How Your Patrons Can Use Google Voice Typing

Library patron using Google Voice Typing

It's a fact. Interacting with our electronic devices by using our voices instead of typing has come of age. Voice recognition technology took a long time to mature, but it has arrived and is easy to use. Mouse and keyboard are still our primary input devices and probably will continue to be for quite a while, but speech recognition and voice input is available on nearly everything now. It's a great accessibility tool for patrons with physical disabilities. Here's a little how-to primer on one of the more universal free services: Google Voice Typing in Google Docs.

To use Google Voice Typing, you just need a computer or mobile device, Internet connectivity, a free Google account, and a microphone — if your device doesn't already have one.

Using Google Voice Typing on a Computer

You can connect just about any type of microphone to a computer using either the line-in input or the USB port. Many desktop and laptop computers already have internal microphones. The hole for the microphone usually has a small graphic of a microphone or the word "Mic" under it. If your public access computers don't have internal microphones, many people can use the earbuds with microphones that they already use with their cellphones. Amazon apparently has over 10,000 of them starting at $3.

To turn on your microphone or make sure that it's working, use the microphone settings that are typically in the System Preferences on a Mac or the Control Panel on a PC.

Steps to Get Going with Google Voice Typing

After you've checked that the microphone works, here are the next steps:

  1. Open a document in Google Docs in a Chrome browser. Google Voice Typing may not be available or work in other browsers.
  2. Choose Tools > Voice Typing. A microphone box will appear.
  3. When you're ready to dictate, click the microphone.
  4. Speak as clearly as you can, and at a normal volume and pace.
  5. When you're done, click the microphone again.

Speaking Punctuation

Voice Typing is a bit different than regular talking because it requires you to say words for the punctuation marks you want. You say "period," "comma," "exclamation point," "question mark," "new line," and "new paragraph."

Here is how I would dictate the following sentence: "It is much easier to dictate what I want to say in a document than to type it all out period."

Here is TechSoup for Libraries special contributor Phil Shapiro's sly "Laziness Skills" YouTube demonstration on how to speak when using Google Voice Typing.

Editing and Formatting

If you make a mistake while you're typing with your voice, you can move your cursor to the mistake using your mouse and fix it without turning off the microphone. After you correct the mistake, move the cursor back to where you want to continue and start talking again.

The service does many more things than simple dictation. Go to Google's Type with your voice support page and see "Step 3: Use voice commands" for all the voice commands you can use to format a document, like bold, italics, and underline. You can edit your document with voice commands as well on the computer version with commands like copy, cut, paste, delete, and many more. Editing and formatting commands are in English only to date. I tend to like to do my editing with a mouse and keyboard, though.

Using Google Voice Typing on a Mobile Device

To use Google Voice Typing on a mobile device, make sure you have the free Google Docs app for Apple iOS for iPhone and iPad or the Docs app for Android.

After you install the app, activate Voice Typing by going to Settings and then Language & Input. Make sure that Google Voice Typing is checked or listed.

Mobile devices have built-in microphones, so no extra microphone is needed, although you can plug in earbuds that have a microphone if you want.

To try it out, open a new Google Doc. When the keyboard appears, click the microphone and start talking! That's about it. The mobile versions are simpler than the computer version. You'll need to use the touchscreen to edit the document.

The Age of Voice Input

Many of us already use voice assistants like Siri or OK Google on our cellphones to do Internet searches or dictate texts, as well as Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants on smart speakers. Using our voices to do other things on our electronic devices may well be a no-brainer for patrons. Interacting with our electronic devices with our voices instead of typing has indeed come of age.