Microsoft 365 continues to innovate throughout its suite of products, and one of its newest tools is a big win for inclusivity. The little-known tool is called Immersive Reader, and it’s already baked into some of the most popular Microsoft 365 apps, including Word, Outlook, and Teams. It’s a powerful tool in all three applications, but its uses in Teams are what takes the tool to an entirely new level.
We shared a little about Immersive Reader in a recent tech tip to our email subscribers, but we wanted to take a closer look in today’s blog post. Here’s what this tool can do, plus how to enable it.
Immersive Reader: What It Is
Immersive Reader is a free tool built by Microsoft Education that’s designed to make content more accessible to all kinds of people. The tool was designed with students in mind, but many of its functions translate into business use cases as well.
Immersive reader is already built into many Microsoft apps, including at least these:
- Office Lens
- The Edge browser
- Minecraft: Education Edition
We know, the last entry isn’t getting a lot of use at your business. But many of the others likely are. And anything Immersive Reader can do for students and learners, it can do for your employees, clients, and customers.
What Immersive Reader Can Do
We’ve covered what Immersive Reader is, but what can it do? In short, a lot. It feels like the Microsoft Education team went above and beyond with this feature, and it’s exciting that Microsoft has pushed it out as widely as it has. Microsoft Education explains all the functions in this whimsical video, and we’ll cover the most business-relevant ones below.
Low vision employees and those with a reading disability will benefit greatly from Text Playback, which plays back just about any text in a natural, easy to understand voice. Users can control speed of voice playback, too.
Sometimes, reading is far easier with more spacing, a different font, a different text size, or even a different background color. The Text Options box allows you to remove visual distractions from the text and format it in a way that’s easier to read.
Readers who struggle to focus or retain their place at line transitions will appreciate Line Focus, which darkens all but the current set of one, three, or five lines.
Perhaps the most technically impressive and business-relevant feature is Translation. Microsoft has connected its impressive translation engine to the Immersive Reader tool, allowing users to translate a message into their primary language (or that of their target audience). For many supported languages, translated text can even be played audibly using the Text Playback feature. The video linked earlier demonstrates just how smoothly this works, and it’s deeply impressive.
How to Enable Immersive Reader
In most apps that support Immersive Reader, you simply navigate to the View menu or ribbon section and click Immersive Reader. Once you check the box, the tool is enabled.
In Teams, Immersive Reader works a little bit differently. You need to enable it on specific pieces of content. To do so, hover over a message or post (or tap from a touchscreen device). Select More Options (or the ellipses icon), then Immersive Reader. This action will bring up a menu full of options, including Play, Text Options, Parts of Speech, Translation, Line Focus, and Picture Dictionary.
Microsoft 365 and Teams in particular were already impressive tools for collaboration and getting work done. Now, with Immersive Reader, that work is accessible to an even wider range of people.
For a closer look at Immersive Reader and its integration throughout Microsoft 365, reach out to our team today.