver

Now that you’ve enabled VoiceOver, you can use it to have PDFpen to read PDF documents to you out loud. Here’s how:

  1. Open a document.
  2. Choose Edit > Speech > Start speaking. The reading begins.

Alternatively, you can select a portion of the document—for example, a paragraph—to be read out loud. First, select the text, then choose Edit > Speech > Start speaking and PDFpen will read the selected area.

Note: PDFpen does not have an assigned keyboard shortcut for starting/stopping text-to-speech, but you can create your own. We teach you how over here.

Why VoiceOver matters

VoiceOver was designed for those who are blind or have low vision. It makes everything visually abled people can do on laptops, iPads, and iPhones accessible to the visually impaired. That includes reading emails and PDFs and much more.

“It [VoiceOver] helps you make things happen. It gives you auditory descriptions of each onscreen element and provides helpful hints along the way — whether you prefer using gestures, a keyboard, or a braille display. And it supports more than 35 languages, including multiple voice options,” says Apple.

Using VoiceOver, you can do everything from editing videos to creating PowerPoint presentations without using your vision. As iPhone and VoiceOver user Scott Leason told Apple, it makes blind people independent.

You don’t have to be blind to benefit from VoiceOver, though. You can use this feature to multitask, to discover how written text sounds, or to hear the correct pronunciation in another language.

To learn how to use VoiceOver, check out Apple’s in-depth guide.