Speech-recognition technology has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. So much so that Windows Vista no incorporates a solid native speech-recognition tool. Here's how to set it up and give your fingers a rest.

Find out how to get the best out of Vista's speech-recognition software here.

Windows Vista: the definitive review

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 1

To begin using the voice-recognition features in Vista, you first need to set up your microphone. Open the Control Panel and click Ease of Access. Under Speech Recognition Options, click ‘Start speech recognition'. In Classic View, double-click the icon for Speech Recognition Options.

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 2

After warning you that this feature is optimised for standard English, a wizard will help you to set up the microphone and software. Select the type of microphone you're using before clicking the Next button. Your next job is to train the PC to recognise your voice.

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 3

Position your microphone carefully to get the best results. Double-click the audio icon in the system tray to ensure your microphone hasn't been set to mute, then read aloud the short sentence onscreen to check the volume level. When this reaches the green zone, click Next.

Speech-recognition technology has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. So much so that Windows Vista no incorporates a solid native speech-recognition tool. Here's how to set it up and give your fingers a rest.

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 4

You must next configure voice recognition. The wizard asks if it can review your documents and emails to learn commonly used phrases, but you can skip this stage. This is more a question of time rather than privacy, in that the information is not shared with anyone but can improve accuracy in voice recognition.

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 5

The wizard will display a printable sheet of common commands that are useful for navigating the desktop. It will also ask whether you wish to run speech recognition at startup. Once you have completed these steps, you can use your voice to control your PC and then proceed to the tutorial to fine-tune speech recognition.

Speech recognition in Vista

Speech recognition - step 6

The tutorial takes you through the basics of using voice-recognition tools, introducing you to the microphone tool and giving feedback on how easily Vista can understand you. Use the Speech Options to restart the tutorial at any point should you, for example, need to retrain Windows to recognise your voice.