Voice Typing In Google Docs

Category: Software

Look, Ma, no hands! Google has added “voice typing” to its free, cloud-based Google Docs word processor. In addition to the speech-to-text as an alternative to typing, you now have control over cursor navigation and formatting options like text selection, punctuation, and copy/paste. All you need to use it is a Chrome browser, a Google account, and a microphone. Here's the scoop...

"Just Say the Word"

I love talking to my smartphone. I can dictate short emails and text messages with surprising accuracy and efficiency. But for serious word processing on my desktop, there wasn't a simple, free option that offered voice typing. Now, that has changed.

The next time you open a Google Docs file, you may see a popup asking if you want to try voice typing and navigation. If you don’t see the popup, you can click the Tools button on the menu bar and select “voice typing” from the dropdown menu. A small window like the one in the image below (voice typing.png) will appear.

English (US) is the default language; click on the language shown to see a list of several dozen supported languages. However, the new navigation and formatting options are only available in English at this time. Surprisingly, the new options are only available for desktop browsers, not mobile users.

Voice Typing in Google Docs

Click on the microphone icon to toggle voice typing on or off. (The icon is red when voice typing is enabled, black when it’s turned off.) Now just start speaking what’s on your mind.

The speech recognition algorithm does a pretty good but imperfect job of guessing what you say. Spoken words appear as typewritten text quickly, but with a noticeable delay. It doesn’t take long to get comfortable with voice typing. I found that if I speak clearly, very little post-entry cleanup is necessary.

Spoken commands take a bit of memorization. You can say things like “Select next word (or line, or paragraph)” or “select last N characters” where N is the number of characters. Selected text can be formatted using commands like “delete,” “copy,” “bold,” “bullet list,” and so on. You can even change the size, font, and color of text.

Punctuation and Irritation

Voice typing in Google Docs is great if you use Google Docs as your word processor, and Chrome for browsing. A more general tool that enables voice typing in other programs is Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance. You can use it to dictate in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Notepad and other applications. Versions are available for both PC and Mac, ranging in price from $69 to $175.

Punctuation can be added with commands such as "comma", “period", and "question mark". Surprisingly, speaking the phrase, “What is the orbital period of Saturn question mark” turned out just as I intended: “What is the orbital period of Saturn?” and not “What is the orbital . of Saturn?”

Wisely, “undo” is a voice command. You’ll use it often as you learn how to talk to your Google Doc. Speech recognition is still a bit squirrely, and the formatting commands don’t always work the first time. But voice typing is usable, and it will surely get better with time.

One irritating bug sometimes occurs when I close the voice-typing microphone window; my keyboard no longer has any effect on the Doc I have open. Reloading the browser page fixes that, but it should not happen even in a beta version of voice typing.

As a desktop tool, voice typing is not going to replace keyboards except for people with certain disabilities. I have friends with carpal tunnel issues who find it extremely useful. The visually impaired may find voice typing invaluable when it is combined with a screen reader. https://support.google.com/sites/answer/1637080?hl=en Mobile users may find voice typing quite useful, due to the lack of a physical keyboard on those devices.

Have you tried voice typing in Google Docs? Take it for a spin, and let me know what you think. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Voice Typing In Google Docs"

Posted by:

04 Mar 2016

Shades of StarTrek! It's finally here for the masses.

Thanks Bob for keeping us informed.

Posted by:

Jay R
04 Mar 2016

I have always been reluctant to get a Google account. Maybe I have one, I do have a gmail address. But the "You need to sign up for a Google account" has always seemed intrusive. This article has persuaded me to take the plunge. Now I will be able to leave comments on YouTube and rate some game apps on my Android. Thank you, Bob. Oh. I am glad to be able to leave comments here without having a Google account. Like some say, there's no accounting for people.

Posted by:

04 Mar 2016

I talk about 99% of my texts on my Galaxie III. Enunciation is paramount. So is proof reading.

Posted by:

Toni Hughes
05 Mar 2016

This is a very interesting article Bob, supposing I have an MP3 digital recording of a convention talk, could I turn it into a transcript?

EDITOR'S NOTE: It depends on the quality of the audio, and the clarity of the speaker. I just played a portion of the Gettysburg address (https://archive.org/details/gettysburg_johng_librivox) with Google Docs voice typing turned on. The words flowed in almost perfectly, but without punctuation, of course.

Posted by:

05 Mar 2016

So why does awdcleaner always pull malware from Chrome browser. And then cursor weirdness and other glitches disappear from my computers? I WANTED to use Chrome browser. And this would be another reason to. Bur Chrome browser is now gone--

Posted by:

Sharon H
05 Mar 2016

Although one would think that with my right hand and wrist (from botched surgeries) being so bad, I would quickly jump on this voice to text bandwagon. But for me, it's not the case. There is something about typing, the "touch" factor, that I cannot do without. My belief is that if you are a writer-articles, poems-somehow the touch of fingers on keys is interpreted slightly differently by the brain during the process of creative writing. Well, at least my brain! I could never compose using voice to text, but totally understand how it helps many, many people.-Excellent information on the subject.

Posted by:

Sarah L
07 Mar 2016

I recall fondly the days when I had a secretary. I dictated to a tape, and she typed it up. The most I had to say beyond my text was terms like new paragraph or comma / period. She was smarter than any voice actuated system. Generally now I find those systems do not understand me at all. Sometimes people are better!
But my friend with legal blindness makes much use of these features, and she does speak clearly, but her words are rarely taken down as she speaks them. She has spent so much time with tech support to get this to work.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2016

Seems like Dragon Naturally Speaking, at first breath - I think voice-activated keyboarding is the way to go ... actually, should have been incorporated like this years and years ago.

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