Google, Microsoft and Apple are constantly promoting voice recognition and the way in which we can interact with computers and mobile devices simply by talking to them.
There are television adverts showing people speaking to Siri, Cortana and, er, what is Google’s voice recognition software called? Shouldn’t it have a name other than “OK Google?”
Those speech recognition ads you see on TV are mostly about performing web searches and performing actions on mobile phones like creating a calendar appointment. What about storing Google Keep notes while using your desktop computer?
This is possible because Windows has built in voice recognition facilities. You can use Windows to recognise your voice and with one click of the mouse, insert everything you say into a Google Keep note.
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First you have to set up voice recognition in Windows. Click the Start button on the desktop (right click it in Windows 8) and go to the Control Panel. Type ‘speech’ into the search box and the click Speech Recognition.
There are several functions to choose from, but if you click Start Speech Recognition it guides you through them all step by step.
I won’t show every step because there are a lot and some are either just for your information or are really simple like checking that you have a microphone plugged in. You will need to plug one into a desktop computer or use a webcam, which often has a microphone built in.
Laptop computers have webcams at the top of the screen and there is a microphone too. There is nothing to set up with a laptop and it just works.
After a few basic screens, this one is displayed and it is an option to scan your email and documents for text. This means that the system knows the sort of things you say and this might make the speech recognition more accurate. It is up to you whether you allow this, but it can help if you do.
Another of the more important screens you will see is this one that offers a choice between manual and voice activation. If you choose the manual option, you have to click a button to turn on speech recognition, whereas with voice activation the computer listens all the time and you say “Start listening” and “Stop listening” to start and stop dictating.
It is a matter of personal preference which you choose and some people prefer one setting and some the other. I’m going to use manual mode.
One final option is whether to start speech recognition with Windows. I prefer not to let lots of programs auto-run on startup because too many can slow down startup and reduce memory.
The downside is that I have to manually start Speech Recognition in the Control Panel when I need it. It’s up to you.
Dictate your Google Keep notes
When Speech Recognition is running, a small gadget appears on the desktop at the top of the screen. Here I have dragged it and dropped it on top of the Google Keep window, just to make screen shots easier – you can see both Keep and the gadget at the same time.
Click the microphone in the gadget or say “Start listening” depending on what option you chose during setup. You can now start speaking and the computer will turn whatever you say into text. It appears in a little window in the top left corner of the screen.
Here I said “Dictate notes into Google Keep,” and clicking the Insert button inserts it into the note.
OK, I could type that faster than using Windows Speech Recognition, but it would definitely be easier to dictate if there was a lot of text. The more text you want to insert into a note, the more convenient and quicker it is to say.
Does speech recognition work?
Windows Speech Recognition is not perfect, but it is bundled with Windows and there is nothing extra to buy. Why not try it and see if it makes note taking in Google Keep easier?
Mistakes are occasionally made when turning speech into text and sometimes words are not recognised. When that happens, Windows Speech Recognition seems to substitute random words or even whole phrases.
You can get some weird text occasionally. That little window in the top left corner of the screen that shows the text is editable and, of course, Google Keep notes are editable so you can easily edit out the mistakes in one place or the other.
It would be nice if the text was auto-inserted into the note straight away without you having to click Insert, but it isn’t too much hassle.
Some people get on well with speech recognition software and find it really easy to use and very accurate. Not everyone likes it or can use it though. You should definitely try it. It can be a huge time saver if it works for you.
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