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Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Speech Recognition

For years, there’s been quite a gulf between the promise of computer speech recognition (as seen on Star Trek) and the reality (as seen just about everywhere else). You say “oxymoron”; it types “ax a moron.” (Which is often just what you feel like doing, frankly.)

Microsoft has had a speech-recognition department for years. But until recently, it never got the funding and corporate backing it needed to do a really bang-up job.

The speech recognition in today’s Windows, however, is another story. It can’t match the accuracy of its chief rival, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but you might be amazed to discover how elegant its design is now, and how useful it can be to anyone who can’t, or doesn’t like to, type.

In short, Speech Recognition lets you not only control your PC by voice—open programs, click buttons, click Web links, and so on—but also dictate text a heck of a lot faster than you can type.

To make this all work, you need a PC with a microphone. The Windows Speech Recognition program can handle just about any kind of mike, even the one built into your laptop’s case. But a regular old headset mike—“anything that costs over $20 or so,” says Microsoft—will give you the best accuracy.

Take the Tutorial

The easiest way to fire up Speech Recognition for the first time is to open the Start screen. Type speech. In the search results, click Windows Speech Recognition.

The first time you open Speech Recognition, you arrive at a very slick, very impressive full-screen tutorial/introduction, ...

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