Q. I have difficulty typing on the computer, and would like to know if there are programs that can convert speech into text with formatting. What can I use?
A. Dictation software that transforms spoken words into text formatted with different type styles, subheads and alignments is readily available. With some programs, you can even add bullet lists, adjust line spacing and apply highlight colors to text, all through spoken commands. In fact, you may find that programs you already use can handle basic formatting by dictation — as long as you use the right commands.
For example, when used with the Chrome browser and Google’s system of “voice typing,” Google Docs can add quite a bit of text formatting when you tell the program what to do. To compose and edit text this way, you need a microphone connected to your computer; headset microphones from a smartphone may work if the connector is compatible. When the microphone is set up, use the Chrome browser to go to Google Docs, and open (or create) a new document.
In the Google Docs Tools menu, choose Voice Typing, click the microphone icon and start dictating your document. You can insert punctuation by saying things like “comma” or “period” aloud as you dictate. To apply formatting to a paragraph, you have just dictated, say “select paragraph” to highlight it and then say how you want it formatted, like “italic.” The Google Docs help site has a list of all the verbal formatting commands you can use and instructions for phrasing your formatting requests.
Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows 10 operating systems include speech-recognition software you can use with a word-processing program to format paragraph breaks and other basic elements. If the program is not enabled by default, you can turn it on in the Windows Ease of Access settings. If you plan to use Microsoft Word, the free Dictate add-on utility for the Windows version of Microsoft Office uses the same speech-recognition software the company uses in its Cortana virtual assistant and can translate your speech into other languages.
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