Windows 8 speech recognition: Talk to me — How would you like to start programs, open menus, dictate text, or write and send email without ever touching the keyboard or the screen? Well, Windows 8 speech recognition lets you do just that, at no extra cost, with its built-in speech recognition. By the way, I wrote this post without ever touching the keyboard.

To set up Speech Recognition you need to make sure that your computer has a microphone. Most newer computers that have a built-in camera, also have a microphone. If you want even better clarity, I highly recommend a headset with a microphone to cut out background noise.

Getting Started

To start Speech Recognition, just search for those two words in the Settings area. You will be presented with a screen where you can start Speech Recognition, setup your microphone, take a speech tutorial, train your computer or print a list of common voice commands.

Windows 8 speech recognition

First click or tap Speech Recognition from the Settings list. This will start a wizard that will walk you through setting up your microphone. Then you will be asked to let the computer review your documents and email to learn some of the words and phrases you use regularly.

You will also be asked if you want to use manual or voice activation mode. In manual mode you will have to start voice activation by clicking the microphone button or pressing Ctrl + the Windows key. Voice activation mode allows you to activate or deactivate the speech recognition mode by simply saying “start listening” or “stop listening”.

The wizard will also prompt you to take an interactive speech recognition tutorial. As you go through the tutorial, the voice recognition mode is already active, so you can just say “next” to get to the next screen.

When the computer is listening, an audio meter with a blue microphone reads, “Listening”. If something was said that the computer didn’t understand, the microphone turns orange and the screen reads, “What was that?”

Windows 8 Speech Recognition listening

Need more? Access additional options by simply saying, “Show Speech Options.” Anytime you need to find out what commands to use, say, “What can I say?”

The speech recognition wizard will also walk you through the basics of dictation and how to make corrections.

Windows 8 Speech Recognition OptionsBesides being excellent for dictation, you can use Speech Recognition for all keystrokes like backspace, down arrow, and end. You can even use it for keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl + home—just say “press control and home”.

Using Speech Recognition to start programs and to make menu choices can really save time when you get used to it instead of typing commands. You can even use it to perform tasks. For example, you can say “click” or “double-click”.

If you are still using Windows 7, don’t fret. Did you know the Speech Recognition in Windows 7 is very similar to the one in Windows 8? If you want to try using voice recognition techniques in either Windows 7 or Windows 8, be sure to take the tutorial and print out the list of voice commands.  It will take a little practice, but in the end it’s pretty useful.

Sandy Berger
Sandy Burger, based in Pinehurst, N.C., is a veteran tech journalist and regular contributor to Tech Page One. As senior editor at, Sandy covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected]
Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger
Tags: Software,Technology
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