Just a few years ago, if you wanted to type using your voice instead of your fingers, you had to invest in expensive dictation software to get high quality results. That’s really not the case anymore. Speech-to-text services come included in quite a few operating systems and apps, including Google Docs.
In Google Workspace, this feature is known as Voice Typing. Voice Typing allows you to write, edit, and navigate your document by speaking instead of using the keyboard. When you use Voice Typing in Google Docs, you don’t have to compose in English either. You can choose from dozens of languages, dialects, and accents.
Beyond learning how to use Voice Typing in Google Docs, it helps to know some tips and suggestions for what you might want to learn to do with it. You might also be persuaded to try Voice Typing once you hear about a few reasons people use speech-to-text tools in the first place.
How to Use Google Docs’ Voice Typing
On the Web
- Log into your Google account in the Google Chrome browser. Voice Typing requires Chrome.
- Open a Google Docs file.
- In the menu bar, go to Tools > Voice Typing. Alternatively, use the shortcut Command+Shift+S.
- A microphone box appears. Click the microphone to start using your voice to type.
- The browser might prompt you to give it access to your microphone, which you should do.
Then, go ahead and speak clearly in your normal voice, and the app will write down everything you say—with the exceptions of commands, covered in the Tips section below.
When you’re done, click the microphone again or say “Stop listening.”
On a Mobile Device
When using Google Docs on a mobile device, you can still type using your voice, but you’ll technically use the built-in speech-to-text functionality on your phone rather than Google Docs’ Voice Typing. From your point of view, however, it mostly works the same.
- Download the Docs app, launch it, and log in to your Google account.
- Open a document or start a new one.
- Tap the pen icon to begin editing.
- When the keyboard appears, press the microphone icon and begin dictating whatever you want to write.
If you have any trouble, the most common problem is that your device’s microphone isn’t set up or working properly.
Check the permissions in your browser. Remember that you must use the Chrome browser to get Voice Typing. Click the three stacked dots in the upper right corner of the browser and select Settings. In the page that opens, go to the left side and choose Privacy and Settings, then in the center of the page choose Site Settings.
Scroll down and click Microphone. On the next page, make sure “Sites can ask to use your microphone” is enabled.
Also check below in the section called “Not allowed to use your microphone” that you do not see Google Docs. If you do see it, open the settings (click the triangle) and change the microphone option to Allow.
Check your system settings. If you can’t solve the problem in your browser permissions, then check the audio settings in System Preferences in a macOS device or the Control Panel for a Windows computer. Make sure the microphone you want to use is selected.
How to Access Help Menus
To get additional help, hover your cursor over the microphone box. A question mark in a circle appears. Click it to open the help menu. It contains instructions for how to use Voice Typing as well as a list of all the commands you can use.
How to Change the Language
To change the language for Voice Typing, go to the microphone box and look for the triangle pointing down. Click it to open a dropdown menu of language options and select the one you want.
Tips for Voice Typing in Google Docs
In addition to writing down everything you say, Google Docs Voice Typing can also follow commands. Commands include inserting punctuation, moving the cursor, formatting text, as well as selecting words, lines or paragraphs to delete, change, or move.
Adding punctuation is one of the functions you’ll probably use the most often. To add punctuation, just say any of the following words (although note that punctuation doesn’t work for every language):
- Exclamation point
- Question mark
- Open quote, end quote
- New line (to start a new line of text)
- New paragraph (to start a new paragraph, as in using the Enter key)
There are many commands you can learn if you intend to use Google Docs Speech to Text regularly. Here is a smaller set of commands that you might want to learn first because they’re highly used.
- Go to/Move to end of line/paragraph/document
- Scroll up/down
- Delete (deletes the word immediately before the cursor)
- Select [word or phrase]
- Select all
- Select next/last character
- Select line
- Select paragraph
- Create/Insert bulleted list
- Create/Insert numbered list
- Clear/Remove formatting
Reasons to Type by Voice
There’s no wrong reason to use your voice to type text in Google Docs, but there may be some use cases that apply to you that you’ve never thought of before.
Adapting for Accessibility or Comfort
Some people need speech to text because typing with their fingers simply isn’t an option. Even if you can type, you might need a break from it from time to time to prevent repetitive stress injuries, change your posture, or other reasons, like if your hands are full because you’re nursing a baby.
When you use speech-to-text, especially on a mobile device, you can often do other tasks while you’re at it. For example, you can take a walk or do light housework while jotting down notes using your voice.
Making Notes for Presentations
If you do any kind of presenting or public speaking, which includes everything from university lectures to business meetings, typing by voice has a major advantage over writing in a more traditional fashion. When you write silently, you use different word choices and rhythms compared to what you would say aloud. By using the speech-to-text feature to write your notes, you’ll have a better representation of what you’ll actually say, making the journey to rehearsals or presentations faster and smoother.
Bonus Tip: You can use Voice Typing to write not only documents but also presentations. In Google Chrome, open a presentation in Google Slides, select Tools, and then choose Voice type speaker notes. When the speaker notes appear, click on the microphone to use speech to text.
Writing Scripts for Videos and Podcasts
Do you make videos or audio recordings? If so, you’ve probably learned the value of having a written script. You may have also learned that after you write a script and read it aloud a few times, you need to do a few takes to made a few adjustments because what we write isn’t always exactly what we want to say. When you move words from the page to your mouth, you often have to change them a little. Typing by voice from the get go, rather than typing your first draft, can make that transition more efficient by getting you closer to the final version earlier in the process.
Coming Up With Character Dialogue
In the same way that writing by using your voice helps get more natural sounding scripts for making videos and podcasts, it also works for writing dialogue for creative works, like screenplays, teleplays, and novels. What would your characters say? Would they actually say what you put on the page? Give your characters an actual voice by coming up with their lines aloud.
Finishing a Draft
Experienced writers sometimes advise less experienced writers to “just finish the draft” or “write badly, fix it later,” rather than not write at all. The idea is to not let yourself get blocked by fear from writing what you want to write. Instead, give yourself permission to write a bad draft, knowing full well that it’s bad, so long as you finish something. Speaking your ideas out loud can help push you through the hardest part or writing. If you’ve never used speech-to-text writing before, it can feel embarrassing—just as embarrassing as declaring yourself a writer for the first time and putting your work out into the world.