How to: Dos and Don’ts of Android’s Voice to Text

This post comes courtesy of several questions about Android’s speech to text function. I discussed the feature several times, and it’s one of my favorite Android “add-ons.” Android’s speech to text is so useful that I use it for just about every aspect of my daily life. Some folks expressed frustration with the service, saying that they’re having problems getting accuracy. So, I decided to create a list of “dos and don’ts” for voice.

Android Voice Commands

 Do speak clearly and enunciate

Part of achieving good performance for any speech recognition program is enunciation. And even though Android’s speech to text utility is top notch, it’s still a computer, subject to computer fallibility. If you speech too fast or use garbled pronunciations, the service will fail.

Now, speaking clearly and enunciating doesn’t mean you . . . have . . . to . . . laboriously . . .  speak . . . every . . . syllable . . . and . . . word. But rather, just use more clarity. Google is very good when trying to interpret your jibberish, but some words, by their nature, are easily confused – think “V” and “B” – and Google can make mistakes in the transcription, just as you would.

Speaking clearly and enunciating your words will help.

Don’t forget to personalize your “Voice”

There are plenty of ways to customize the speech recognition software, and “Personalized recognition” is the easiest. Go to Settings > Voice > Personalized recognition from inside the Voice Search app to improve your speech recognition.

Personalized recognition

Also, I know a lot of people get frustrated by Google’s inconsiderate ability to type what you actually mean — i.e. “,” instead of “comma”. If you’re frustrated, don’t forget that you can correct the misplaced word or punctuation by selecting the offending portion and changing the context.

text to type correction

Google will learn your nuances and start frustrating you more by using your correction. Sometimes, this gets frustrating, too.

Also, don’t forget that your can fix some spelling errors in your dictionary. Follow these steps to personalize your Android dictionary.

In general, Google is about 95% effective for me.

Do remember to “Tell Google what to do”

I’m not quite sure where I’d be without voice commands,  since they’re kind of the crux of Google Now.

Google Now Voice Commands

The convenient “Tell Google what to do” list is a recent addition to the search screen, but it’s a scrollable list with a number of suggestions and examples for using voice commands.

Obviously, Google’s tracking the ways you use the app, but being able to set a reminder to “Play Tooth Fairy at 9:30,” so I don’t disappoint The Droid Tot # 1 is priceless.

One of my favorite commands is, “Ok Google send a text message to my wife.” Google will assist in the process without ever making me touch the screen.

Here’s an “oldie but goodie” video showing how Google Now compares to Siri:

And you can be assured that the places where Google falls short won’t be for long.

Don’t forget “practice makes perfect”

Mrs. The Droid Lawyer didn’t use voice commands or speech to text because she didn’t want me gloating over how awesome they were. Typical. Of course, once she made speech to text a semi-habit, she fell in love.

Regular use of the program will help improve accuracy and your own capabilities. This is especially true when you’re trying to get Google to recognize your word and speech patterns. I have much better success using the tool on a regular basis, than when I go days without dictating something.

Don’t forget the microphone

Google Keyboard is my preferred keyboard tool, but decide which one works best for you.

Google Keyboard

The microphone will open the speech to text engine, and allow you to speak your message. I use this for quick replies to text messages, composing email messages, or even as a quasi-Dragon replacement.

Note too, if you’ve lost your microphone from the keyboard, it’s likely because Google recently modified the look and feel of the keyboard, which also eliminates the microphone from the keyboard screen in some apps. Don’t fret, it should be there in other apps, like text messaging. If you open your text messaging app and still can’t find the microphone, it’s likely turned off.

To reactivate the microphone, go to Google Keyboard settingsPreferences Voice input key.

google keyboard voice input key

Voila, the microphone is back.

Do forget you look like an idiot talking to yourself

Nobody wants to be the annoying guy shouting on a cell phone, but if you do speech right, nobody will even notice. Just in case, you should set any fears aside.

Do use voice commands often and wisely

In sum, once you’re more familiar with Android’s speech to text capabilities, you’ll quickly fall in love. Google Now tremendously improves the Android experience, giving you the ability to control aspects of your mobile device with your voice.

Do remember where you are

One of the biggest problems I have with voice-t0-text is remembering my speaking location. Similar to the “speak clearly” recommendation above, I have to be conscious of where I’m trying to use the speech engine. For instance, I’ve learned that voice-to-text doesn’t work well while I’m driving in my car with the windows open. My location is vitally important.

This post was originally published July 3, 2013.

75 Responses to How to: Dos and Don’ts of Android’s Voice to Text

  1. Almost makes me want to go out and buy an Android device! 😉

    No matter what device/OS, I applaud anyone trying to get more done with voice. It is so much faster than keyboarding – not just on phones and mobile devices, but from your desktop too.

    @LegalTypist

    • This is a crude text generator, in several ways.
      It spells out foul language by default, with no means to prevent.

      • I’ve found that on Android, saying “new line” went to the next line properly and “new paragraph” skipped a blank line properly as long as it is said QUICKLY after “period”, “comma”, “question mark” or “exclamation point”.
        Saying it after “colon” or “semicolon” did not work, nor did saying it without one of the aforementioned preceding punctuation marks.

    • Paige, you’ve found one of the subtle flaws. You can capitalize — Google recognizes the grammar need — after a period. Google will also try to learn what needs capitalization. But, overall, you’ll either train your device to capitalize or you’ll need to edit and proofread.

  2. Thank YOU Jeff for this article and taking questions. Will this site work with Bluetooth ear piece? Do you have a recommended bluetooth that you use? Thanks Again!!

  3. Whenever I use the speech to text it saves everything as an mp3 im my music folder. Is there a way to stop this from happening? I now have 150 “songs” which are really just sms msgs or commands.

  4. Great article! I, too, was wondering about capitalization and punctuation on voice text, etc. looks like we will just manually capitalize or how do you manually train your device as you mentioned to Paige above! Thx!

  5. Thanks Jeff…I guess I didn’t word that question very well…I mean how to make the text “U” instead of “YOU” when using voice recognition.

    • Specialized commands don’t work well. You’ll have to type these types of data inputs. Voice to text uses a “common usage” algorithm to process the information. Thus, if you say “U”, the speech engine will recognize and type “you.” Until VTT gets “smarter,” you’ll have to continue to manually enter the information — I have a similar issue with one of my kid’s names.

      I’d really like to see a personal dictionary where users can manipulate input. I don’t think that’s coming anytime soon.

    • Kilo Bravo zero x-ray lima uniform

      So far all I’ve used are simple notepad programs.
      I wish I could find a comprehensive text editor that does search and replace.

  6. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the information. I’ve a Kindle Fire HDX and it has the Google Voice. I just experimented with voice dictation for a blog article. The built in app works quite nicely. Thanks to your site, I can correctly tell the app “New Paragraph”.

    I’ll give it, a shot when I actually write a new story. 🙂 Yes, I did catch the “Do proofread” part. 🙂 I’m doing the voice dictation inside WordPress. So, I get to see what’s typed.

  7. Here’s a tough one Jeffrey. When I send a text, email or Skype message by voice command telling a friend the score of a game it comes out “The Mariners won 423.”… when I meant “The Mariners won 4 to 3. Is there a solution, other than rephrasing the sentence?

  8. How do I get it to type the word “period”? (e.g. “time period”). Every time I say “period” it puts a dot instead of the word.

      • Hi Jeffrey you seem to know everything on this topic so here tiny dilemma. I absolutely loved the feature where you could manually click on a word, and it wou you give several other suggestions in blue type…but now for some reason that’s gone on my device! Yikes did I do this by clean about my cache or something? Please help me if you can, cause I got so used to that option, and now it’s gone.

  9. Is the voice recognition program INSIDE the tablet or is it connected to a mainframe – using the advanced understand of voice? ie Do I just have another Dragon – or do I have constant access to the great power of the super computer?

    • This post is specifically directed to some specifics, but it’s easy to apply elsewhere. The “Ok Google” command is available from any screen on the Android device, so it’s pretty useful everywhere.

  10. The mic icon is missing from the keyboard now since the last phone update (Samsung Note II). Cannot figure out in any way to get it back.

      • I have the Google keyboard in the phone. Using it does no good. The microphone is no longer on the keyboard. And under settings, there is no longer any settings regarding speech-to-text.

          • On the Google keyboard, the top row is all numbers. The upper-rigth is the letter P. The settings cog wheel is in the lower left near Sym. Just not here. Yes, it did disappear after the last phone update. Gone.

            • Hmmmm. This is a mystery. Are you able to say “Okay Google Now” and do a search of any kind? This will tell you if your voice-to-text is working.

              • WEll, I’m not using Google Voice. I just go into Language and Input under the phone Settings, and I have 3 choices. Google Keyboard, Samsung Keyboard, and the option to use Swype. I chose Google keyboard and there is no microphone anywhere and also there are no longer any speech-to-text input settings that used to be listed under Language and Input on the phone settings.

                • You’re actually looking for Voice input key and not speech-to-text. “Ok Google” is actually a function of the Google Search app. That’s enabled separately.

                  From your home screen, you should be going to Settings > Language & input (under Personal) > Google Keyboard (under Keyboard & input methods) > Gear (on right) > Voice input key.

                  It looks like you’re using a Samsung device, so the terms might be a little different. Your Google Keyboard will look similar to this.

                  The settings button (gear) is under the comma button.

  11. When (I use dictation on a Nexu 7 2013, it always uses a lower case ‘i’ for the personal pronoun ‘I’. How do I set this so that I don’t have to change it every single time, please?

      • Jeff, thanks for the reply. I don’t understand the line “Use the fix suggestions a couple of times”. Could you expand or clarify please?

        Martin

        • Each word usually has an underline, which means there are suggestions for other words. Press the word, review the list, select an appropriate word. Usually 1 or 2 times does the trick. The program will learn your habits, speech, and other features to feed you more accurate renditions.

          • Jeff, i’ll try that over the next day or two and report back. I don’t think, from memory, that a capital “I” is actually ever offered to me. I don’t understand why the software doesn’t know that a single “i” is almost always a capital. I’ll get back to you. Thanks again.

            Martin

  12. Google speech usually understands me well enough but when I go to type-edit after speech (In Yahoo email only) I encounter mega problems. Gmail has no issues, speech then type-edit works fine. Thanks for any insight Jeff

  13. If I want to use the microphone on my messaging keyboard to create a text message by speaking it, IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE, SUCH AS SPANISH, how do I do it? I have tried using the words for Period (punto), comma (coma), etc. and to no avail. Any ideas????

  14. My guy sent me a text that read “You 2 baby grl”. Then he immediately sent a text that said “voice to text typo” can voice text really type the number 2 vs.the word to? Can voice text also abbreviate girl by using grl?

  15. When using the microphone on my galaxy S6, it requires I hold the microphone down, and when I release it, my text message is sent before I can preview it. What do I need to change to check my text message before sending.

  16. Google voice / Android dictation doesn’t spell my husband’s name correctly (spells it Brian in stead of Bryan). Does anyone know how to fix this? I use the dictation function all the time and 99% of the time it’s great. But if Bryan’s name comes into the conversation i always have to go back and correct it.

  17. Up until a week or two ago, I used to “dictate” voice-to-text messages and emails simply by press/holding the little microphone on the onscreen keyboard when starting a text or email message. I could do this while NOT connected to WiFi. Now I can’t.
    Did something happen in a recent (within the last 10-14 days) update of Android or Google or…..???

  18. I have an Android tablet and an Android phone both of which are using Google keyboard. I have no problems with most of the commands but the, simply doesn’t type. It types the word instead. What’s the solution? Good morning, test, what’s wrong?

  19. Hi Jeff,

    I read through the comments and can’t believe I’m the only one having this issue but I don’t see that anyone else has mentioned it.

    I like to use Google voice recognition both when texting and e-mailing with Gmail but it tends to insert some of the most ridiculous capitalization. For example, I was dictating about putting a horse “in the wash rack” and it repeatedly decided that “in The Wash Rack” was what I was looking for. It does this a lot with words that rarely warrant capitalization — very frustrating.

    Are there any good fixes? Is there a “Google, quit capitalizing stupid stuff” option? 😉

    Thanks for any insight!

    Jackie

    • I’ve experienced something similar, where a sentence will have random capitalizations in the middle of it and they’re not proper nouns.

  20. This article is very helpful, but I am very surprised I have not heard anyone else who has issues with pronouns. My voice to text is constantly switching pronouns which can completely change the meaning of my message! Any ideas?

  21. Is there any easy way to type numerals (i.e., “1” vs. “one”)? For example, if I want to start a list with “1.”, can I do that just with my voice?

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.