Did you know you can issue commands to Windows? You can tell the operating system to open applications, dictate text, and perform many other tasks. This can be done through Cortana, or you can use the speech recognition built directly into Windows 10 and 11 in order to speak to any supported version of Windows.
Once you teach the operating system to understand the sound of your voice, it will respond to your commands. This is a feature that is especially useful to users with disabilities who cannot use the mouse and keyboard, but it is also available for anyone to use. There is even a built-in reference guide to show you what commands you can use.
Windows also offers a dictation feature that you can use to create documents, emails, and other files using the sound of your voice. Once the dictation is active, you’re able to dictate text as well as punctuation marks, special characters, and cursor movements.
Both features work similarly in Windows 10 and 11, however, there are some differences in the look and layout of the dictation window. Let’s check out how to use speech recognition and dictation in Windows.
Activate Online Speech Recognition
In order to use speech recognition in Windows 10, you will first need to enable online speech recognition. This can be done if you open Settings > Privacy > Speech and enable Online speech recognition.
While this is required in Windows 10, it is only optional in Windows 11. If you want to enable this feature, head to Settings > Privacy & security > Speech and turn on Online speech recognition.
To address any privacy concerns you may have about this feature, read the Microsoft Privacy Statement(Opens in a new window), which describes how it works.
How to Use Dictation
Open an application in which you want to dictate text, such as Notepad, WordPad, Microsoft Word, or Mail. To trigger the dictation, press the Windows key + H.
If you’re using Windows 10, you will see the rectangular dictation window appear at the top of the screen with a message indicating that it is listening.
For Windows 11 users, the square dictation window appears at the bottom of the screen, also with a message to tell you that it’s listening.
When you start speaking, Windows is smart enough to handle certain tasks automatically, such as capitalizing the first word of a sentence. You can then dictate punctuation and start a new paragraph by saying “period,” “comma,” “new line,” “new paragraph,” or whatever other action you need Windows to take. Here are the punctuation characters and symbols you can dictate, according to Microsoft:
If you make a mistake, simply undo it by saying “Undo that.” Your recent word, phrase, or sentence will then be removed. If you stop speaking for a few seconds, the dictation will stop listening. You can also pause the dictation on your own by saying “Stop dictation,” or by clicking the microphone icon. Click it again to start the dictation again.
Now, let’s say you finished writing and need to edit the text to correct mistakes or change certain words. You can edit by voice, though the process is more cumbersome than using your mouse and keyboard. But if you know the right phrases, you may want to try it out. Here are the editing commands you can dictate, according to Microsoft:
How to Use Speech Recognition
Speech Recognition is another option if you want to control Windows 8.1, 10, or 11 with your voice. To set this up, open Control Panel in icon view and click the Speech Recognition applet. Choose the Start Speech Recognition link to set up the feature.
The first screen for setting up speech recognition explains what the feature does and how it works. Click Next, then choose whether you are using a headset, desktop, or standalone microphone. Click Next to see information on how to properly place your microphone.
Click Next again and read the sentence aloud to make sure the speech recognition feature picked up the sound and volume of your voice. Click Next, and if your voice was properly detected, the screen will tell you the microphone is set up and ready to use.
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Click Next and decide if you want the speech recognition feature to examine the documents and email messages in your Windows search index. This helps the feature better understand the words you typically use. If you’re OK with this, click Enable document review. If you’re concerned about privacy issues, click Disable document review. Click Next.
Click Next, then make a decision on Activation Mode. Select Use manual activation mode if you want to turn on speech recognition by clicking the microphone button. Choose Use voice activation mode to start speech recognition by saying “Start listening.”
Click Next to view a Reference Sheet listing all the commands you’re able to issue with your voice. Click the View Reference Sheet button to open and read a web page with all the voice commands. Looking for what you can say? These voice commands(Opens in a new window) work in Windows 10 and 11.
Click Next, then choose whether you want Speech Recognition to automatically load each time you start Windows. Click Next to get a chance to learn how to use the feature. Click Start tutorial to get a built-in lesson or click Skip tutorial to bypass this part.
If you chose to run the tutorial, an interactive web page pops up with videos and instructions on how to use speech recognition in Windows. The Speech Recognition control panel also appears at the top of the screen.
You can now start talking to your computer or customize the speech recognition tool. Return to the Control Panel and open Speech Recognition. Click the Advanced speech options link to tweak the Speech Recognition and text-to-speech features.
If you right-click on the microphone button on the Speech Recognition panel at the top of the screen, a pop-up screen will appear. From this menu, you can access different features and configure various options.
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