Why aren’t you using the speech recognition that comes with your computer?

It’s one of those things that you never hear or read about, so it’s not your fault.

But now that you know, you should really give your hands a break and give speech recognition a try. Stop writing your documents and dictate them. Let your PC or Mac be your secretary.

It’s hard to get exact numbers, but Statistics Canada reported that in 2003 1 in 10 adults were limited in their activities by RSI (repetitive strain syndrome).

And now that we’re on the computer for longer hours – both at work and at home- and texting and emailing on the tiniest of keyboards from our smartphones, it’s something that is bound to affect you at some point.

So avoid all the time, money, pain and aggravation that carpal tunnel syndrome causes, and start talking to your computer!

It’s incredibly easy to use and free, if you use the program that’s already installed on your hard-drive.


With Windows XP and Vista, the program is right there in your computer. Just type “speech recognition” into your search bar and you’ll find it in a snap.

Once you’ve found it, the program will take you through a series of windows and tests with the Setup Wizard. You can use your laptop’s built-in microphone or plug in an external microphone or headset to speak into.

It will ask that you read a sentence – “Peter dictates to his computer. He prefers it to typing, and particularly prefers it to pen and paper.”

After going through the various steps, you will be able to speak to your computer whenever you like. You can set it up to do things like “Open Email,” “Open Word,” or simply dictate a letter. The more you use it, the more accurate it will become as it gets used to your speech and vocabulary. You can also always ask for help throughout the process by asking, “How do I…”

The program is available in many languages – Chinese (Traditional), and Chinese (Simplified), English (U.S.), English (U.K.), French (France), German (Germany), Japanese (Japan) and Spanish (Spain).


The Mac also comes with speech recognition software. Go to “System Preferences” and then “Speech” On the “Speech Recognition Tab,” you click on “Speakable Items.” There you’ll see your speech recognition. Using the “Escape” key, you can command away, working on spreadsheets or even move around your design programs.

With both Mac and Windows, you can use the program intermittently, turning it on and off as you like.

Web sites like YouTube have short videos of how to navigate your way through each screen should you want to see it either before or as you’re activating and setting it up.

Other options

Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking is probably the most well-known and widely-used speech recognition software.

It’s not cheap – Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Preferred is $199 US (+ shipping), as is Mac Speech Dictate. At least with the Windows-based program, a “high-quality” headset is included.

Give it a try

Whether you choose to use it just to do emails or dictate letters and documents or to revamp the entire way that you work – and saving your hands and your health in the process – it’s worth a shot.

Just be sure to tell your family what you’re doing. If all of a sudden, they hear you speaking to your computer at length, they might wonder what’s going on!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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