One of the lesser known major features in Windows 10 is the ability to use speech-to-text technology to dictate text rather than type. If you have a microphone connected to your computer, you can have your speech quickly converted into text, which is handy if you suffer from repetitive strain injuries or are simply an inefficient typist.

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How to turn on the speech-to-text feature on Windows

It's likely that speech-to-text is not turned on by default, so you need to enable it before you start dictating to Windows.

1. Click the "Start" button and then click "Settings," designated by a gear icon.

2. Click "Time & Language."

3. In the navigation pane on the left, click "Speech."

4. If you've never set up your microphone, do it now by clicking "Get started" in the Microphone section. Follow the instructions to speak into the microphone, which calibrates it for dictation.

5. Scroll down and click "Speech, inking, & typing privacy settings" in the "Related settings" section. Then slide the switch to "On" in the "Online speech recognition" section. If you don't have the sliding switch, this may appear as a button called "Turn on speech services and typing suggestions."

How to use speech to text on Windows 1
How to use speech to text on Windows 1
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

How to use speech-to-text on Windows

Once you've turned speech-to-text on, you can start using it to dictate into any window or field that accepts text. You can dictate into word processing apps, Notepad, search boxes, and more.

1. Open the app or window you want to dictate into.

2. Press Win + H. This keyboard shortcut opens the speech recognition control at the top of the screen.

3. Now just start speaking normally, and you should see text appear.

How to use speech to text on Windows 2
How to use speech to text on Windows 2
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

If you pause for more than a few moments, Windows will pause speech recognition. It will also pause if you use the mouse to click in a different window. To start again, click the microphone in the control at the top of the screen. You can stop voice recognition for now by closing the control at the top of the screen.

Common commands you should know for speech-to-text on Windows

In general, Windows will convert anything you say into text and place it in the selected window. But there are many commands that, rather than being translated into text, will tell Windows to take a specific action. Most of these commands are related to editing text, and you can discover many of them on your own in fact, there are dozens of these commands. Here are the most important ones to get you started:

  • Punctuation . You can speak punctuation out loud during dictation. For example, you can say "Dear Steve comma how are you question mark."
  • New line . Saying "new line" has the same effect as pressing the Enter key on the keyboard.
  • Stop dictation . At any time, you can say "stop dictation," which has the same effect as pausing or clicking another window.
  • Go to the [start/end] of [document/paragraph] . Windows can move the cursor to various places in your document based on a voice command. You can say "go to the start of the document," or "go to the end of the paragraph," for example, to quickly start dictating text from there.
  • Undo that . This is the same as clicking "Undo" and undoes the last thing you dictated.
  • Select [word/paragraph] . You can give commands to select a word or paragraph. It's actually a lot more powerful than that you can say things like "select the previous three paragraphs."

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