Reading PDF documents on Mac with VoiceOver

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

I want to share my current knowledge on achieving this. There may be better ways but this is what I know right now and it works! Follow the recipe below. It may not give you great lasagna but it will give you voiceover on any pdf file you want or need to read on your Mac!
1) Use ‘Preview’ to view the pdf document
2) Make sure you have ‘Single Page’ selected on Preview’s ‘View’ drop-down menu – You may also choose – to ‘View Thumbnails’ of the pdf pages
• Single Page view locks VoiceOver on the particular page of the pdf document you wish to read – Say, for example that you wish to start on page 47 of a 100 page pdf document
3) Choose the starting page of the pdf document you want to read

At this point you have selected your desired page and are at single-page mode on Preview and are ready to position the Voiceover cursor precisely at the point where you want VoiceOver to start reading. I currently know of 2 ways to achieve this. (These two options require VoiceOver to be active)
1) Navigate the window using ‘Quick Nav’ – Press the left and right arrow keys simultaneously to toggle Quick Nav on and off – Once Quick Nav is active, use the arrow keys to anchor the VoiceOver cursor to the precise part of the page from which you want VoiceOver to start reading
2) Navigate the window using the ‘Item Chooser’ - Activate the ‘Item Chooser with VO-I - This brings up a list on your screen on where to anchor the VoiceOver cursor to begin your reading

The underlying assumption here is that the pdf document you want to read has character recognition. No worries, No fears. Abby FineReader does a fantastic job in achieving this.
So yeah. Do it! – Learn, Grow and Prosper


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Submitted by Jim Homme on Saturday, March 24, 2018

I'm an inexperienced Mac user. I'm pretty sure I was successfully reading a PDF a couple f days ago from the Internet. I did not try to jump around in the file, though. Safari can also open local files. I'm sure I'm not telling the more experienced folks anything new.

Submitted by mestomba on Thursday, March 29, 2018

I am a novice too. I did not know that Safari could be used to read a saved pdf file. I'll check it out. I've been using Preview because it's the best option I know as of now. It has the ability to highlight text etc, which I like. I did discover the following a couple of days ago on a pdf file that voiceOver was not picking up. Here is what I did - Using Preview to read a pdf file (assuming VoiceOver is not kicking in) 1) Select the text you wish spoken 2) Click on the Edit drop down menu of Preview - Then find 'Speech' towards the bottom of the drop down menu - Then select "Start Speaking". And sure enough, voice kicked off. This second option comes in handy if voiceover doesn't activate .