Enable Speech-to-Text and Voice Control by Setting Up Speech Recognition in Windows

Dan Price 04-01-2017

Cortana’s voice commands have been stealing all the headlines recently. She can do everything 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 Cortana can help you go hands-free on Windows 10. You can let her search your files and the web, make calculations, or pull up the weather forecast. Here we cover some of her cooler skills. Read More from taking notes to reminding you about upcoming events with nothing more than a verbal instruction.


But all the focus on Cortana has shifted attention away from another excellent Windows 10 feature Windows Can Do THIS? 15 Surprising Features You Had No Clue About Windows can do a lot more than you may think. Even if you're a veteran Windows user, I bet you'll discover a feature in our list that you never knew existed. Read More : Speech Recognition.

In this article, I’m going to explain what the Speech Recognition feature can do, how to set it up, how to train it, and how to use it.

What Can Speech Recognition Do?

Don’t let the simple name fool you. Speech Recognition is a powerful tool that’s improved a lot since Microsoft released the original version on the Vista operating system.

So, what can it do?

If used correctly it will save you a lot of time and render your mouse — and even your keyboard — useless How to Type & Click When You Can't Use a Mouse or Keyboard How do you use a computer when you're unable to use a standard mouse or keyboard? Using specially-adapted software, of course! Read More for general day-to-day activities.


The two most appealing features are its speech to text feature (i.e. dictating Word documents without ever needing to touch your keyboard) and its voice control capacity (i.e. controlling all Windows native menus and apps using nothing more than the sound of your voice). It also has a personal dictionary and macro support.

Note: Speech Recognition is only available in English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

How to Set Up Speech Recognition

At the time of writing, the Speech Recognition option is not available in the new Settings app. You’ll have to use the Control Panel Unlock Windows Potential: Control Panel Demystified If you want to be the master of your Windows experience, the Control Panel is where it's at. We untangle the complexity of this power tool. Read More . In the future, Microsoft will probably move it into the Ease of Access menu along with features such as High Contrast, Narrator, and Magnifier 7 Steps to Make Computers Accessible for the Elderly Read More .

To begin, right-click on Start and search for Control Panel > Speech Recognition. Alternatively, use the search function within the Settings app (Start > Settings).


Firstly, you need to set up your microphone. Microsoft recommends using a headset rather than your PC’s built-in one. It will reduce distortion and interference.

Click Set Up Microphone and choose which type of microphone you want to use.

windows 10 speech recognition set up microphone

Next, it will prompt you to read a sentence. You’ll notice a colored bar — you need to try and speak at a volume that keeps the microphone’s reception in the green area. Hit Next when you’ve finished.


windows 10 speech recognition set up microphone dictate

That’s the end of the initial setup, but there is a lot more to do before you’re ready to use Speech Recognition across your whole system.

Training the Speech Recognition Software

You can teach Windows to understand your voice. Strictly, this isn’t a necessary step, but if you’re planning to use Speech Recognition for dictating documents How Voice Typing Is the New Best Feature of Google Docs Voice recognition has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Earlier this week, Google finally introduced voice typing into Google Docs. But is it any good? Let's find out! Read More , it’ll help to improve accuracy and reduce the number of errors.

Head back to Control Panel > Speech Recognition and click Train Your Computer to Understand You Better.


Windows will get you to read some text, one line at a time. It’ll automatically move onto the next line when it has understood you. The app shows your progress in a green bar at the bottom of the window.

windows 10 speech recognition training

Not only does this help Windows learn the sound of your voice, but it also gives you a preliminary introduction to some of the key commands you’ll need later on.

When you’ve finished the first session, you’ll may continue with more training. The more sessions you do, the more powerful the feature will become.

Note: The software is always learning. The more you use it in any context, the better it will get.

Training Yourself

As you might expect, the list of voice commands is extensive. You need to be able to operate your mouse, choose menu items, format text, edit text, use special characters, and a lot more.

You’ll need to practice before you can ditch your mouse and keyboard entirely. Luckily, Microsoft offers a handy printable card for you to keep next to you in the early days. To find it, go to Control Panel > Speech Recognition > Open the Speech Reference Card or visit the support site.

Here is a small selection of the commands you’ll need most frequently when you’re first starting out:

  • Turn on Speech Recognition: Start listening.
  • Turn off Speech Recognition: Stop listening.
  • Show a list of available commands within an app: What can I say?.
  • Select an item or icon: Click [Start / File Name / App Name].
  • Select a word in a document: Select [word].
  • Capitalize the first letter of a word: Caps [word].
  • Put the cursor before a specific word: Go to [word].
  • Show the mousegrid: Mousegrid.

Turn On Speech Recognition

Now you’ve trained the software and understand the basic commands, it’s time to activate the feature.

Go to Control Panel > Speech Recognition > Start Speech Recognition.

The app might prompt you to read another sentence. Windows will ask you whether you want to let it review your documents and emails to improve accuracy. Some users might balk at the privacy implications, but giving it access will speed up the learning process.

windows 10 speech recognition improve accuracy

It will also ask you whether you want to use your voice or the keyboard to launch the app and if you want to run the software at system start-up. Choose the options that fit your usage pattern.

The software will load. If it’s worked, you see a small icon at the top of your screen indicating that Windows is listening for your commands.

windows 10 speech recognition on screen

The best app for practicing is Microsoft Word. Try reading a news item or song lyrics and correct any errors as you go.

Do You Use Speech Recognition?

Following the simple steps in this article should have you up and running with Speech Recognition.

As I’ve alluded to several times, the key to making it a productivity powerhouse is practice. It’s a technique that takes time for both you and your computer to learn. Don’t get disheartened in the first few days. If you stick with it for a couple of weeks, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever lived without it.

Do you use Speech Recognition on your Windows 10 computer? How long did it take for you to become a master?

Let me know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

Image Credit: Syda Productions via

Related topics: Accessibility, Speech Recognition, Speech to Text, Voice Commands.

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  1. Thomas Chapo
    July 6, 2019 at 12:18 am

    It would be nice if the Windows program had the ability to allow the user to tap into the computer's audio section and chose the system's audio source. Many programs already allow this to happen. Next, it would be nice if the program then could output the words to a text file in Notepad. From there the user has many options as to what they would want to do with the text file. That would allow the program to more useful to the computer user other than just controlling the computer's actions.

  2. Donna
    July 14, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for this article, it's really helpful.
    Can you recommend a free way to take an audio file and get a text transcript of its contents? I'm hearing impaired and need to record training sessions as I'm unable to both lipread and take notes. However, I find it very hard to later listen to the audio files (and/or videos) and try to make a transcription to use, but cannot afford to pay for a professional transcription service to do it for me. So any suggestions you can make for me would be very welcome.

  3. JK Mayshle
    June 24, 2018 at 4:54 am

    What languages does the software recognize?