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Is Microsoft's Voice Recognition Any Good?

written by: J. Edward Casteele•edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 11/18/2010

Voice recognition software is used to perform a number of common computing tasks without a mouse or keyboard. Microsoft Windows even has its own voice recognition software built into the operating system as an ease-of-use function. But is Microsoft voice recognition software any good?

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    Microsoft Voice Recognition

    Microsoft voice recognition is a built in Windows service. The Microsoft voice recognition software that's included with Windows is part of Microsoft's "Ease of Access" features that allow individuals with vision, hearing or mobility issues to use the operating system with settings designed with them in mind. The software runs as an application on top of other programs you have running, taking input from a microphone and performing actions based on what you say. The application informs you of the actions it's taking and displays a warning when it can't understand the command that is given. For those with mobility problems or anyone trying to reduce their typing, it can make a number of common activities much easier.

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    Setting Up Microsoft Voice Recognition

    A microphone test is part of voice recognition setup. 

    Set up the Microsoft voice recognition software by opening the "Ease of Access" option in the Windows Control Panel and choosing the "Speech Recognition" option. Click "Start Speech Recognition" to launch the setup program, which will prompt you for the type of microphone (headset, desktop microphone or other microphone setup) you will be using. You will be prompted to read some text to make sure that the microphone is working properly and that the software can understand your voice.

    You can set Microsoft voice recognition to run at startup. Once you've set up your microphone and read the test phrase, you'll be presented with a few other options, such as how the program will begin recognizing speech (manually or automatically when you speak) and whether the program should launch when Windows starts. Follow the on-screen prompts to finish setting up the Microsoft voice recognition software so that you can begin using it.

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    Training and Usage

    Windows has built in tutorials to help you use voice recognition. To help you use the Microsoft voice recognition software included in Windows, a tutorial on its use is included in the "Speech Recognition" window and can be launched at the end of the voice recognition setup. The tutorial teaches you how the software works, how to present commands and how to avoid potential problems with the software not understanding you. An option is also available to train Windows to better understand your voice, consisting of common Windows commands that you need to speak so that the software can associate the sound of your words with the commands. Following the tutorial and spending time training the computer to recognize your voice can significantly increase your success with the software.

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    Does It Work?

    Some commands are not always recognized. The Microsoft voice recognition software that comes with Windows does work, though it is a bit more limited than some other voice recognition programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. Unless you take the time to learn the commands that it recognizes and to train the computer to your voice, you might be frustrated with the number of times that the software has trouble understanding you or performs the wrong action. So long as you keep in mind the fact that it was designed more for navigation and general usage instead of transcription and in-depth speech comprehension, the software should meet your needs in those regards.

    Image Credits: All screenshots by J. Edward Casteele