Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object

You can create alternative text (Alt Text) for shapes, pictures, charts, SmartArt graphics, or other objects in your Office document. Alt Text helps people with visual impairments understand pictures and other graphical content. When someone uses a screen reader to view documents, they will hear Alt Text; without Alt Text, they will only know they've reached a picture without knowing what the picture shows.

You can use the procedures in this article to help you learn how to add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object.

In this topic

Excel 365, Outlook 365, PowerPoint 365, and Word 365

Add alt text

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text.

      Excel Win32 Edit Alt Text menu for shapes
    • Select the object. Select Format > Alt Text.

      Alt Text button on the Outlook for Windows ribbon.

    Note: To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

  2. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.

    Alt Text dialog in Word for Windows

Mark visuals as decorative

If your visuals are purely decorative and add visual interest but aren't informative, you can mark them as such without needing to write any alt text. Examples of objects that should be marked as decorative are stylistic borders. People using screen readers will hear that these objects are decorative so they know they aren’t missing any important information. You can mark your visuals as decorative in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

  1. To open the Alt Text pane, do one of the following:

    • Right-click an image, and then select Edit Alt Text.

    • Select an image, select Format > Alt Text.

  2. Select the Decorative check box. The text entry field becomes grayed out.

    Word Win32 Alt Text pane for decorative elements

Toggle Automatic Alt Text on and off

If you don't want automatically generated alt text to be added to inserted pictures, you can turn off the automatic alt text option. If you change your mind later, you can just as easily turn it back on.

  1. Select File > Options > Ease of Access.

  2. In the Automatic Alt Text section, select or unselect the Automatically generate alt text for me option, and then select OK.

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Excel 2019, Outlook 2019, PowerPoint 2019, and Word 2019

Add alt text

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text.

      Excel Win32 Edit Alt Text menu for shapes
    • Select the object. Select Format > Alt Text.

      Alt Text button on the Outlook for Windows ribbon.

    Note: To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

  2. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.

    Alt Text dialog in Word for Windows

    Tip: Save time and add an alt text generated by the system to the object. In the Alt Text pane, select Generate a description for me. In the Make Office work smarter for you dialog, select Turn on. Then edit the automatic alt text to better suit the content.

Mark visuals as decorative

If your visuals are purely decorative and add visual interest but aren't informative, you can mark them as such without needing to write any alt text. Examples of objects that should be marked as decorative are stylistic borders. People using screen readers will hear that these objects are decorative so they know they aren’t missing any important information.

  1. To open the Alt Text pane, do one of the following:

    • Right-click an image, and then select Edit Alt Text.

    • Select an image, select Format > Alt Text.

  2. Select the Decorative check box. The text entry field becomes grayed out.

    Word Win32 Alt Text pane for decorative elements

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Excel 2016/2013, Outlook 2016/2013, PowerPoint 2016/2013, and Word 2016/2013

  1. Do one of the following:

    • For a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object, right-click the object, click Format Object, Format Picture, Format Chart Area, or other, and then click Alt Text.

      Click Alt Text in the object pane

      Note: The pane where you click Alt Text is dynamic and the title and lists change depending on the object you click.

      To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of theSmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

    • For an Excel PivotTable, right-click it, point to PivotTable Options, and then click Alt Text.

  2. In the Description box, enter an explanation of the shape, picture, chart, PivotTable, SmartArt graphic, or other object. This box should always be filled in.

    Tip: If you don't want Alt text, either remove the words from the alt text Title and Description boxes, or don't fill them in.

  3. If you want, in the Title box, enter a brief summary. This box should only be filled in if you are entering a detailed or long explanation in the Description box.

    Note: Unless you have a complex chart, you will usually want to enter text in just the Description box. When you have complex content to describe, then filling in the Title field is useful so reading the full description is not necessary unless desired.

Notes: 

  • If you frequently add alternative text to shapes, pictures, charts, SmartArt graphics, or other objects, you can add the Alt Text command to the Quick Access Toolbar to create a shortcut to it.

  • To use the Alt Text command on the Quick Access Toolbar, select the shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object, click the toolbar button, and then add your alternative text.

  1. In the upper-left corner above the ribbon, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar Button image .

  2. Click More Commands > Choose commands from > Commands Not in the Ribbon.

  3. Click Alt Text > Add.

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Excel 2010, Outlook 2010, PowerPoint 2010, and Word 2010

  1. Do one of the following:

    • For a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic object, right-click it, click Format object, and then click the Alt Text pane.

      To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

    • For an Excel PivotTable, right-click it, point to PivotTable Options, and then click Alt Text.

  2. In the Description box, enter an explanation of the shape, picture, chart, PivotTable, SmartArt graphic, or other object. This box should always be filled in.

  3. If you want, in the Title box, enter a brief summary. This box should only be filled in if you are entering a detailed or long explanation in the Description box.

    Note: Unless you have a complex chart, you will usually want to enter text in just the Description box. When you have complex content to describe, then filling in the Title field is useful so reading the full description is not necessary unless desired.

Notes: 

  • If you frequently add alternative text to shapes, pictures, charts, SmartArt graphics, or other objects, you can add the Alt Text command to the Quick Access Toolbar to create a shortcut to it.

  • To use the Alt Text command on the Quick Access Toolbar, select the shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object, click the toolbar button, and then add your alternative text.

  1. In the upper-left corner above the ribbon, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar Button image .

  2. Click More Commands > Choose commands from > Commands Not in the Ribbon.

  3. Click Alt Text > Add.

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In this topic

Excel 365, Outlook 365, PowerPoint 365, and Word 365 for Mac

Add alt text in Excel 365, PowerPoint 365, and Word 365 for Mac

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text.... The Alt Text pane opens.

      Edit Alt Text option in the context menu in PowerPoint for Mac
    • Select an object. In the ribbon, select the object's Format tab, and then select Alt Text.

      Alt Text button on the ribbon in PowerPoint for Mac

    Note: To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

  2. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.

    Alt Text in PowerPoint for Mac

Add alt text in Outlook 365 for Mac

  1. Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text.... The Alt Text pane opens.

    Note: To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

  2. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.

    Alt Text in Outlook for Mac.

Add alt text to an Excel PivotTable

  1. Right-click a PivotTable, and select PivotTable Options....

  2. In the PivotTable Options... dialog, select Alt Text.

    PivotTable Options in Excel for Mac context menu.
  3. In the Alt Text tab, type a title for the PivotTable in the Title text box.

  4. In the Description text box, type 1-2 sentences to describe the table and its context to someone who cannot see it. Once you're done, select OK.

Alt text dialog for an Excel PivotTable.

Mark visuals as decorative

If your visuals are purely decorative and add visual interest but aren't informative, you can mark them as such without needing to write any alt text. Examples of objects that should be marked as decorative are stylistic borders. People using screen readers will hear that these objects are decorative so they know they aren’t missing any important information. You can mark your visuals as decorative in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

  1. To open the Alt Text pane, do one of the following:

    • Right-click an image, and then select Edit Alt Text.

    • Select an image, select Format > Alt Text.

  2. Select the Decorative check box. The text entry field becomes grayed out.

    Mark as Decorative check box selected in Word for Mac Alt Text pane.

Toggle Automatic Alt Text on and off

If you don't want automatically generated alt text to be added to inserted pictures, you can turn off the automatic alt text option in PowerPoint and Word. If you change your mind later, you can just as easily turn it back on.

  1. Press Command+, (Comma). The preferences window opens.

  2. Select General.

  3. In the Automatic Alt Text section, select or unselect the Automatically generate alt text for me option.

Go to top

Excel 2019, Outlook 2019, PowerPoint 2019, and Word 2019 for Mac

Add alt text

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text.... The Alt Text pane opens.

      Edit Alt Text option in the context menu in PowerPoint for Mac
    • Select an object. In the ribbon, select the object's Format tab, and then select Alt Text.

      Alt Text button on the ribbon in PowerPoint for Mac

    Note: To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of the SmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

  2. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.

    Alt Text in PowerPoint for Mac

    Tip: Save time and add an alt text generated by the system to the object. In the Alt Text pane, select Generate a description for me. In the Use Intelligent Services? dialog, select Turn on.

Add alt text to an Excel PivotTable

  1. Right-click a PivotTable, and select PivotTable Options....

  2. In the PivotTable Options... dialog, select Alt Text.

  3. In the Alt Text tab, type a title for the PivotTable in the Title text box.

  4. In the Description text box, type 1-2 sentences to describe the table and its context to someone who cannot see it. Once you're done, select OK.

Alt text dialog for an Excel PivotTable.

Mark visuals as decorative

If your visuals are purely decorative and add visual interest but aren't informative, you can mark them as such without needing to write any alt text. Examples of objects that should be marked as decorative are stylistic borders. People using screen readers will hear that these objects are decorative so they know they aren’t missing any important information. You can mark your visuals as decorative in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

  1. To open the Alt Text pane, do one of the following:

    • Right-click an image, and then select Edit Alt Text.

    • Select an image, select Format > Alt Text.

  2. Select the Decorative check box. The text entry field becomes grayed out.

    Mark as Decorative check box selected in Word for Mac Alt Text pane.

Go to top

Excel 2016, Outlook 2016, PowerPoint 2016, and Word 2016 for Mac

  1. Do one of the following:

    • For a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object, right-click the object, click Format Object, Format Picture, Format Chart Area, or other, and then click Alt Text.

      Click Alt Text in the object pane

      Note: The pane where you click Alt Text is dynamic and the title and lists change depending on the object you click.

      To add alt text to the entire SmartArt graphic or chart, click the border of theSmartArt graphic or chart, and not an individual shape or piece.

    • For an Excel PivotTable, right-click it, point to PivotTable Options, and then click Alt Text.

  2. In the Description box, enter an explanation of the shape, picture, chart, PivotTable, SmartArt graphic, or other object. This box should always be filled in.

    Tip: If you don't want Alt text, either remove the words from the alt text Title and Description boxes, or don't fill them in.

  3. If you want, in the Title box, enter a brief summary. This box should only be filled in if you are entering a detailed or long explanation in the Description box.

    Note: Unless you have a complex chart, you will usually want to enter text in just the Description box. When you have complex content to describe, then filling in the Title field is useful so reading the full description is not necessary unless desired.

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