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How to control Windows 11 with your voice

With voice access in Windows 11, you can navigate the screen, issue commands, and dictate text by talking. Here's what you need to know.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Woman working on laptop
iStockphoto/Getty Images

Windows has long offered you different ways to dictate text and navigate the screen using your voice. 

Also: How to recover deleted files in Windows 10 or 11

But one new feature now available in Windows 11 is voice access. Using voice access, it's possible to navigate and interact with Windows by speaking different commands, actions, keys, and keyboard shortcuts. 

Plus, you can dictate text in an email, message, or document.

Though the feature is designed for people who can't use a mouse and keyboard due to physical limitations, voice access can be useful for anyone who wants to use Windows 11 with their voice. Here's how it works.

How to use voice access in Windows 11


To use voice access, you need to install the 22H2 update for Windows 11

1. Go to Settings and then Windows Update

Go to Settings > Windows Update and click the button for Check for updates. If the 22H2 update is waiting, click the button for Download and Install. For now, Microsoft is still doling out this update in a staggered way, so it may not yet be available for your PC. 

If you still want to snag the update, head to the Download Windows 11 page. In the section for the Windows 11 Installation Assistant, click the Download now button. Then run the downloaded Windows11 InstallationAssistant.exe file to install the update.

2. Turn on voice access

Next, go to Settings > Accessibility > Speech. Turn on the switch for voice access (preview).

Voice access settings

Turn on voice access.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

3. Set up your microphone

A voice access guide pops up, prompting you to set up your microphone. Your default microphone is shown on the screen. If you wish to set up a different one, click the button for Add new microphone. Otherwise, click the right arrow in blue.

Also: The 5 best streaming mics 

Set up microphone popup for voice access

Set up your microphone.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

4. Click Start guide to learn how to use voice access

Follow any steps to set up your microphone if they appear. Then click the Start guide button to learn how to use voice access. Say, "Voice access, wake up." Follow the instructions to try different commands and options using your voice.

Also: How to use Google Docs' soon-to-be-upgraded voice-to-text feature

A guide to voice access

Take a tutorial on voice access.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

5. Go to View commands

Windows congratulates you on making it through the guide. To view a list of commands that you can say with voice access, click the View commands button. A screen for voice access commands appears. 

Browse or print the list to read the commands you can say and how to say them. You can also click the link at the top for "Voice access help article" to view a Microsoft support article on the feature.

List of voice access commands

View voice access commands.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

6. Try voice access in action

Now, it's time to try voice access for real. First, you'll want to learn how to turn the feature on and off. Say, "Voice access, wake up" to move from sleep mode to listening mode. Say, "Voice access, sleep" to go from listening mode to sleep mode."

To stop it from listening, say, "Turn off microphone." To turn it on again at this point, click the microphone icon on the voice access toolbar at the top. To turn off the feature and close the toolbar, say, "Turn off voice access." To display the toolbar again, return to Settings > Accessibility > Speech. Turn off the switch for voice access and then turn it on again.

Also: How to automatically keep your Windows applications updated

Toggle for turning voice access on and off

Turn voice access on and off.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

7. Navigate Windows using different commands

Next, try navigating Windows and issuing different commands using your voice. You can open an application by saying, "Open [name of app]." For example, say, "Open File Explorer." Once in File Explorer, navigate using your voice. To open a specific folder, say, "Double-click [name of folder]." 

For example, say: "Double-click Pictures." To open a subfolder, say: "Double-click [name of subfolder]." For example, to open a subfolder named Wallpaper in the Pictures folder, say: "Double-click Wallpaper." 

If there are two of the same folders or subfolders visible, Windows asks which one you mean by displaying a number next to each. Say the number for the folder you wish to open.

Window of computer's folders.

Open folders with your voice.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

8. Use voice access to open a specific file

To open a specific file in the selection folder, say, "Double-click [name of file]." For example, to open a file named Star Trek 05.jpg, say, "Double-click Star Trek 05.jpg."

9. Dictate text in a document

Next, try dictating text in a document. Let's use Microsoft Word for this. Say, "Open Word." In a new blank document, just start dictating your text. Remember to dictate punctuation marks, navigation commands (such as new line or new paragraph), and formatting commands.

Also: How to get Microsoft Office for free

Open Word document

Dictate text in a document.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

10. Correct mistakes and format text

If you need to move around the document to correct mistakes and format text, say things like, "Go to top," "Move up five times," and "Move after [specific word]." 

To delete a word, say "Delete [word]." To format a word, issue the specific formatting command followed by the word. For example, say, "Capitalize you." If the word appears multiple times in the document, voice access displays a number next to each occurrence. 

Say the number next to the instance you wish to format.

Formatting different parts of text with your voice

Navigate a document and format text with your voice.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

11. Save the file

To save the file, use a combination of navigation commands and the numbered grid to select the correct menus and dialog boxes.

Save as section of Word document

Save a document with your voice.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

12. Ask for help if you get stuck

If you get stuck figuring out what to say, click the question mark in the upper right of the voice access toolbar. From the menu, you can view all the commands, start the interactive guide, and learn about voice access through Microsoft's support document.

List of commands for voice access

View the commands and learn more about voice access.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

13. Return to Settings to change key settings for voice access

Finally, you can tweak a few key settings for voice access. Click the gear icon in the upper right to change the microphone and manage certain options. Return to Settings > Accessibility > Speech

Here, you can turn voice access on and off, set the feature to start every time you sign into Windows, learn how to activate voice typing in text boxes, and use the classic speech recognition tool to interact with Windows.

Also: How to replace your Windows 11 Start menu with a third-party app

Speech settings with Accessibility

Tweak the settings for voice access.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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