How to enable system-wide dictation on your Chromebook

If your preferred, or required, typing method is voice dictation, you're not out of luck with a Chromebook. Jack Wallen shows you how to enable system-wide dictation in Chrome OS.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Chromebooks are incredibly capable devices. Because of their simplicity, these devices are also great for those always on the go. They can serve as your means to be productive, entertain you, and keep you connected, collaborating, and informed. With the right configurations, Chromebooks can make your life a bit more efficient.

One way to do this is by enabling system-wide dictation. With this system enabled, you can speak to your Chromebook and whatever app you have open will turn that speech into text.

However, this feature is rather hidden. For those who want to enable it, I've got you covered. Let's get system-wide dictation enabled for your Chromebook.

SEE: Tips for becoming a Chromebook expert (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What you'll need

In order to enable dictation on your Chromebook, you'll obviously need a Chromebook. Make sure that device is updated to the latest supported release of Chrome OS and that it's connected to your Google account.

How to enable dictation for Chrome OS

Log in to your Chromebook and click the system tray in the bottom-right corner of the desktop. From the popup menu, click the gear icon to open the Settings app (Figure A).

Figure A

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The Chrome OS Settings app.

Click Advanced | Accessibility and then click Manage Accessibility Features. In the resulting window, scroll down until you see Enable Dictation (Figure B).

Figure B

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Enabling dictation on Chrome OS.

You should now see a microphone icon to the left of your system tray (Figure C).

Figure C

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The speech to text mic is now available for you.

How to use dictation in Chrome OS

Whenever you want to use the dictation feature in Chrome OS, all you have to do is click the mic icon in the system tray and then start speaking. This feature is incredibly reliable and does a great job of catching everything you've spoken into the mic--although, it's far from perfect. 

There are a few caveats to the feature. The first is when you end a sentence with a period it will stop the dictation, or if you need to type the word "period" it will, instead, type a period. Once the dictation has stopped, you have to restart it by clicking the mic icon in the system tray. It's not just a period that'll cease the dictation; if you pause to think, you'll find yourself having to restart the dictation by clicking the mic again. 

These caveats, however, are pretty par for the speech-to-text course, so if you've ever used dictation to any degree, you understand its limitations and should be able to get up to speed with Google's implementation fairly quickly. Even with these issues, the system-wide dictation does a very good job of allowing you to do (mostly) hands-free typing.

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