How to set up speech-to-text in Windows 10

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

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Are you ready to start dictating your documents and text using just your voice? Instead of offering separated dictation or speech-to-text capabilities, Windows 10 conveniently groups its voice commands under Speech Recognition, which interprets the spoken word across the operating system for a variety of tasks. We’ll teach you how to get everything ready, as well as how to enable speech-to-text in Windows 10, so you can start chatting away to your favorite OS and improve Windows’ “ear” for your voice.

Note: Speech recognition is only currently available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.

Finding a mic

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The first step is to make sure you have the right hardware for speech-to-text options. These days, you may not think much about this step — after all, nearly all devices today come with built-in mics.

The problem here is one of quality. While built-in mics work well for more simple tasks — such as Skype conversations and quick voice commands — you have to consider distortion and mic quality if you really want to capitalize on speech-to-text. In the past, Microsoft has warned that its speech-recognition features are best suited for headset microphones that interpret sounds with greater clarity and are less susceptible to ambient noise. If you’re serious about using speech recognition for Windows 10, it’s a good idea to pick up a headset that is compatible with your computer.

If you are going to buy hardware, do it sooner rather than later, as the speech features tend to work best if you don’t switch devices after training. If you do decide to get a new mic, follow these steps to make sure Windows knows you want to use it over any previous microphone you may have had:

Step 1: Using the Windows 10 search box, type in microphone. This will allow you to go directly to the Set up a microphone section of your Control Panel.

Step 2: Windows will ask you what the problem with using Cortana is. Select Cortana can’t hear me.

Step 3: From the list that appears, choose your new microphone. Then select Set up the mic.

Step 4: Follow the on-screen prompts and repeat the spoken phrases to help calibrate your microphone for speech-to-text.

Setting up speech recognition

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With your mic ready, it’s time to start configuring your various speech-recognition capabilities. In Windows 10, this is a more seamless process than it has been in the past. These steps and tutorials will affect an array of Windows programs, but you may also want to make sure dictation is enabled in any writing apps that you prefer to use. Begin with the steps below.

Step 1: Open Windows 10’s Control Panel by searching for it in the Windows search box.

Step 2: Click the menu for Ease of Access, and then click Start speech recognition. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your microphone.

Step 3: You can set up document review if you want, though it’s worth reading the privacy statement that goes along with it before making that decision.

Step 4: Decide whether you want speech-to-text to be activated with a keyboard or vocal command and click Next. Use the reference sheet to familiarize yourself with commands you can make and continue through the other preferences. You can also run the tutorial to give you an idea of how it all works.

You should now be ready to go. You can enable or disable speech to text by pressing Ctrl + Windows key at any time.

Training your computer and more

At this point, you can venture into Windows docs and use speech-to-text with a variety of Microsoft files. You’re all set! However, you may want to improve Windows’ voice-recognition capabilities even further. Microsoft’s latest software has the ability to learn your voice with a little training, and that can really pay off after a few sessions.

Configure speech recognition Windows 10

Step 1: Navigate back to the Ease of Access menu and select Speech recognition.

Step 2: Choose Train your computer to better understand you.

Step 3: You will be given the task of reading out extended sequences of text to help Windows better understand your voice. By the end of it, it should have a better grasp of your particular accent and vocal traits.

Also, note the option at the bottom of the speech-recognition menu that allows access to the Speech Reference Card. This gives you all the vocal shortcuts you need to get around in a small side screen/printout. It’s a great tool for beginners who also want to control programs and software commands with their voices.

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