How to get Excel to speak to you - reading out the contents of cells
Part two of a three-part series of blogs

Deep within its bowels Excel contains a feature allowing it to read out the contents of cells (you can also get your VBA macros to talk to users). This blog goes to those deep places hidden within Excel!

  1. Getting Excel to answer back!
  2. Getting Excel to read out cell contents (this blog)
  3. Getting Excel VBA to speak to you

Posted by Andy Brown on 12 August 2013

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Getting Excel to read out cell contents

To get Excel to read out your cell contents, you must first customise the quick access ribbon (or display the Excel 2003 toolbar, which is even easier).

Preparing to listen to Excel 2007/2010

In Excel 2010 (Excel 2007) is nearly identical, first right-click on the quick access toolbar:

Customise quick access toolbar

Right-click at the top left of Excel (above the ribbon) and choose this option.

In the dialog box, choose to display All Commands (presumably the implication is that getting Excel to speak isn't popular!):

Select All Commands

Click on the drop down arrow and choose the option shown above.

Find the commands beginning with Speak, and double-click on each one you want to transfer into the quick access toolbar:

The 5 commands to make cells speak

Double-click on any command to transfer it over to the right-hand side.

When you've finished, select OK:

The customised toolbar

Here we've transferred all 5 tools to the right-hand side.

 

You should now be able to use any of the 5 tools:

The 5 speaking tools

See below for what these 5 tools mean.

 

Preparing to listen to Excel 2003

In Excel 2003 it's much easier.  Just right-click on any toolbar, and choose to show the Text to Speech toolbar:

Text to speech toolbar

Select this toolbar to display it.

 

This toolbar has the same tools as shown for Excel 2007/2010 above, but they're all on one toolbar and the icons are better!

The speak cells tool

Here someone is about to click on the Speak Cells tool.

 

What the various speak cells tools do

Here's what the 5 tools do:

Tool caption What the tools does
Speak Cells Tells Excel to read out the selected cells.
Stop Speaking Tells Excel to stop doing this.
By Rows Reads down the first column, then down the next, etc.
By Columns Reads across the first row, then across the next, etc.
Speak On Enter Tells Excel to read out all cells' contents until you say otherwise!

Be careful - the last tool is a toggle, and until you turn it off Excel will read out cell contents every single time that you press ENTER to type something in, which can be annoying!

Two serious examples

Here's an example of how you might use Excel to read out numbers, so that you can cross-check them on a piece of paper:

Selected cells to speak

Select the cells as shown, make sure that you're speaking by columns, then click on the Speak Cells tool.  Excel will read out each row in turn, with the title and then the number.  It pronounces OMGS oddly!

 

If you're typing in a set of numbers, you might tell Excel to speak the contents as you enter them into cells:

Reading phone numbers

Remarkably, for this example not only will Excel not read out any brackets or spaces, but it will also begin with the words Area Code!

 

As mentioned in the hint above, don't forget to turn Speak On Enter off once you've finished with it by clicking on the tool again to toggle the feature off.

Slightly less serious examples

Here are a few more phrases to try:

Some words to try

Tongue-twisters are boring: Excel pronounces them right every time!

 

So now you've mastered getting Excel to speak to you, it's time to get VBA to do the same!

  1. Getting Excel to answer back!
  2. Getting Excel to read out cell contents (this blog)
  3. Getting Excel VBA to speak to you
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