How to use voice recognition in Windows XP

Windows XP does not have a voice-recognition feature of its own. Instead, this page explains step-by-step how to set up and use the built-in voice-recognition function in Microsoft Office XP and Office 2003 for Windows XP. This takes your speech and turns it into text on the screen or into commands to control your Office XP or Office 2003 programmes. However, it does not allow you to dictate to, or control, other programmes, and lacks the advanced functionality and integration that commercial software can offer.

Areas in this guide:

Set up voice recognition in Office 2003

Using Microsoft Word 2003 as an example, you can access voice recognition by clicking on the 'Tools' menu and selecting 'Speech', as shown in Fig 1, or press Alt + T and then press H.

Fig 1'Tools' drop-down menu in Microsoft Word 2003

Before you can start talking to your computer you must 'enrol', using the 'Microphone Wizard' (shown in Fig 2), by reading a certain amount of text to enable the software to learn how you speak.

Unlike most commercial voice-recognition software, however, the voice recognition in Office is expecting a US English accent. If you speak with a British accent, you'll likely experience much poorer recognition accuracy when you first start using it.

Fig 2'Microphone Wizard' window

Also, unlike some of the other packages available, this software requires that you use the mouse and keyboard to make corrections when your speech has not been recognised correctly. Because of this, it is not a practical option for someone requiring a 'hands-free' solution.

Third-party voice-recognition software

In addition to the voice-recognition software built into Microsft Office XP and Office 2003 that can be used in Windows XP, there are also widely used packages for sale that offer excellent accuracy and even complete 'hands-free' use. For example, Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking (for information, see the software producer's Dragon NaturallySpeaking webpage) and, formerly, IBM's ViaVoice (no longer supported).

These, and similar software packages, can be very powerful options for people who are not able to use a physical keyboard or mouse, or who just want to speed up their text input. The systems take time to 'train' to recognise the speaker, but with practice it is possible to input text faster than the fastest typist.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Back to How to guides - I find a keyboard or mouse hard to use

More ways to: Use voice recognition

Voice recognition software - an introduction

An overview of the main features of voice recognition software, how to get started and frequently asked questions.
Factsheet in PDF format | Factsheet in text format

Voice recognition software - advanced features

A comparison of the main voice recognition software packages and the advanced tasks that they can perform.
Factsheet in PDF format | Factsheet in text format

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.