Using Speech Recognition on Surface


Using Speech Recognition on SurfaceYour Surface has some pretty powerful speech recognition tools built into it. Using speech recognition (and a little practice) you can do just about anything from browsing the web to dictating a Word document.

But before you jump in and use it, there are a few steps you need to take. First, you’ll need to configure a microphone. After that, you need to train your PC to recognize your voice and then you can start using speech recognition.

Microsoft includes a tutorial for using speech recognition on Surface effectively, it’s not necessary to go through it to setup your Surface for voice commands but, it’s a really good idea.

Speech Recognition on Surface: Initial Setup

Obviously, you’re going to need a microphone. The one built into your Surface will do the job, but you’ll find it will work much better if you get a decent quality headset with a microphone.

Personally, I use a Creative Fatal1ty Gaming Headset and am quite happy with it.

Make sure you’ve plugged the microphone into your PC then follow these instructions to get the microphone setup on your Surface.

  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap Search.
  • Enter “speech” in the search box.
  • Tap Settings.
  • The Setup Speech Recognition” windows will appear on the desktop.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • Click Next.
  • Now you’ll be asked to select the type of microphone you’ll use. You should really use a headset microphone if you can because the built-in mic picks up a lot of ambient noise. Pick the type of mic you’re going to use and tap Next.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • Now you’ll get a screen telling you about proper microphone placement. Click Next.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • The next screen will ask you to read some text. This is to calibrate the microphone and make sure your Surface can “hear” you. Click Next when you’re done reading the sentence.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  •  If everything is ok, you’ll get a screen telling you your Microphone is setup. Click Next.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  •  Next, your Surface will ask you if you want to turn on Document Review. Document Review let’s speech recognition parse through your e-mail and search history’s to get a better idea of what words and phrases you use. It’s your call but, I recommend that you Disable document review for the sake of privacy.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  •  Now you’ll select an activation mode. Part of the reason using speech recognition on Surface tablets is so handy is because you don’t always have a keyboard. So, you might want to consider choosing Use voice activation mode as that will let you start voice recognition without a keyboard. It’s your call as this option will eat your battery life a little faster (but not too much). Click Next when your done.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • Now you’ll be given the option to look at the reference sheet. That will let you review a web page from Microsoft with lots of information about speech recognition. Click Next when you’re ready.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  •  Now you’ll be given the choice to start speech recognition at startup. It’s your call. If you do it, you’ll burn battery just a little faster but it will be easier to start using voice commands when you need to. If you don’t, you’ll gain a little battery life but will need to start speech recognition by going through the Search/”speech”/Settings routine we did above.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • That’s it!. You’ll get the “You can now control this computer by voice” window below along with an opportunity to start the tutorial. I highly recommend you do the tutorial as it will help you learn the voice commands better. It takes about 30 minutes.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  •  When speech recognition is on, you’ll see this little gadget on your screen.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

Speech recognition is now setup and ready for you to start using it. Congratulations.

Speech Recognition on Surface: Train your Surface

Speech Recognition on Surface makes a voice profile to recognize your voice and spoken commands. The more you use Speech Recognition on Surface tablets, the better your voice profile becomes. As a result, your Surface gets better at understanding you the more you use it.

However, to get started, you have to initially “train” your Surface to understand your voice. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy.

  • Start Speech Recognition.
  • Switch to desktop mode.
  • In the system tray, tap on the Speech Recognition icon (it looks like a little microphone in a blue circle).

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • The following menu will appear. tap on Configuration then Open Speech Configuration Control Panel. Alternatively, you can dig into the Control panel to find the same thing but, this is a bit easier.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • Tap on Train your computer to better understand you.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • This will bring up the Speech Recognition Voice Training window. Click Next when you’re ready to start. It will take about 5 minutes to do the training.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • You’ll be shown a series of sentences that you have to read back exactly. If you don’t read it back correctly, the computer won’t let you proceed. Here’s an example.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • When you’re done, you’ll get this screen. You can either do more training or continue by tapping Next.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

  • And finally you’ll be given the opportunity to send speech data to Microsoft. personally, it creeps me out that they are collecting this (though I’m sure they’re not doing anything nefarious with it). It’s your call but I always pick Don’t Send.

Using Speech Recognition on Surface

That’s it. Now your Surface has been “trained” to understand you. It won’t be perfect at first but, it does get better over time.

Speech Recognition on Surface: Using It

The built in tutorial is  the best place to go to start learning how to use voice recognition on Surface but, here’s a few helpful hints to get you started.

dictate text

  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search.
    (If you’re using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then clickSearch.)
  • Enter speech recognition in the search box, tap or click Apps, and then tap or click Windows Speech Recognition.
  • Say “start listening,” or tap or click the Microphone button to start the listening mode.
  • Open the app you want to use, or select the text box you want to dictate text into.
  • Say the text you want to dictate.

correct mistakes

You can correct mistakes in three different ways.

  • To correct the last thing you said, say “correct that.”
  • To correct a single word, say “correct” followed by the word that you want to correct. If the word appears more than once, all instances will be highlighted, and you can choose the one you want to correct.
  • In the Alternates panel dialog box, say the number next to the item you want, and then say “OK.”

add or change words in the Dictionary

Using the Speech Dictionary, you can add words, stop a word from being dictated, even correct or delete a word from the dictionary. this is really handy if you use a lot of technical terms and your Surface doesn’t understand them.

  • Start Speech Recognition and make sure it’s listening.
  • Say “open speech dictionary” and do any of the following:
    • To add a word to the dictionary, say “Add a new word” and follow the instructions.
    • To prevent a specific word from being dictated, say “Prevent a word from being dictated” and follow the instructions.
    • To correct or delete a word that is already in the dictionary, say “Change existing words” and follow the instructions.

I hope this helps you start using this really cool and handy capability of your Surface tablet. As always, if you have questions or feedback, just let me know.



  1. Tim – was wondering whether you have used speech recognition with Surface RT – I set it up and have used it in a limited fashion. I pretty much use it solely for dictation/transcription. The first few times, I found quite a bit of lag from dictation to transcription The last time I used it, it ran alright – not that impressive. Thoughts on whether I should keep with it, and keep training it? My situation is a bit tough, because my work computer has Dragon 11.5, which I’ve been using for about a year now -works really well. I’m just looking for an adequate substitute when I’m out with only my Surface RT. Thanks!

    • KDB,

      I’ve used the Windows 8 voice recognition on and off for a couple of months. Mostly for dictation when i’m musing about ideas for posts, it seems.

      It has gotten better at understanding me over time and I’ve gotten better at enunciating when I speak to it. So, I’d say give it some more time to refine it’s voice profile for you. It’s “free” with your RT so, if you ultimately decide you don’t like it, you’re only out a little time.

      Hope this helps,

      (BTW, I dictated this using Voice Recognition on my Pro, I had to go back and fix some punctuation/capitalization but, it did fairly well)

  2. I have been using Microsoft speech recognition since Microsoft had it on XP. Training and configuration has come a long way since then. I recently finished a Masters using speech as I am a lousy typist. One thing to bear in mind is as Speech is already on the system and space is limited use of (IMO) unnecessary software swallows up valuable real estate.

  3. 1. Will Surface pro work with a noise cancelling Bluetooth microphone if yes how can you use it on your smartphone and or the surface pro -can use customization access.

    2. Can voice files be recorded and then transcribed in a batch transcription mode?

    • Jim,

      Noise cancelling headphones will work on the Surface Pro so long as there are Windows 8 drivers available to afford the functionality but, they probably wont work with your phone (again unless there are drivers to do that).

      As for batch processing of audio files, I don’t think there’s anything to do that on Windows 8 natively (though I never looked into it) but, if you have a Surface Pro, you can install just about any Windows app. So, if you have a favorite app for that task already, you can just use it.


  4. My wife got a Surface RT tablet for Christmas. I am impressed with the built in voice recognition which has improved a lot since I last tried it on windows XP. Unfortunately, I trained a speech profile when I was logged into her account. Not surprisingly, the computer does not understand her now. How can I get rid of the profile I made so she can train voice recognition to recognize her speech?

    • I believe they’re here:


      There should be some .dat files in this location. Just temporarily move them into a safe place. When Speech recognition is turned on they will be recreated.

      Next, have her retake the speech tutorial. It’s in control panel under Ease of Access\Speech Recognition.

      Hope this helps,

  5. […] Today’s post is in regards to voice recognition on the Surface RT, from dictation to O/S control. I could write a short overview or a long drawn out step-by-step guide but I would not do it any justice in comparison to this blog post at “Love My Surface” – go read it here […]

  6. I am using a Surface Pro 3 with a headset to dictate in a medical environment. Do you know if I can add a medical dictionary that will integrate with the speech recognition?
    Thanks much!

  7. This is so incredibly behind he times and utterly cumbersome. Microsoft really need to mimic what’s being done for speech to text by even he cheapest cell phones to get caught up. First off even requiring a headset on a $2000 tablet which has a mic suitable for video shot is ridiculous. Second the resources it eats are tremendous. The whole system lags.

    MS need to get it together and join the ranks of cloud based transcription with a simple microphone button on the keyboard to input text into any field. It’s ridiculous they’re so far back in the 90s with his.

  8. Hi, I want to be able to reply to emails using the voice rec dictation, but can’t seem to get it to do it. I have got it installed on my home screen, but just can’t dictate in emails. I have lost the use of my arms and can get into were I need to be using my feet, but purely just want to answer emails with it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I wish they just had the standard little microphone built it like iPhones, ipads and android tablets do.

Leave a Reply