Last week, Google announced it had added free speech-to-text capabilities to Google Docs (Google calls it Voice Typing). This would have been huge news 20 years ago, yet when Google unveiled it, it was only described in a single paragraph in a middle of a more significant blog entry. In a world with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now, a free speech-to-text service that works on multiple computing platforms may not seem like big news anymore.

Voice Typing is different; it’s a built-in version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking (for those who remember and still use that program). googledocs_stt_iosVoice Typing works in Chrome on the desktop and the Docs apps for Apple iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android.

Here’s how it works: To start voice typing on an iOS device, tap the microphone icon to the left of the spacebar near the bottom of the screen. Tap the microphone icon on the right side of the screen above the on-screen keyboard to start Voice Typing on an Android phone or tablet. If you want to voice type on a Mac or Windows 7/8.1/10/11 PC, you must use Google Docs in a Chrome web browser. Then, select Tools > Voice Typing. You will see a microphone icon with the tool tip “Click to speak” on the browser screen near your Docs document.

Download Voice typing for PC

Google Docs Voice Typing currently supports 48 languages, including Chinese, English, Portuguese, and Spanish regional variants. You do not need to perform any training before using Voice Typing, and it doesn’t appear to need a special microphone. For this article, I used the built-in microphones of my Dell Windows 7,8.1,10,11 notebook, a Nexus 6, and an iPhone 6+ to test Google’s speech-to-text.


Voice Typing does require you to speak words to add punctuation: “Period,” “Comma,” “Exclamation point,” “Question mark,” “New line,” and “New paragraph.” Unlike dedicated speech-to-text systems, Voice Typing does not have a way to correct or change the text using your voice. With Voice Typing left on, you must use your keyboard (physical or on-screen) to make changes to the reader.

Stephen Colbert’s video on YouTube

In addition to my regular voice, I tested how well Voice Typing would work on a continuous speech by playing a Stephen Colbert video on YouTube into the microphone of my Nexus 6 phone running the Google Docs app. Google Docs recorded 288 words using Voice Typing when I pressed the Pause button. It looked like it did a credible job of performing speech-to-text of a person speaking relatively fast. My rough estimate is that it was about 85 to 90% correct. And, of course, there is no punctuation since you need to speak the punctuation marks for it to appear in the document.


I started but didn’t finish writing this article using Voice Typing. Unless you are a smooth extemporaneous speaker (I am not), it is not the fastest way to write more than a few sentences of text. And, like all speech-to-text systems, it works best in a relatively quiet environment. I’m not sure if I will use Voice Typing regularly. I can see myself using it to make a few notes on my phone. And it may be interesting to see how well it performs in an interview with multiple people.