Talk to the Computer: How to Search Google Chrome with Your Voice

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
May 23, 2014

Earlier this week Google announced a few minor improvements to its Chrome browser for desktops, the most exciting of which is the ability to search for things with your voice.  It’s a helpful feature, whether you need to look up cooking instructions mid-soufflé or want to give your mouse-clicking muscles a break.

Here’s how to do it:

First, you’ll need to make sure your browser is up-to-date. You can do that by clicking the three-bar symbol in the right-hand corner of your browser and clicking on About Google Chrome.

From there, you’ll be brought to a page that’ll tell you whether your browser is up to date. You’ll know it is if the message looks like this:

After that, you’ll have to make sure your computer’s microphone is on, and connected to Google Chrome. If you’re on a Mac, you can do that by going to your computer’s System Preferences and selecting the Sound category. Windows PC owneres can go to the Start button, click Control Panel, click Ease of Access, and then select Speech Recognition. (That path might vary according to what version of Windows you’re using. You can check the path for your version here.)

Once that’s all set up, you’re ready to voice search. Go to and click the microphone icon on the right side of the search box.

You’ll be asked if you want to enable the “OK Google feature.” This is the same command Google Glass owners say to activate their devices. It allows you to simply speak to your computer without clicking the microphone; the “OK, Google” acts as a trigger, so that the next thing you say is searched. It’s up to you whether you want to do this, but if you’re aiming for something truly hands-free, I’d recommend it.

The next time you click the icon, you’ll be asked to give Google access to your microphone. This is somewhat disconcerting, I understand, since Google is sort of known for its shady spying. Convenience v. privacy, the age-old question!

Now you can either click the microphone and say something, or simply say “OK Google,” and search results will pop up within moments. And you don’t have to speak to your laptop like it’s a machine (even though it is). For instance, if you want to know the forecast, you can just say “What’s the weather like?” 

As it processes your voice, the text phrase will go from grey to black. 

And then the search page will pop up:

If the search doesn’t understand you, it’ll guess the possible meanings of what you said, and you can click whichever is closest. 

These voice searches are useful for a variety of inquiries you might have when you’re planning your day, from conversions to nearby places to the time your favorite sports team is playing. Below are a few Chrome-approved questions you can ask your computer:

  • Places nearby: Where’s the nearest coffee shop?
  • Event/holiday times: When is the sunset?
  • Translation: How do you say “Where’s the bathroom?” in French?
  • Images: Show me pictures of Central Park.
  • Math: What’s 57 times 83?
  • Show times: When is Game of Thrones on? 
  • Cooking conversions: Convert 5 liters to cups
  • Time zones: What time is it in California?

The list goes on.

Now get talking! Your soufflè is getting cool.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her here