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Stop Reading PDFS: PDFs Can Read to YOU!

By Erik Bean
Adobe PDF files abound and for most active business professionals, community minded people, and for much of Americana, not a day goes by when one of these Pdf's talkdocuments fly in and out of our busy computer hands. But for most of us, we would rather use our hands for other tasks, such as getting our office work done, keeping up with house chores, not to mention poor tired eyes, that can’t wait to catch forty winks. There is a reason Adobe calls their software “Reader.” PDF files can read aloud!


Think of the possibilities?  Textbooks, novels, speeches, articles, newsletters, magazines, for example, can read themselves!  Local Detroit area college students have been taking advantage of the PDF read aloud feature for a few years now. One reason students use the talking feature is the proliferation of PDF textbooks.


Monroe Community College (MCC) student Mandi L. Davis, a digital media major just started enjoying the benefits of using the read aloud feature. While it may seem a novelty, says Davis, she occasionally has a PDF read to her while getting ready in the morning or going to bed at night.


Jeff Pierce, Washtenaw County Community College (WCCC) student said, "Using the PDF voice, I presented an alien-creature character I developed for my Broadcast Arts Scriptwriting class-- with haunting results."


Enabling your computer to read a PDF file takes only a few keystrokes. Software? You will need Acrobat Reader 7.0 or above. To enable the reading option, follow these steps:


  1. Open your PDF file.
  2. Scroll down to a page you wish to have read to you.
  3. From the View menu, scroll down to "Activate Read Out Loud" 
  4. Then repeat step 3 and choose either "Read This Page Only"
    or "Read the Entire Document"
  5. Now let your PDF read to you!


Adjust Voice!

  1. From the Edit menu scroll down to "Preferences"
  2. Select "Reading”
  3. Set pitch to "1"
  4. Set Words Per Minute to 150
  5. Select male (Microsoft Sam) or female voice
    (Microsoft Michelle)


The computer like Microsoft voice is a little robotic, but the next time you are at home and want to jump into your PDF while having dinner or working out, consider having your textbook read to you! Click here to download a copy of this article and hear it for yourself! Finally, better, more humanlike voices are available, but they start at approximately $40. To obtain these AT&T “Natural Voices” visit Nextup.com.


For those interested in other reading tools for your computer, visit ReadPlease.com.  Portable Document Format (PDF) originally was created to allow for better printing capabilities. If your current version of Microsoft Word does not have a save as PDF feature, visit Microsoft.com today for a free download.


Monica Hardy, also from WCCC said, “I use the reader when I clean my room. I comprehend the required reading by listening.” So rest your weary eyes. Set your laptop on your counter or desk or even on your car seat and let your computer serve a more audible purpose. Then you can multi-task with the best of the Millennium or Generation Next!

Thank you to our guest blogger, Dr. Erik Bean.
ErikBean2015Serving both industry and academia, engagement expert Erik Bean Ed.D. is a recognized leader in customer experience strategic planning and measurement and helps companies and institutions of all sizes improve both written and visual communications. As a scholar, Erik holds a doctorate in education with research interests in immediacy and customer experience. He is the author of several peer reviewed books including Social Media Writing Lesson Plans and Rigorous Grading Using Microsoft Word AutoCorrect: Plus Google Docs published by Westphalia Press, Washington, D.C. and Using WordPress for Writing Projects via Brigantine Media, Compass Division, St. Johnsbury, VT. Erik is an associate professor of arts and humanities at American Public University and regularly teaches enterprise marketing and business communications in the Detroit area for Cleary University, Henry Ford College, and Wayne County Community College. 

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