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Control Your Computer and Dictate with Windows Vista Speech

One of the coolest features of Windows Vista is the speech recognition software. It’s actually usable!

Do anything with only your voice

Vista lets you easily control your entire computer, with nothing but your voice. You can control windows, open/close programs, dictate text, and even browse the web. It’s quite powerful.

Dictation – When your cursor is somewhere that accepts text (like Microsoft Word), you can simply speak. The words are then typed into the program.

Commands – The program recognizes a variety of special commands to manipulate the cursor, windows, and other things on your computer. You can start & stop speech recognition by saying “start listening” or “stop listening.” You can manipulate program menus by saying the names of the menus: “file,” “print.” The coolest command might be “show numbers.” When you say this, Vista overlays every clickable element on the screen with an opaque box and a number. Click one by saying it’s number and “OK.”

Corrections – Whenever Vista doesn’t quite understand you, it usually asks for clarification. It shows the “Alternatives Dialog,” which displays a list of things you might have said. You can say the number of the correct item, say what you meant again, or even spell your words to the computer. The spelling feature could be handy for crazy legal terms or popular names.

No training required

I know there are some people who swear by Dragon Naturally Speaking. But, unless I’m mistaken, Dragon requires a long and intensive training process for the user and computer. This definitely raises the speech bar for many of us.

In contrast, Vista requires no training to start controlling your computer with your voice. I went through a 5 minute tutorial and then started dictating. That’s a fairly low learning curve.

With that said, I have drastically reduced my errors by doing the “improve voice recognition” exercises. I spent about 30 minutes reading to the computer, one phrase at a time. It was painless, and Vista actually includes tips for using the software in the exercises. So I trained the computer and myself at the same time. Aside from that, I have only used this feature for a total of 1-2 hours (not contiguous).

Great supplement to keyboard and mouse

I wouldn’t advocate throwing away your keyboard and mouse (yet, anyway). But I definitely think this technology has potential for many people. We all do a lot of typing, from emails to work documents to blog posts. And if dictation could be quicker than typing (which I think it can), it’s a viable alternative. Wouldn’t like to sit back, talk to your computer, and get your work done?

An awesome use for this technology is for disabled people, or those who can’t type well. There are keyboards specially designed for one-handed typing, but good speech recognition might be easier for people.

See for yourself

To help show why I’m pumped about Vista’s speech recognition, I made a short screencast to demonstrate. In this video, I basically demonstrate dictation and correction techniques.

View the video here. It’s about 3 minutes, 45 seconds long; the file is 6 MB.

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9 Responses to “Control Your Computer and Dictate with Windows Vista Speech”

  1. Editor at TopLawStudent.com
    March 18th, 2007

    Wow. Very cool. This video demonstration you made is excellent. I am amazed how easy it is to use speech commands in Vista.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    March 18th, 2007

    I’m glad you liked the video. 🙂

    I’m amazed with Vista’s speech abilities as well. I’m really hoping to use them for my daily computer activities. The only holdup is that I’m usually in the room with other people. Typing doesn’t disturb them, but talking to my computer would.

    Take care,

  3. The Frugal Law Student
    March 18th, 2007

    Great screen cast. I hope you plan on doing more of them. Vista looks awesome. Maybe if I get a nice paid internship I’ll fork over the money to upgrade.

  4. Andrew Flusche
    March 18th, 2007

    Good luck with your internship hunt. Job searching is definitely not a fun part of law school.

    I absolutely plan on more screen casts. I’ve finally learned how to make them fairly easily. There are some things just best illustrated with a little video.

    By the way, I wouldn’t have Vista, except that my laptop died, so I had to get a new one, and it came with an upgrade for Vista.

    Thanks for commenting,