Kathleen Colburn

How to Read PDFs on an iPad

I recently came across a great workaround for reading PDFs on an iPhone or iPad, which is something I’ve frequently heard people ask about. Our blog post a few months back explained how to take a photo with an iPhone or iPad and use Snapverter to convert it to an accessible PDF. But then how do you read that PDF if you’re still working on that device, and haven’t switched over to a computer or Chromebook? Read on for a few possible answers to this question.

Apple provides many built-in accessibility features on its devices like Macs, iPads and iPhones, and a few of these can be used to read aloud text on your device’s screen, including accessible PDFs. These features are Voiceover, Speak Selection and Speak Screen. All of these items can be accessed by opening  Settings  on your device, and then going to  General  Accessibility. To get to the  Speak Selection  and  Speak Screen options, go to  General  >  Accessibility  >  Speech.

Voiceover  – This setting allows you to read any text on the screen by simply tapping it. When using this setting, it’s necessary to adjust the way you actually select an item – tap once to hear the item read, but tap twice to actually open it, activate it, etc. You can even swipe down with two fingers from the top of your screen, and Voiceover will read down the entire screen. This is great for reading through a whole PDF in your Google Drive or on the web.

Speak Selection – This setting might be more ideal for reading words or paragraphs here and there on a PDF, since it requires highlighting the specific text you want to hear first. With this setting enabled, just press and hold on some text and a blue outline will appear over it. You can resize the blue outline to include the amount of text you want read, and then you’ll see the option to Speak.

Speak Screen –  The Speak Screen setting enables a small, floating toolbar on your screen with Play, Pause and other controls to use for screen reading. Just turn on Speak Screen and then swipe down with two fingers, and this will bring up the Speak Screen toolbar. In addition to Play, Pause, Forward and Rewind buttons, there are also controls to adjust the reading speed right from the toolbar. And it can be minimized and re-positioned anywhere on your screen (see image below).

So these are just a few helpful accessibility features on iPads and iPhones that allow users to hear text read aloud, including accessible PDFs. If you’ve ever used Snapverter to snap a photo and quickly scan it to PDF format on your mobile device, now you also have a way to read that PDF right on the same device. This pairs well with using Read&Write for iPad to read your emails, Google Docs, Notes and Safari webpages on the iPad.

Do you have other apps or tools you use to read PDFs on your devices? Or other ways you use the iOS Accessibility features? Let us know in the comments section below!


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