Speak Your Mind...Google Voice Typing

Record icon for Google voice typing enabled and shown in red.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Dictating to your computer can be a productivity boost. For some it is an accessibility boost as it helps them think through what they are writing and more easily get the thoughts down on "paper". There are paid programs for this that work very well such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. This program allows the user to train the software to their voice and supports the user is verbally adding punctuation as well as other voice commands. It really is a great way to draft messages and other writing. There is also a mobile version of the software to help users on mobile devices. The downside to these solutions is their cost. The desktop program begins at $300 and the mobile app uses as subscription model ($15/month or $150/yr)1. While a professional may be able to request this this tool to assist them in their work, this cost is something that makes the use of this program impossible for many students. The fortunate thing is that there is a free tool within Google Docs, voice typing, that facilitates dictation.

What it is

Google voice typing is Google's dictation tool for Google Docs. This tool leverages Googles speech-to-text engine - this is the same engine used within Google Assistant. Because of this it does utilize the Internet. It works best when the computer is plugged into a wired internet connection.

Voice typing is supported for many languages. It supports entering punctuation by voice. Additionally, there are some voice commands that you may use to edit and format your document, control voice typing, and access some accessibility tools. The downside to this solution is that it only works in Google Docs, it does not integrate with any other programs. Barring that limitation, I think that this is a tool that many students might appreciate. The plus side of that it is available on any computer with internet access and access to a Google account.

The only other requirement is that a person have a microphone connected to the computer on which they wish to voice type. Most mobile devices and laptops have built-in microphones, although there are situations in which you might want to use a headset (accessibility features). A couple considerations you might want to take into account before using this tool:

  • How quiet is your environment? Is there background noise that will interfere with your voice being adequately being picked up by the microphone?
  • Will your dictation disturb anyone working around you? Be considerate of others when you dictate. Attempt to find locations or spaces that will allow you to speak without disturbing anyone else.

You can make use of voice typing on any of the public computers in the Library as long as you keep the above considerations in mind. The study rooms on the main level of the Library may be the best location for voice typing. The Windows computers currently do not have a built-in microphone so you will need to bring your own. A pair of headphones with a built-in mic should do the trick. There is also a USB microphone available for check out at the Circulation desk. The iMacs have built-in microphones. If you have questions about voice typing in the Library please contact me.


To enable voice typing with a Google Doc:
An image of the voice typing button as it appears with in a Google doc with the text 'Click to speak,' below it.
Voice typing button
  1. Click on Tools > Voice Typing... or press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+S
  2. Click the microphone button(left).
  3. The button will turn red and you can begin dictating.
    Depending on 1) how fast you speak, and 2) whether or not you are connected to a wired internet connection, you may need to pause at various points to allow the service to catch up.
  4. Click the button to end dictation. The button will turn gray.

Watch the brief video (3:07) for a demo of voice typing in action.

A Note About Mobile

To my knowledge both major mobile platforms, iOS and Android, support dictation from within their default keyboards. In both the feature may be accessed by clicking the microphone icon within the keyboard. The two images below point to locations for the dictation button in each keyboard.
Image of iOS keyboard highlighting the dictation button.
iOS Default Keyboard

Image of the default keyboard with the dictation icon highlighted.
Android Default Keyboard


Google Voice Typing Support Documentation: Type with your voice
Google Voice typing - The Apps Show (video, 3:47)

1 At the time of this post.


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