The latest version of ChromeOS 100 came with quite a few new and updated features. One of those announced features was the updated dictation functionality and you’d be forgiven for overlooking it in the latest version of ChromeOS. I know I didn’t think too much of it, and until I gave it a try, I had no idea how good it is to use with these latest enhancements. As it turns out, these latest changes to this long-standing Chrome OS feature make it something worth checking out and probably something you will want to start using right away.
It is worth noting that the dictation feature is not hidden behind any flags and needs no special setting to use. It is built into Chrome OS 100, found under the easy-to-use accessibility section in your Chromebook settings and it actually downloads and uses a locally stored language model that requires no data connection. We’ll go through all the steps on how to start using dictation following the video, but there’s really not much to do if you want to try it out.
How to turn on dictation in your settings
First up, let’s get the feature turned on. It is off by default and lives in the accessibility section of your settings. Head there by going to Settings > Advanced > Accessibility > Manage accessibility features > Enable dictation and then simply flip the switch to turn it on. ChromeOS should download your language right away, but you can select other languages to download for local use if you choose. You can also get to this setting by simply searching ‘dictation’ in the settings app.
How to use dictation
Once you have the feature turned on, you will see a microphone icon next to your clock. Click that icon and your Chromebook is now listening for vocal inputs. Additionally, you can use a keyboard shortcut to engage dictation by pressing Everything Button + D. I found this to be the quickest and simplest way to start voice-to-text when I needed it and to stop it when I was done. It is worth noting that it will continue listening until you actively stop it (or navigate away from the text field you are working on) and that this dictation feature is not Google Assistant. While the voice pickup is great and quite accurate, it isn’t listening for your voice specifically. That means it will pick up things others around you say, too, so just pay attention to that.
New Chromebook dictation features
What Google has added with ChromeOS 100 is the ability to do a few housekeeping things with this same dictation tool. No longer is this a simple, blunt text annotator: it has the ability to understand commands to help you continue writing whatever content you are working on. The list of command the dictation feature can understand and act on is as follows:
- “Select all”
- “New line”
I don’t think any of these need explaining, but I do need to point out that I had no luck getting the bold, italic or underline commands to actually do anything. Hopefully those get fixed soon, but everything else on the list works. Once you try this out on your Chromebook, you’ll quickly see how you can do things like compose email or create a document without having to touch your device quite as much. With the ability to simply speak your punctuation and the ability to undo/redo and start new lines, you can start and finish an email with ease using just your voice.
I could see this continuing to expand over further updates and I’d love to see Google hook Google Assistant into this feature to give it even more abilities down the road. Even so, as it stands, this has gone from being a necessary accessibility feature to one I think most users should really consider using. I know I will be, and as a test of its abilities, I actually wrote part of this post using it. This is definitely a feature I’ll be keeping my eye on, and I think you should be too.