Speech Recognition in Windows 7

If you’ve got a new PC with Windows 7, you’ve already got speech recognition installed. To get started, just go to Control Panel and click “Speech Recognition”. (If you don’t see it, click “View by > Large icons”).

A really cool feature is “Say What You See”. Nearly all of the icons, menus, controls and anything else you can click on, can be activated just by saying it. On web pages you can simply speak the names of the links to effectively click on them. This feature is much faster in Windows 7. On my Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor laptop, it scans and learns these new commands almost instantly. On my Intel® Atom™ processor netbook, the feature works the same way, but it can take several seconds to scan and process the new commands. For example, after a new web page loads, the blue circle appears for a few seconds while it processes the links and adds them to the active grammar. During this time, the “Say What You See” commands are not yet available. I need to wait until the circle disappears before speaking the command. This sluggishness can affect usability. For example, sometimes I’m not sure if my netbook processed a command, so I’ll say it again; and it may process it twice, or not at all. In contrast, my laptop responds much quicker, which eliminates these problems, making it much faster and easier to use.

You can also say “What can I say” to see a complete list of commands. The “How do I __” command is also quite useful.

You can easily add your own commands by downloading the Windows Speech Recognition Macros, which includes a code gallery of useful macros. There’s many more macros created by a large community (including by yours truly) on this ms-speech group, which also includes many tips and Q&A. You can also create your own macros, ranging from simple ones that can be created in seconds, to scripted macros with very complex functionality.

These commands can work well using the built-in microphones on a well-designed laptop, as long as the room you’re in is fairly quiet. In noisier environments, or when using speech to dictate text (such as composing an email), a headset is recommended. In general, the closer the microphone is to your mouth, the better the results, so look for a headset with the microphone on a long enough boom that you can place it next to your mouth. Adjust it so that the microphone is as close as possible to the corner of your mouth, without touching your skin or breathing directly into it. For accurate text dictation, it’s important to perform the full training session after setting up the microphone. It’s best to train it in a quiet room, or at a quiet time of day, even if you will be using the system in a noisier environment.

Text dictation is another area where performance really matters. I can easily speak too fast for my netbook to keep up, whereas my laptop can process everything I say. My Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor desktop responds even faster and never misses a beat.

Here’s a few more tips:

- Instead of saying “Start Listening” and “Stop Listening”, you can use the key combination {Ctrl}+{Win} to toggle between Listening and Off state.

- If words are recognized incorrectly during text dictation, use “Correct phrase” to change them with the correction dialog. This allows Windows Speech Recognition to learn from its mistakes and become increasingly more accurate.

- If you use more than one type of microphone, you’ll find that creating a new profile and training for each microphone is helpful. Use a name for each profile that includes the microphone type and your own name.

- If you want to use speech on more than one PC, or are migrating from an older PC to a newer one, you can copy your profile to the additional PC, and avoid having to re-train it and re-teach it words. (This works best when using the same type of microphone on both PCs.) Download the Windows Speech Recognition Profile Tool to backup and restore your profiles.

- For developers, there’s a lot of useful and fun sample code in the Windows SDK under Samples\winui\Speech

2 Responses to Speech Recognition in Windows 7

  1. hdmi says:

    Oh wow that’s really interesting!I m using Windows 7 and its great.I didn’t know about this feature in it so its very helpful for me.Thanks for this important information.