How to use Windows’ built-in speech recognition

Talking to your Windows PC instead of typing can substantially boost your productivity — if you know the right way to do it.

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It’s already built into your Windows PC. All you have to do is acquire one small piece of hardware, load the software, and learn to use it. After that, inputting text can become almost effortless, potentially enhancing your productivity substantially.

I’m talking about Windows Speech Recognition (WSR), one of the least-heralded features of Microsoft Windows. As it turns out, Microsoft has been offering speech recognition for Windows since it was included with Office XP in 2001. It became part of the operating system with Windows Vista in 2007.

User skill is a factor in the success of speech-to-text input, and you will have better results if you invest some time in learning how to talk to your PC. Learning manual typing involved a big investment in training that you have probably forgotten by now. Enhancing that skill with speech recognition will, by comparison, take much less effort — about two weeks of practice and reorientation.

Deciding what you want to say and then saying it, instead of typing it, will seem unnatural at first. But once you master it, you will find the process adds almost no effort to the overall task of composition. Moreover, composition without the effort of typing eliminates a significant barrier between you and the final product, a barrier that you may have come to take for granted.

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