What is immersive reader and how can it help with Outlook email?

Use Outlook.com's immersive reader to make emails easier to read

Use immersive reader mode for Outlook.com email and read your messages without distractions.

If you use outlook.com for your email and you access it with a web browser, there is an option to switch from the standard view to immersive reader. Let’s take a look at what this offers.

Normally when you visit outlook.com to read your email it has a four column display:

  1. The folders are on the left
  2. A list of emails is in the second column
  3. The third column shows the currently selected email
  4. The last column shows an advert with free Outlook accounts

The display is a bit messy and you may find it hard to focus because of all the distractions. It is even worse if your eyesight is not so good and you are on a laptop with a small screen.

Outlook email in a browser
This is how Outlook.com normally looks

Fortunately, there is an alternative view available that makes it easier to read email messages. You can even have the computer read them for you.

Outlook immersive reader

Select an email and either right click it in the inbox or click the three dots in the menu bar at the top, and select Show immersive reader.

Outlook.com immersive reader
An email with immersive reader – stripped of everything but text

The whole browser window is then used to display that one email message. Only the text is shown and everything else, such as to/from and subject headers, images and so on, are all hidden. This makes reading the email a lot easier and there are no distractions.

Listen to emails

If you don’t want to read the email, you can have it read to you. Down at the bottom of the screen is a play button to begin reading. Click it and turn up the speaker volume.

Outlook.com immersive reader

Right next to the play button is a gear icon. Click it and you can choose between a male and female voice, and the speak at which it talks. Drag the slider to adjust the speed.

Customise the view

Click the aA in the top right corner and a panel opens that enables you to customise the view. The text size is set with a slider and there is an on/off switch for wide or narrow line spacing.

Customise Outlook.com immersive reader

There are two fonts to choose from and six themes which set different colour combinations.

Parts of speech

The middle icon is an odd one and a collection of on/off switches highlight parts of the text, such as syllables, nouns, verbs and adjectives. It colour codes everything so these items stand out in the text.

Outlook.com immersive reader

Is there a reason or use for this? It is hard to imagine what it might be used for.

Line focus

The third icon in the top right corner is Line Focus. It dims the whole text except for a line or small number of lines in order to focus your attention.

Outlook.com immersive reader

A lot of these features could be accessibility options for people with poor eyesight. The one feature I could not find which would make it even more useful is an option to jump to the next or previous email.

As it is, you can view a single email in immersive mode and then return to normal view. You would need to select the next message and select immersive mode again to continue. If only there was a keypress to read the next message. Perhaps it will come in an upcoming update.


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