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How to enable speech-to-text in Linux with this simple app

If you'd like to add speech-to-text on the Linux operating system it's much easier than you might think, with the help of a simple Flatpak app.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
speech bubble
Vitalij Sova/Getty Images

I'm not a big user of speech-to-text but that's only because I "word" for a living and still have fingers that are capable of typing very fast. That's not something I ever take for granted. And given I've known many people over the years who depended on speech-to-text, I am always very grateful to point out the means to make an operating system more accessible.

So, when I came across the Speech Note app, I was thrilled to find it was quite simple to add speech-to-text in Linux. However, once I installed the app and started using it, I realized that it comes with a considerable caveat…it requires power (and a lot of it). 

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The reason this app requires so much power is that speech-to-text processing happens offline, which means it will depend on your CPU (and GPU if you have one) to carry the heavy lifting. If your machine is underpowered, one of two things will happen: the computer will crash while trying to process speech-to-text, or it will happen very slowly. So, if you don't have a powerful desktop computer, you might want to depend on a third-party speech-to-text service, such as that found in Google Docs (which only works with the Chrome browser).

If you have a powerful enough machine, you can turn to the open-source Speech Note app. This app can be installed on any Linux distribution that supports Flatpak. It's important to note, however, that the base installation is very small. However, downloading the language model can take up to 2GB of space, so keep that in mind if your system has limited local storage.

Once installed and ready, Speech Note does a great job of processing speech-to-text on Linux. 

Let me show you how to install and prepare Speech Note for use.

How to install Speech Note

What you'll need: To get Speech Note installed, you'll need a Linux machine with Flatpak installed and over 2GB of free internal storage. That's it. Let's make it happen.

1. Open your terminal window and install

Log into your desktop and open the terminal window app. Once the app is open, paste the following command and hit Enter on your keyboard:

flatpak install flathub net.mkiol.SpeechNote

Make sure to answer Y to the questions to complete the installation.

2. Open Speech Note

Click your desktop menu and look for the Speech Note launcher. If you don't see it, you might have to log out and log back into your desktop to make it appear. 

The Speech Note main window.

Speech Note is a simple-to-use GUI app for speech to text on Linux.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Download your language model

From the main Speech Note window, click Languages. In the resulting pop-up, locate the language you want to download. Hover over that language and click the associated Download button. When the language model has been downloaded, click Close.

The Speech Note language model download window.

You can download as many language models as you need (so long as your machine has the storage space for it).

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Configure Speech Note

Click the three-dot menu button in the upper left corner. From the resulting dropdown, click Settings. In the Settings popup, you'll want to consider two changes. The first is the Audio source. Click the dropdown and make sure to select the source associated with your mic. If you're using a built-in mic, you'll probably want to stick Auto. If you're using an external mic, make sure to select it from the list. 

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The next setting is the Listening mode, for which there are three choices: one sentence, press and hold, and always on. One sentence will listen to one sentence at a time. As soon as you stop speaking, Speech Note will stop listening. 

Press and hold means it will keep listening as long as you hold the Listen button. Always on means as soon as you click Listen, it will listen and continue to do so until you stop it.

The Speech Note Settings window.

There are a number of configurations you can undertake but these will get you up and running right away.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Use Speech Note

Using Speech Note is simple. Click the Listen button and start talking. There will be a lag between your speaking and Speech Notes transcribing. Depending on the speed of your hardware, that lag can be considerable (if the machine is underpowered). 

And that's all there is to using the Speech Note app for easy speech-to-text on Linux. Remember, if your machine isn't powerful enough to handle the processing, you can always turn to Google Chrome and Google Docs (which does work quite well on Linux).

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