You Can Control Windows 8 with Your Voice. Here's How.

David Pogue
Yahoo Tech

The beauty of controlling Windows by voice is that you don’t have to remember what to say; you just say whatever you would click with the mouse.

Getting started

First, 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.

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 the program, you arrive at a tutorial/introduction. Just follow the on-screen instructions to get up and running, and then work your way through the tutorials and practice screens if you wish.

Once you’re done the Speech Recognition module will appear at the top of your screen. After clicking the microphone icon, it should light up blue and the status should read “Listening.”

Now you’re ready to give commands.

For example, to open the little Calculator program using the mouse, you’d open the Charms bar, click to go to the Start screen, right-click to open the App bar to get to All Programs, and finally click Calculator. To do the same thing using speech recognition, you just say,  “Start Calculator.”

Here’s the cheat sheet for manipulating programs. In this list, any word in italics is meant as an example (and other examples that work just as well are in parentheses):

•• “Start Calculator  (Word, Excel, Internet Explorer…).” Opens the program you named, without your having to touch the mouse. Super convenient.

•• “Switch to Word  (Excel, Internet Explorer…).” Switches to the program you named.

•• “File. Open.” You operate menus by saying whatever you would have clicked with the mouse. For example, say “Edit” to open the Edit menu, then “Select All” to choose that command, and so on.

 ••“Print (Cancel, Desktop…).” You can also click any button (or any tab name in a dialog box) by saying its name.

 ••“Contact us (Archives, Home page…).” You can click any link on a Web page just by saying its name.

 ••“Double-click Recycle Bin.” You can tell Windows to “double-click” or “right-click” anything you see.

 ••“Go to Subject (Address, Body…).” In an email message, Web browser, or dialog box, “Go to” puts the insertion point into the text box you name. “Address,” for example, means the address bar.

 ••“Close that.” Closes the frontmost window. Also “Minimize that,” “Maximize that,” “Restore that.”

 ••“Scroll up (down, left, right).” Scrolls the window. You can say “up,” “down,” “left,” or “right,” and you can also append any number from one to 20 to indicate how many lines: “Scroll down 10.”

 ••“Press F (Shift+F, capital B, down arrow, X three times…).” Makes Windows press the key you named.

Tip: You don’t have to say “press” before certain critical keys: Delete, Home, End, Space, Tab, Enter, Backspace. Just say the key’s name: “Tab.”


The voice commands described in this section are all well and good when it comes to clicking onscreen objects. But what about dragging them?

When you say the word “Mousegrid,” Speech Recognition superimposes an enormous 3 x 3 grid on your screen, its squares numbered 1 through 9.

Say “Five” and a new, much smaller 3 x 3 grid, also numbered, appears in the space previously occupied by the 5 square. You can keep shrinking the grid in this way until you’ve pinpointed a precise spot on the screen.

Dragging something—say, an icon across the desktop—is a two-step process.

First, use Mousegrid to home in on the exact spot on the screen where the icon lies; on your last homing-in, say, “Four mark.” (In this example, the icon you want lies within the 4 square. “Mark” means “This is what I’m going to want to drag.”)

When you say “mark,” the Mousegrid springs back to the full-screen size; now you’re supposed to home in on the destination point for your drag. Repeat the grid-shrinking exercise—but in the last step say, “Seven click.”

Watch in amazement as Windows magically grabs the icon at the “mark” position and drags it to the “click” position. You can use Mousegrid as a last resort for any kind of click or drag when the other techniques (like saying button or menu names, or saying, “Show numbers”) don’t quite cut it.

Excerpted with permission from David Pogue’s “Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual” from O’Reilly Media.