After shattering my wrist in a motorcycle accident, I am now a one-handed writer (well, at least for the next few months).
This is not ideal when 100% of your income relies on typing.
Luckily for me, technology is AWESOME…
Turns out, you don’t need fingers to type after all…you can do everything with your voice!
And this tech isn’t just “handy” for cripples like me. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually a WAY faster way to write.
That’s what I’m going to show you how to do today.
So warm up those vocal cords. Let’s get started!
Before we get into specific voice typing software, let’s look at the best times to use voice-to-text.
#1.) When you’re injured or have wrist problems. Whether you break your hand on a motorcycle or get carpal tunnel from typing too much, switching to voice typing lets you rest and recover.
#2.) When you have random ideas on the go. Sometimes brilliance strikes when you’re on the move. Voice typing is a great way to record those thoughts before you forget.
#3.) When there’s no keyboard or pencil handy. Get more work done by taking advantage of “empty time” in waiting rooms, work commutes, flights, etc. (I wrote a chunk of this post while sitting in the Thailand immigration office for 5 hours).
#4.) When you want to write faster. On average, we speak 3x faster than we type. With voice typing, you have the potential to save loads of time.
#5) When you want a more conversational tone. If your writing is formal and stiff, using voice-to-text is a great way to give it a more casual tone.
There are a bunch of different programs out there you can use to type with your voice.
Here are the cheapest and most popular options:
#1.) Google Docs
No need to go out and buy expensive equipment. Google Docs has a built-in voice typing feature you can use for free. Here’s how to turn it on:
When you’re ready to go, just click the microphone, start talking, and boom, you’re typing with no hands!
This is what I used to type this entire article. Here’s a short video of me testing it out:
To learn all the commands you can use with Google voice typing, hover your mouse over the microphone and click the question mark.
The main downsides to this free option is you can only do it in Google Docs and you have to be online.
#2.) Mac OS Voice Control
Mac users also have the option of using Apple’s built-in text-to-speech function.
There are two ways to do this:
If you just want to voice type, use Siri enhanced dictation. this can be turned on by going to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation.
If you’re running macOS Catalina, you also have the option to control your entire computer hands-free using Voice control.
This is pretty sweet, but really only practical if you lose function in both hands
Here’s how to turn it on…
Once activated, the voice typing part is pretty straightforward. Speak, and it types.
If you want it to stop listening to you, say, “Go to sleep.”
To wake it back up, say, “Wake up.”
The downside to both of these methods is they don’t work with 3rd party apps like Chrome, Slack, Word, etc.
The workaround I’ve been using is to simply open up the Notes application, voice type your message, then copy and paste into the 3rd party app.
#3.) Windows Speech Recognition
Just like Mac, Windows has its own version of speech recognition. I didn’t get a chance to try this one out personally, but I imagine it’s comparable to Apple.
To set it up in Windows 10, go to Control Panel > Ease of Access > Speech Recognition > Start Speech Recognition.
From there, it should guide you through a quick setup process (including a helpful tutorial).
#4.) Siri or GBoard (Mobile)
Becoming a master voice typer is also super handy for getting work done on the go.
iPhone users can set up Siri dictation by going to Settings > Keyboard > Enable Dictation.
After that, just open up Notepad, hit the microphone, and start talking.
Android users have a similar feature using GBoard. If it’s not already the default keyboard on your phone, you can download it from Play Store.
Once installed, it’s the same as Siri—hit the microphone on the keyboard and talk away.
#5.) Other Options: Dragon NaturallySpeaking
According to the internet, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the best of the best when it comes to speech recognition software.
But to be honest, with all the free options out there, it’s really not necessary (unless you use it for the bulk of your work every day)
Plus, it’s only available for Windows—Mac users are outta luck.
Voice typing has the potential to streamline your work process. But there IS a bit of a learning curve.
When just starting out, don’t expect to be fast. It’s awkward switching from your fingers to your voice and requires your brain to work differently. You’ll make mistakes and get frustrated, but if you keep practicing, it’ll pay off in the end
Here are some tips to cut down the learning curve:
#1.) Create an outline. It’s easy to ramble when you start blabbering with no roadmap. By taking a few minutes to put together a brief outline, it’ll help you stay on track and avoid tangents. Here’s an example of the outline I used for this post:
#2.) Brain dump. This is by far the most important tip. To maximize efficiency, you need to let your thoughts flow without filtering yourself. That means NO EDITING ALLOWED. If you F a sentence up, just repeat it and delete the bad version later. Whatever you do…Don’t. Stop. Talking.
#3.) Imagine you’re explaining something to someone. Instead of weirdly talking into your computer, pretend a real person asked you a question and you’re simply responding. This will make things sound more natural. (Sometimes I even use hand gestures when I’m voice typing).
#4.) Learn all the commands. If possible, I don’t recommend formatting your writing with your voice. It takes too long. However, some commands are still useful to know (symbols, new line/paragraph, etc.)
#5.) Find a quiet place by yourself. Three reasons for this: One, you’ll feel less awkward. Two, nobody wants to listen to you gabbing to your computer. Three, there will be less interference for the speech recognition software.
#6.) Use a headset (or not). Some text-to-speech programs recommend using a headset to improve accuracy. I didn’t find this to be the case. When writing this post using Google Docs voice typing, the internal mic in my MacBook was MUCH more accurate than my Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. (Maybe an actual headset would have worked better).
Sometimes it’s just not practical to do things with your voice. if you’re writing a short message or editing a rough draft, it might be easier to just type with one hand. With some practice, one-handed typing can actually be pretty fast (watch video to see what I mean)
Here are some tips for fast one-handed typing:
Have a home base (FGHJ). This helps you memorize where keys are so you don’t have to look.
Center your keyboard in front of your good hand. For me, that means shifting the keyboard over to the right so my wrist is in a better position.
Buy a child’s keyboard. Your fingers have a lot of ground to cover with one hand. Kiddie keyboards are smaller and easier to manage.
Make sure your keyboard is angled (and avoid laptop typing). Since your good hand is typing 2x as many words, it also takes 2x as much strain. That means proper wrist position is extra important.
Choose words wisely. If you can make a point with fewer words, do it. One-handed typers don’t have the luxury of being long-winded.