Free speech recognition software built into Windows 7 and 8.


Many of us in the past have used speech recognition software such as Dragon naturally speaking, in fact many PC’s came bundled with this software and it was also readily available on magazine CD or for download. Over the years and with upgrading to newer computers many of us have lost our copies of Dragon Naturally Speaking or speech recognition software. Many have purchased this software and have the CD somewhere, but when moving or since last installing it on an old computer have no idea where the CD is.


I like to use a speech recognition program like Dragon sometimes. For example, if I have written something on paper and I need to get it into the computer, I find it easier to read it aloud rather than typing it.


I had just such an occasion this week, and without my copy of Dragon I was kind of stuck (using my laptop over the Christmas break). So I thought I would see if there is any free stuff on the web that I could try. That’s when I discovered that Windows 7 has speech recognition built in, and it is easy to use for dictation. You need a microphone (and it needs to be connected before you start), but if you have that its really easy to get going.


To turn on speech recognition, click the Start button (bottom left corner by default), choose the “Help & Support” option and type in “Set up Speech Recognition” or just “Speech Recognition” to see how to set it up. You can also access the speech from Start, All Programs, Accessories, Ease of Access, Windows Speech Recognition.


I set it up and did not train it at all. It did a remarkably good job even so. I spoke clearly, at a moderate pace. Yes, it had problems on some words, I found I needed to be in a quiet room with the microphone quite close and had to pronounce words clearly. But all in all it was a surprisingly good experience. This have progressed a long way since the old software that you needed to spend weeks training.


After you've got your microphone and voice profile set up, you can use Speech Recognition to do the following:


Control your computer. Speech Recognition listens and responds to your spoken commands. You can use Speech Recognition to run programs and interact with Windows.


Dictate and edit text. You can use Speech Recognition to dictate words into word-processing programs or to fill out online forms in a web browser. You can also use Speech Recognition to edit text on your computer.


It not quite as good as the latest version of Dragon naturally speaking, which seems to be able to recognize almost normal speech at normal speed. The Windows built in speech does not have all the commands or abilities of Dragon but the fact that it’s built into Windows and Free is a good point, Dragon costs between 50 and 150 pounds depending on which version you use.  


For the Apple Mac


Open System Preferences and navigating to Speech > Speech Recognition. Once there, click the On radio button for "Speakable Items." You will notice a small round window pop up that has a microphone in the middle.


Next, select Settings and ensure that the correct microphone input is selected. If your Mac has a built-in microphone, it will be selected by default.


By default, the tool is activated by holding the Escape key while you say a command.


Finally, ensure that the listening method is set to "Listen only while key is pressed." You can leave all of the other options as their defaults, or play around with them to adjust to your liking.


Next, find the small bubble with the microphone that appeared when you turned on Speakable Items. This is the Speech Recognition window that will detect and provide hints to your speech commands.


Try this first command:

Hold your Listening Key while saying "What Time Is It?" Then release the key.

Your Mac will respond by telling you the time.


Press and hold the Listening Key, then say "Open Speech Commands Window." You can also press the small downward facing arrow in the Speech Recognition window and select "Open Speech Commands Window."


This window contains all of the speakable items that you can use with your Mac. Your Mac can do Address Book commands, General Speakable Items, and Application Switching.


If you need help or have any questions about your computer please give me a call or send me an email for FREE advice.

Bruce@mirax.org or Telephone 05 61 60 84 23.