Our Google-Doc-loving readers might already know that last month Google released a feature that allows you to edit Google docs by voice. (Voice typing arrived on the scene in 2015.) This expansion of the voice command tool allows for editing and formatting by speaking into your computer’s mic.
I gave it a try; here’s what I found.
Heads up: this feature only works on the desktop version of Chrome, so you might have to switch browsers. Voice editing is also limited to Docs at this point in time. Hoping sheets and slides are on the horizon.
Reaction 1: This is Surprisingly Accurate
I dabbled in Google’s voice typing feature when it launched in 2015 and was ultimately surprised by how good it was at picking up what I spit at it. A few mistakes here and there; unsurprisingly, proper nouns were the toughest. (At first Google thought I kept saying “chocolate” instead of “Chalkup,” which gave me a good chuckle, but it smartly corrected itself without my prompting. Nice work, Google.)
I believe the Wired article I linked above logged a 90 percent success rate with dictation, and that, by and large, matches my experience. As far as editing goes, I found much of the same.
I started with some really basic stuff. Asking for text to be centered or left-justified. I tried applying a heading and deleting words. Google obliged me with only a bit of lag. Selecting and deleting words was interesting, not because of any major inaccuracies, but because I had to be thoughtful in my commands to ensure I was grabbing and altering the correct words. I imagine I’d get better at this if I used it daily.
Reaction 2: I’d Be Better at This if I Memorized a Few Key Commands
Similarly, I bet I’d be way better at Google Voice editing if I memorized some key commands.
Asking for alignment and selecting words was intuitive enough, but I had to pause a few times and think through how to do something more complicated. For example, you’ll want to say “add bullets” or “create bulleted list” to use that type of formatting.
The best list of editing commands I’ve found is right on Google’s support doc. (Hey! Thanks to this list I can say that I’ve successfully added and edited a table to a Doc by voice. That’s neat. It also helped me add the links in this post.)
Reaction 3: I’m Not as Fast Using Voice Editing, But Man if This Isn’t Cool
After 30+ minutes of tinkering, I’m impressed by the accuracy/flexibility of the editing commands. I discovered that I'm able to get the same formatting result using a few differents words and phrases. The commands I mentioned above became more obvious the more I explored. (Oh, duh. I can just say “make bigger” to gradually increase font size instead of guessing a specific font size. That makes sense.)
I hit a few snags with more in-depth formatting (like the aforementioned table) but was ultimately able to correct myself before jumping back to the keyboard (I added too many columns and then selected the wrong things to delete, but I’ve got it now).
I’m ultimately a little slower than I would be with a keyboard and trackpad, but the increased functionality for users who can’t use these tools is crazy exciting. Worth playing with and potentially test-driving with your students.