How to talk to your apps so they will listen

How to talk to your apps so they will listen

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This year, I replaced my previous note-taking app of choice with OneNote and haven't looked back. What sets it apart for me: I can use Speech, Windows Phone's built-in voice recognition feature, to take notes faster than ever.

It's easy to forget that many Windows Phone 8 apps take advantage of Speech, and that your voice can be faster or more convenient than your finger.

Using OneNote and Speech, I can quickly make notes and audio reminders just by pressing and holding the Start button from the lock screen. (In my old note-taking app, it took a minimum of five steps to jot down an idea. Ugh. What a chore.)

For example, I might say, "Note, look up movie times tonight," and my phone automatically opens OneNote, records my audio note in a new quick note, and even transcribes the note for me ("Look up movie times tonight").

Much better. (To use Speech from your lock screen, go to Settings> Speech and check Use Speech when the phone is locked.)

I use Speech with other apps, too. For example, now that I've made myself a reminder to check for local movie times tonight, I can activate Speech and say, "Flixster, show nearby theaters." My phone opens the app, which shows a list of local venues and show times.


Good listener: Flixster is one of many Windows Phone apps that take advantage of Windows Phone’s built-in speech recognition feature. Not sure what to say? Open Speech and tap the question mark icon. 

I also use Speech to text my girlfriend without a single tap of the keyboard when I'm driving and need to be (mostly) hands-free, or when I want to walk and text while keeping my eyes on the sidewalk and streets in front of me.

Want to see which of your apps have Speech commands? Just activate Speech, tap the question mark icon, and then flick left to see apps you have that work with Speech. Tapping an app’s name shows you what voice commands you can use with it.

You’ll find more apps that take advantage of the feature in the Store’s Voice Command Apps collection. And here’s a how-to video showing more ways to use Speech. How do you use it on your phone?

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  • KaptKos
    0 Posts

    I have a Nokia 900 via ATT and after the update to 7.8 it keeps going into speech search when I'm talking on the phone and when running a video it keeps popping into the mode that shows all your open apps.  Very annoying.  Any way to fix/stop that?  I have the speech b.s. turned off in my settings but it still pops up everytime I use the phone to talk to someone.

  • markbt
    3 Posts

    Can you use speech to text while in One Note?

  • mog0
    8 Posts

    For me the big problem with the speech is if I enable the Use Speech when the phone is locked it gets unlocked all the time in my pocket but when I turn it off, using a hands-free headset becomes awkward as you have to use the screen to unlock the phone before you can talk to it.

    Can we please have different settings for the windows button and the hands free kit button so we can use hands free without pocket dialling accidentally.

  • henbo
    0 Posts

    Maybe English works well hands-free in a grid-locked Prius. German speech recognition not so much, in the car while driving or in total silence.

    And many commands seem to be missing probably in either language, such as "stop", or "repeat".

  • Nathan
    63 Posts

    Take a look at this comparison

    I thought after number of years of experience with "Microsoft Anna" and Windows speech service, Microsoft would be leading in speech recognition paradigm. But unfortunately, there is no offline speech recognition in Windows Phone like android offers. The punctuation is very basic and no way to say punctuation (like "comma", "period") to force it. No multi lingual support, although once Microsoft was contributing in many computer linguistics research programs, all around the globe..

    What happened lately, Google hired all members of your linguistics team?

  • Working with Apps through voice, at least for me is quite tricky. I can't pronounce English like you, English is not the language of my Country. Last time It took 5 minutes to me to call a person through this.