Using a pen and paper is so yesterday. The same goes for typing. Come on people: We’ve been hunting and pecking for more than 100 years! Where’s the progress? Our thoroughly modern civilization deserves a progressive method for data input. If you haven’t already embraced the speech-recognition features baked into Windows 7, it’s about time that you did. The future is now. Let us show you the way.
1. Take Control
To get started with Window’s 7 speech recognition, open your Start menu and click the Control Panel button. Now, select the Ease of Access group and open up Speech Recognition (below).
2. Set Up Your Microphone
While you could elect to start using Windows 7’s speech recognition without any preparation, we advise against it. If you’ve dabbled with voice-based computing before, you know that while the technology has made leaps and bounds, it’s still pretty far from perfection. In order to save your sanity and have the best experience possible, it’s essential that your microphone is set up correctly. From the Configure Your Speech Recognition window, select Set up Microphone.
You’ll be asked to select what microphone you want to use. Depending on the type of microphone you choose, the Microphone Setup Wizard will suggest the optimum distance and configuration for you to use. You’ll then be given the opportunity to set your audio level.
3. Teach Your Computer to Understand You
Now that you’ve taken the time to set up your microphone, it might be worthwhile to ensure that your computer can understand what you’re saying. Look to the Configure Your Speech Recognition window once again and select Train Your Computer to Understand You. In doing so, you’ll be walked through a tutorial that spoon-feeds you a number of phrases. By speaking each of the phrases into your microphone, you’ll give Windows 7 the information it needs to understand the commands that you’re no doubt keen to give it.
Work your way through the tutorial and adjust your speech and diction as needed. It might be a pain having to alter the way you speak to meet Windows’ needs, but it’s not nearly as painful as having your operating system do something contrary to your wish every time you issue a voice command.
4. Use a Cheat Sheet
Your PC might understand you, but do you speak its language? Using Windows 7’s speech-recognition features goes a lot smoother if you know how to boss around the application. Fortunately, Microsoft has put together a handy guide to get you started (above). The guide includes information on a number of topics, including common speech recognition commands, dictation, keyboard commands, and how to enter special characters or punctuation marks.
To access the cheat sheet, turn to your Control Panel’s Speech Recognition pane and click Open the Speech Reference Card. The reference card is printable, and we suggest you print it. After all, there’s no shame in using training wheels until you can ride a bike on your own, right? Same goes for computing reference material.
5. Put It All Together
Now that you’ve rented the hall and hired the band, it’s time to make your PC’s speech-recognition software dance. From the Speech Recognition pane, select Start Speech Recognition. You’ll once again be walked through the selection and setup of your microphone (above)—after all, practice makes perfect. You’ll also be asked whether or not you’d like to use Window 7 speech recognition’s manual or voice-activated modes. For a full-on Star Trek computing experience, we suggest giving voice activation a try. That’s about it; have fun and welcome to the future!