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Free Speech Recognition for Windows

Updated on June 14, 2010

A lot of people probably don't know that Windows 7 actually has completely free speech recognition built in. These same people wonder how to talk to their computers and get it to transcribe their voices into text. Instead of paying for software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, which can typically cost over $190, try using a free program instead. The software that does the transcribing is built into Windows, although many people do not know about it. While speech to text translations are still a work in progress, I have found that the tool built by Microsoft actually does a wonderful job of understand what I'm saying. In fact, I am typing this article using it. Speech recognition does a wonderful job of saving your fingers from continually typing. In addition, I can finish my documents much faster. Speech recognition is done instantly as you speak; there's no waiting for the computer to process your speech.

In this article, I will show you how to use Microsoft's free speech recognition software. Once you finish installing the software, you will need to run through a few practice demonstrations and training sessions that will allow the computer to become accustomed to your voice. Once you finish, the computer will do a fairly accurate job of transcribing your speech. You have to understand, however, that the computer is not perfect and will probably take some getting used to before you can use it easily. Another thing that the speech recognition software does is allow you to easily switch between Windows system commands. For example, you can say "Start," and the computer will open the start menu. You can also use it to switch between windows and other open documents.  So here is how to use speech recognition completely free on your computer.

Before You Start

In order to use speech recognition, you're going to need a very good microphone. This is because speech recognition relies on excellent quality audio and extremely natural speech. Some of the best microphones can be purchased online and are actually headsets that contain a boom microphone. These microphones allow the voice to be recorded without interference and directly from your mouth. However, there are some good desktop microphones that you can find in an electronics store or online also. You will need to set up and properly install the microphone before you can begin using speech recognition. Once you have a good microphone set up, you can begin following the rest of this guide.

Installing the Software

 First, open the control panel and go to "Ease of Access." You will need administrative rights on your computer to do this, so make sure you have the password with you. 

Then, click on Speech Recognition, and then "Take Tutorial." The computer will walk you through  a bunch of things to say, and phrases to repeat. It's trying to learn from your voice. Once you finish the tutorial, speech will be running. You may want to come back to this window and go through another round of training to further help the computer understand you.

Using the Software

Using the speech recognition software is actually fairly easy. One of the biggest problems for users is learning to speak clearly and not conversationally as they would to another person. Once you learn how to articulate, speak clearly, and make corrections to the software as outlined in the user guide, the speech recognition software will work wonderfully for you. Everything you need to know about using the speech software is outlined during the tutorial phase, so make sure you don't skip over anything. The tutorial will walk you through the process of dictating as well as using system commands. I will warn you that the speech software does not work with all programs on your computer. While it works wonderfully in Internet Explorer, it is not built to run in other browsers. Therefore, you will still need to use a combination of keyboard typing as well as speech recognition. I have found that the best thing to do is open Wordpad in Windows and then speak there. Once you're finished, you can then copy the text into whatever other program you are using.

The software resides in a small window that is open at the bottom of the screen.
The software resides in a small window that is open at the bottom of the screen.

A Few Last Things

A few last things to remember when using speech recognition: always speak clearly, keep the microphone close, but not too close, and speak as if you were a newscaster on TV instead of using slang and conversational dialogue as you would with friends. Also, it is easy to get frustrated with the software, but remember that speech recognition is in its earliest phase. As always, if you have any questions leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer it.

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    • profile image

      eternity2 2 years ago

      What can I do about needing medical jargon and drug names?

    • profile image

      john 5 years ago

      it is stupid i am native to the English language and speak it fluently but it can't catch what i am saying it is stupid, so whoever thinks it them that can't speak English right it is not you it is the windows speech recognition software the apple iPad has a great speech recognition if i had to rate the windows speech recognition out of a scale of a hundred i would rate it a two but the apple speech recognition i would rate a ninety if windows would update the speech recognition i would be happy.

    • profile image

      John 5 years ago

      I hate speech recognition i say "A habit can be formed by continuing to do something over and over again" and it wrights "Events can only be formed by continuing to decide the otras number 10"

      it is stupid it can't even recognize one sentence it is stupid id rather type

    • profile image

      Tom 5 years ago

      XNotion, great source of info! Thank-you. I've yet to try it (need to get a mic) but I think you've just saved me $190 (£100+).

      Can you recommend a good headset mic for this software?



    • taheruddin profile image

      taheruddin 6 years ago from Khulna Bangladesh

      vote up, awesome, thanks.

      But I have tried to use it several times but I could not achieve the utility as my expectation. I setup my operating system yearly once. Each time it is not possible to train it. Moreover, after an hour of training it is not capable of understanding my voice. I know it my fault as non-native speaker that, I do not have the right accent. So, I am finding if there any way to backup the training, though I can use this backup further and further and I can train it for longer period. Not at a time, when I some free time I can train it and keep a backup. If anybody have any solution please let me know. Voice recognition is an awesome technology.

    • profile image

      steven 6 years ago

      yes, from what i understand they started including this in xp.

    • profile image

      guest 6 years ago

      does this work on windows xp?

    • xnotion profile image

      xnotion 7 years ago

      Hi Kyriana,

      I am super glad that you enjoyed this hub! Thank you for sharing and letting me know how it worked out. Good luck with it!

    • Kyriana profile image

      Kyriana 7 years ago from Midwest US

      Xnotion, I'm leaving another comment because I'm using the voice recognition program that is part of windows. I want to thank you again; I doubt I would have ever seen it if it wasn't for your hub. It's 4:30 AM and I'm still playing with my new toy.

    • Kyriana profile image

      Kyriana 7 years ago from Midwest US

      Xnotion, this is awesome! I have to admit that I don't do a lot of exploring on my own computer...too afraid of adjusting something I don't understand. I was going to look for one of those programs because I can't type very fast. I had no idea that it was built into my computer. Thanks for this hub! I can't wait to try speech recognition.