It is possible to control your computer through a microphone with voice commands
Few people realise that Windows 7 and Vista have a speech-recognition capability. With a microphone plugged in, this means you can control a computer by simply talking. It may sound far-fetched but this dictation tool is surprisingly accurate, allowing the user to carry out all sorts of tasks using only voice commands. In this manner you can navigate documents, operate dialogue boxes, flip between different windows and so on. Here’s how it works.
How to set up voice recognition
First, ensure a microphone is plugged in to the correct socket on the PC. This is usually a dedicated 3.5mm connector or USB port – check the PC’s manual for details. Most laptops have mics built in. Now click the Start button and choose Control Panel. Click the Ease of Access link and, at the next screen, click Speech Recognition (Speech Recognition Options in Vista). Then click the Start Speech Recognition link to set up your PC to recognise voice commands.
If this is the first time the speech-recognition feature has been used, Windows will start a wizard to lead you through the setup process. At the first dialogue box, click Next and choose your mic type from the list – a headset is best because they pick up less noise, but the other two kinds should work just as well in quiet domestic situations. Make your choice and click Next.
Windows may advise you on how to position the microphone for best results. Click Next and at the next screen you will be asked to read out a sentence so Windows can configure the microphone volume. Speak so the level meter at the bottom reaches the green bar but doesn’t extend into the red, when pick-up will be distorted. Click Next to continue.
Turn on audio recognition
When the mic is set up properly, click Next. Windows will offer a chance to improve the accuracy of its speech recognition by allowing the PC to pore over the documents and emails stored in its search index: click Enable Document Review and click the Next button. At the next screen, Windows 7 users can select ‘Use voice activation mode’ radio button – this will allow the speech-recognition feature itself to be turned on and off using voice commands. Then click Next.
Windows will give you the chance to see a handy reference sheet of voice commands – click the button to open it in a new window and click the Print button at the top to create a hard copy of the information if you want. Regardless, we’ll explain how to open variations on this set of commands later on, using your voice. Close the window by clicking the little ‘x’ at the top right-hand corner and then at the next screen, click to place a tick next to ‘Run Speech Recognition at startup’ and click Next. Finally, click the Start Tutorial button.
Voice control tutorial
The Windows Speech Recognition Tutorial will launch. This is split into four main sections: Basics (the fundamentals of starting, stopping or pausing the service), Dictation (editing text, navigating documents, opening menus and so on), Commanding (starting and closing programs, for example) and Working with Windows (which explains how to navigate round the operating system itself). As Speech Recognition is active, just say ‘Next’ to get started.
The tutorial takes 30-40 minutes to complete: it’s worth the effort because the accuracy of Windows’ speech recognition will be improved. But if you’re keen to get started straight away, close the tutorial (by clicking the red cross at the top right).
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