Remember back in the day when physical computer software boxes lined the shelves of Best Buy, Target, and even Circuit City? Yeah, I remember Circuit City. There was one box in particular that I always wanted to buy, but could never afford. It was the one software that made me believe that technology could feel like magic, even before Google came around with its apps and services in a bigger way. That box of software was called Dragon: Naturally Speaking.
This revolutionary program gave you the ability to speak your thoughts into the computer and unlike other voice to text software of the time, it featured many additional voice commands made your text legible in a digital environment, and allowed you allowed you to flow “naturally”, without having to worry about speaking punctuation, or touching your keyboard to go to the next line, or even delete entire words of sentences without touching the backspace button.
Introducing the Chromebook Dictation tool
While it may sound pretty common today, it was very special in the early 2000’s. Now that I’ve painted that picture for you, did you know that your Chromebook can do this out of the box? In fact, this feature has been around for a while and is baked into Google Docs, but it’s also a quick toggle you can enable in the Accessibility settings of your ChromeOS device!
That’s right, Chromebooks are full of magic, and I began writing about them because I believe they can do a lot of good for a lot of people. Dictating your words to the screen with this tool has sparked my passion once again for Google’s efforts in the laptop space, and today, I want to teach you how to enable and use it to save yourself hours and hours of manual typing labor.
How to enable Chromebook Dictation
To get started, remember, I stated that this was an ‘Accessibility’ feature. While it is meant for those who have a hard time typing or have impairments that disallow them from making full use of the keyboard, it can be equally beneficial for anyone wanting to just let their thoughts flow without the technology getting in the way.
In your Chromebook’s ‘Settings’ app, you can either type ‘dictation’ in the top search bar, or navigate to the ‘Accessibility’ section using the left-hand side panel, and then go to ‘keyboard and text input’ where you’ll find the toggle for dictation directly.
As shown in the screenshot below, you can also toggle showing the accessibility settings in your quick settings on the shelf of your Chromebook directly under the ‘Accessibility’ section before digging down into the sub sections.
How to use Dictation to save time
Luckily, you can toggle Dictation, as well as any other accessibility settings on and off in the quick settings menu as shown below. Once you do, the microphone icon will appear to the right of your shelf icons in the cluster of helpful tools near the time and date.
Pro tip: Unlike the Google Docs ‘Voice typing’ feature mentioned earlier, which was a precursor to Dictation on Chromebooks, you can use this universally across your device!
With that being said, click inside of any text field, be it a document, email, your app search, Google Search, the Google Messages web app, or anything else, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Now, simply touch the microphone icon at the bottom right of your Chromebook shelf and you’ll see it light up.
Google has done an incredibly good job making this tool slick, and polished. At the point where your cursor is inserted, you’ll see a small, active voice icon that moves with your audio input. In other words, when you speak, it shrinks and grows based on the decibels you’re giving off.
Did you know?: You can activate the voice Dictation tool much easier by pressing Search + d or press Launcher + d on your keyboard! If you’re not in an active text field, it will disable and give you a simple sound denying you use of the tool.
Helpful Dictation phrases
Aside from simply speaking words and punctuation, what else can you tell Dictation to do for you? Well, you’d be surprised at how expansive the voice commands are. Though they don’t always work for me, it’s still incredible how Google has packed so much functionality into one tool! I’ll list a handful here, but for the full swathe of things you can vocalize, check out Google’s handy guide. Some of the newest ones include “Delete all”, “Move to the start” (or end), “Select previous (or next) word”, and more, and are only available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The table below is from Google’s very own Chromebook Help page so props to the team for constructing it.
|“Type [word/phrase]”||Types the spoken text.|
|“Select all”||Selects everything in the text input area.|
|“Unselect”||Clears the selection.|
|“Cut”||Copies and deletes any selected text.|
|“Copy”||Copies selected text.|
|“Paste”||Pastes text from clipboard.|
|“Delete the previous character”||Deletes the previous character or selected text.|
|“Undo”||Undoes previous text-editing action.|
|“Redo”||Redoes previous text-editing action.|
|“Help”||Opens a support help center article.|
|“New line”||Moves the cursor to a new line.|
|“Move to the next character”||Moves the cursor right one character.|
|“Move to the previous character”||Moves the cursor left one character.|
|“Move to the next line”||Moves the cursor down one line.|
|“Move to the previous line”||Moves the cursor up one line.|
|“Cancel”||Stops dictation and speech recognition.|
|“Delete the previous word”||Deletes the previous word.|
|“Delete the previous sentence”||Deletes the previous sentence.|
|“Move to the next word”||Moves the cursor right one word.|
|“Move to the previous word”||Moves the cursor left one word.|
|“Move to the next sentence”||Moves the cursor right one sentence.|
|“Move to the previous sentence”||Moves the cursor left one sentence.|
|“Delete [word/phrase]”||Deletes the specified word or phrase. This will only work if the word or phrase is before the cursor.|
|“Replace [word/phrase] with [word/phrase]”||Replaces the specified word or phrase. This will only work if the word or phrase is before the cursor.|
|“Insert [word/phrase] before [word/phrase]”||Inserts the specified word or phrase. This will only work if the word or phrase is before the cursor.|
|“Select from [word/phrase] to [word/phrase]”||Selects the area between two words or phrases. This will only work if the word or phrase is before the cursor.|
Anyway, If you can’t already tell, I’m in love with Chromebook dictation, and use it whenever and wherever I can. With that being said, it’s certainly not perfect, and as I mentioned, some voice commands don’t always work. It’s best to consult the guide to be certain you have the right command, and also to keep your environment clear of background noise. I can’t see anyone using this in public, especially if they’re trying to articulate something personal (can you imagine doing this at Panera Bread?), but it’s certainly awesome for home use. Let me know in the comments if you use Dictation, and if not, why!
I just want the steps!
1. Open the Settings app on your Chromebook
2. Navigate to ‘Accessibility’
3. Click ‘keyboard and text input’
4. Toggle ‘Dictation’
5. (Optional) Toggle ‘Show Accessibility options in Quick settings’
6. Toggle the Dictation tool with Search + D on your keyboard or by tapping the microphone
7. Consult the guide for voice commands
8. Save time and enjoy!