Microsoft has been including speech recognition software in Windows for years, but historically it’s been designed as an accessibility setting that allows you to input text by talking instead of typing.

Soon you’ll also be able to launch and switch between apps, browse the web, and generally control your computer by voice thanks to a new Voice Access feature coming to Windows 11. A pre-release version of the feature is rolling out now to members of the Windows Insider program on the Windows 11 dev channel.

The new Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22518 brings new desktop backgrounds, a new Taskbar shortcut for the Widgets panel, and makes it easier to install the Windows Subsystem for Linux from the Microsoft Store.

But one of the biggest changes is the introduction of Voice Access, which allows you to do say things like:

  • “Open <app name>”
  • “Switch to <app name>”
  • “Minimize window,” “Maximize window,” or “Close window”
  • “Click <button or link>” (for example “Click Start,” or “Click cancel”)
  • “Right click <item>”
  • “Double click <item>”
  • “Scroll <direction – up or down>”
  • “Press <key or key combination>” (for example “press and hold shift” or “press tab 2 times”)

You can also interact with areas of the screen that don’t have names by using number overlays. Just say “show numbers” and a list of numbers will appear on the screen, and you can tell Voice Access to “click 7” or any other number and then say “hide numbers” it make the overlay disappear.

grid overlay can also divide the screen into sections, allowing you to click in the center or a specific region after saying “show grid.”

And you can still use your voice to enter and edit text using voice commands as well.

Voice Access can be toggled from the Windows 11 Settings app by navigating to Settings > Accessibility > Speech. Once enabled, you can tell your Windows 11 PC to start listening for Voice Access commands by hitting Alt+Shift+C or turn it off with Alt+Shift+ B, set your computer to automatically start Voice Access when Windows starts up, or use a voice command:

  • “Voice Access wake up” will start the computer listening.
  • “Voice Access sleep” will put the feature to sleep.
  • “Turn off microphone” will stop the computer listening at all until you manually re-enable the mic using a mouse or keyboard.

Keep in mind that the feature is still a pre-release preview and there’s a chance that some things could change before Voice Access is made widely available to all Windows 11 users.

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  1. This is actually a lot closer to the idea of what I wanted voice controls of computers to be than “digital assistants” are, and what I’d been expecting since that old commercial in which a man uses a voice activated computer on a park bench with a display in front of his face (and yells at birds).
    The problem is you’re never just talking to Windows, like the man in the ad would have been when it was on TV. Of course in Windows you’re getting keylogged by default anyway, but this feature gets to pick up even more information that could screw you over if given to the wrong people.

    1. Whats needed is non-networked by design open source voice system. So that you can control local devices, say in the shower while fully nude or bathrobed, cuz you dont wanna get out of shower and water & electronics dont mix. No need to network that. If a firmware update necessitates, system can ask you to physically connect an eth0 cable or push button that “switches on” lora, wifi and/or bluetooth, something rare — only a maintainer would do.

        1. How do you think this “free” software gets paid for? The tracking pays for it all and makes a profit. If Micro$oft is already logging all your PC activity, then it doesn’t matter if you type it or say it.