How to Use the Google Docs Voice Typing Feature

This is not the speech-to-text of the early 90s

If typing is painful for you or you just think better when speaking, voice dictation might be a good option for creating written documents. Not the inaccurate voice recognition of the early 90s, but the current iteration of voice typing that's become increasingly popular on mobile devices. If you have Google Docs, all the better because Google Docs voice typing is the feature you never knew you were missing. Here's how to use it.

Before You Use Google Docs Speech-to-Text

Before you get started using dictation in Google Docs, you'll need to make sure you're using Google Docs on a Chrome browser. Although you can use the speech-to-text feature of the Google keyboard on a mobile device, it's not as fully featured as voice typing in Google Docs on Chrome.

You also need to make sure the microphone on your computer is enabled and is working properly. For most microphones on Windows computers you'll find the microphone settings under settings system sound. For microphones on Mac computers, those options are in system preferences sound input.

How to Use Voice Typing in Google Docs

Google Docs voice typing works in over 100 languages. If you're not sure if it will work in your language, you can check the Google Docs support page to find a full listing of available languages.

To use Google Docs voice typing:

  1. In the Chrome browser, open or create a new Google Docs document.

    To quickly start a new document in the Chrome browser, type into the Chrome address bar and press Enter on your keyboard.

  2. Place your cursor in the document where you want to begin typing, then click Tools on the top tools menu.

    The location of the Tools menu on Google Docs called out.
  3. In the fly-out menu that appears, select Voice Typing. Alternatively, you can also use a keyboard shortcut:

    • Windows: Ctrl+Shift+S
    • Mac: Command+Shift+S
    The Voice typing option in Google Docs.
  4. A microphone will appear on upper left corner of the document. By default it will be turned on and ready for you to speak. You'll know it's on because the microphone will be an orange/red color. Speak your text in a normal tone of voice at a normal cadence, and you'll see a circle around the microphone as Google Docs captures your voice and converts it to text.

    Active voice typing in Google Docs.

    If the microphone doesn't have the circle around it, but it's still orange, it's idle and ready to capture speech. If the microphone is gray it is deactivated; click it once to activate it, and then begin speaking.

    If the microphone box is in an inconvenient place, you can click the three dots at the top of the box and drag it to any place within the document. You cannot, however, move it outside the document to other places on the screen.

  5. Speak the text you want to dictate. You'll need to speak the punctuation for it to appear. You can also use the list of commands below to edit text as you're creating your document. When you're finished say "Stop listening" or click the microphone one time to deactivate it.

Tips for Using Speech-to-Text in Google Docs

Google Docs speech-to-text is easy to get started using, but if you really want to use it to its fullest potential, there are a few things you should know.

  • Correcting mistakes: If you make a mistake or if Google Docs hears you incorrectly, highlight the mistake, and with the microphone activated say the correct word. Do this often, and Google Docs will learn you speech patterns.
  • Using suggested alternatives: While using Google Docs voice typing, words underlined in gray have suggested alternatives. If the word that was recorded is incorrect and it has the gray underline, click the word and (if correct) select the suggested alternate.
  • Using commands: Some commands, such as those used for editing documents, are only available in the English language. Punctuation only works in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian.

Using Google Docs Voice Typing Commands

To get the most from using Google Docs voice typing, you should use the commands that are available to help when creating and editing documents. Some of the most basic (and most useful) commands are for basic formatting and navigating your document.

Navigation Commands

To navigate around your document, say any of these commands:

  • "Go to the end of the paragraph"
  • "Move to the end of the paragraph"
  • "Go to the end of the line"
  • "Move to the end of the line"
  • "Go to [word]"
  • "New line"
  • "New paragraph"

Formatting Commands

The formatting commands that are available include a rich selection of capabilities. You can say:

  • "Apply heading [1-6]"
  • "Apply Bold"
  • "Apply italics"
  • "Decrease font size"
  • "Increase font size"
  • "Create bullet/numbered list" (After each line say "New line," and at the end of the list say "New line" twice to end the list.)

Get Voice Typing Help

There's a long list of commands available to use with Google Docs voice typing. The easiest way to access those commands is to use a voice command such as:

  • "Voice typing help"
  • "Voice command list"
  • "See all voice commands"

Additional Accessibility Options

For those who may need additional accessibility options, there's also a Speak function available in Google Docs that can be used to have Docs speak to you to share information for everything from reading what's been typed to telling you the location of your cursor or the style of formatting that's been applied to a selection of text. You'll need to turn on screen reader support and then can use these commands to assist with voice typing:

  • "Speak cursor location"
  • "Speak from cursor location"
  • "Speak selection"
  • "Speak selection formatting"
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