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March 5, 2013

How to talk to your apps so they will listen

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?