Speech recognition software lets you control your computer by speaking to it. Before Vista came along, you had to install extra software if you wanted to use speech recognition. Now, with a bit of patience, some speakers and a microphone, you can tell your PC what to do without spending extra cash. We found that speech recognition worked particularly well when dictating letters in Word and Wordpad, but you can also use it to navigate around your computer, send emails and even surf the internet. It does take some patience and is not as quick as using a keyboard and mouse, but it is liberating to be able to control your computer hands-free.
By the time you complete this Workshop, you will have learnt how to set up a microphone, and your computer will be following your spoken commands.
A headset with a microphone works particularly well with speech recognition, as it gives you the freedom to move away from your desk and to work hands-free. These start from about approximately $10 and are available from any good electronics shop. If you have the more expensive sort of headset that works via USB, you can plug it into a free USB port on either the front or back of your PC. Got a non-USB headset? Insert themic plug into the pink port on the back of your PC (it may have a microphone logo next to it). If you’ve got a standalone microphone, just plug it into the pink mic-in port.
When you plug in the mic, a box should appear on screen. If it doesn’t, go to Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Manage Audio Devices > Recording.Make sure ‘Mic in’ is ticked and then click OK > click OK again. Check that you have switched your microphone on and its volume control is set to a reasonable level. If you are using a headset, make sure it is not on mute. Now you are going to check that your microphone is working properly. Click Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access > then Speech Recognition.
In the Speech Recognition Options box, click ‘Start Speech Recognition’. In the next box, select your mic. Click Next and Next again. Say the onscreen instructions and click Next. If Next is greyed out, skip to Step 4. If you do not speak clearly, you will get a message telling you so. If so, click the Back button in the top left of the box. When you see the message, ‘Your microphone is now set up’, click Next. Select ‘Enable document review’ and click Next. Click View Reference Sheet and then ‘Common Speech Recognition Commands’ to see the commands you can use. If all works well, proceed to step 5.
If you could not click Next asmentioned in the previous step, doublecheck yourmicrophone is switched on, has the volume turned up andis plugged in properly. If every-thing looks okay, open the Recording tab as described in Step 2, then double-click the microphone icon to open the Properties box. Click the Levels tab. If the button with the speaker icon on it has a red circle with a line through it, this means your settings are on mute. Click the button to take off mute. Also check the position of the Microphone Slider — if it’s too far to the left, then drag and drop it to the right to increase your mic’s volume. Click OK > OK again and start Step 3 again.
Back in the Speech Recognition Options box, click the ‘Take Speech Tutorial’ box. It is imperative that you do the tutorial before you start to use the speech recognition software. Not only do you learn which commands to use, but while you are doing the training the software is learning how you pronounce words. This means it is more likely to understand you when you begin to use speech recognition. Click or say ‘Next’ and then ‘Next’ again. Follow the on-screen instructions until you have completed the tutorial.
You can use speech recognition to navigate around your computer, surf the net using Internet Explorer, send emails in Windows Mail, or type documents in Word. If you get stuck, say, ‘What can I say?’ To stop speech recognition say, ‘Stop listening’ and start it up again by saying ‘Start listening’ Speak clearly and slowly. It doesn’t notice coughs, though a giggle makes it ask, ‘What’s that’? It does not understand you as well as during the tutorial, so it is worth taking the extra training course. Click Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access > then Speech Recognition. Click the ‘Train your computer to better understand you’ link, press Next and follow the steps.