Read Mode or Reading Layout in Microsoft Office

Some Versions of Office Feature an Optional, Darker Screen Setting

Read Mode in Microsoft Office 2013
Read Mode in Microsoft Office 2013. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Some versions of Microsoft Office feature an alternative to the usual screen most of us draft documents in. For some readers, this dedicated reading view is easier on the eyes. So if you need to read long documents in Microsoft Office, check out Read Mode.

This Read Mode or Reading Layout provides a different experience thanks to a darker screen layout and background color. Here are tips and tricks for getting the most out of this Read Mode for Office 2013 or later versions, or Reading Layout view for previous versions of Office.

  1. Launch a program such as Word and open a document with plenty of text so you can see how this alternative view handles a longer document. Note that not all Microsoft Office programs feature Read Mode or Reading Layout. 
  2. Click View - Read Mode in Office 2013 or later versions, or View - Full Screen Reading Layout in previous versions.
  3. While in this alternative mode, look for additional features. For example, in Word, you can find Tools in the upper left of the screen, such as Search with Bing (this allows you to search the web for anything you've highlighted within the document). Another example is the Find tool, which you are likely familiar with in the normal mode of Office programs. While not all editing features are available in this mode, these select tools can come in very handy. 
  4. To get out of Read Mode or Full Screen Reading, just click View - Edit Document in Microsoft Word. In earlier versions, you can try clicking Close in the upper right of the user interface.

Tips

  1. Some documents feature a Read-only Mode. This is a security feature because it allows you to open that file in a protected mode. It also can prevent changes to the document. The Read Mode view is what you see when you open this kind of protected file. It allows you to make minor changes to the overall layout and to read the file's content more easily. 
  2. Keep in mind that many documents you download from the online open in Read Mode by default, so you have likely seen it before. The following customizations can help you get the most out of this helpful view.
  3. In Word 2013 or later, you can customize the page background color for Read Mode depending on lighting conditions. Go to View - Page Color. I personally tend to favor the Sepia page color tone.
  4. These later versions of Office also offer the optional Navigation Pane in this view, which means you can navigate to different headings and such within your document. This is a great tool in this view, since most people using Read Mode do so because they are reviewing a longer or more complex document.
  1. These reading options also allow you access to Comments, which are handy for collaborating on documents with others. Look for Comments under the Tools or Options menu, once you are already in the reading screen.
  2. Finally, you can also customize how many pages show up on the screen. Go to View - Page Width and change this setting from the default to Wide if you want fewer pages on the screen or Narrow if you would like to see more.

You may also be interested in how to adjust text size to improve your reading experience: Customize the Zoom or Default Zoom Level in Microsoft Office Programs.