From the Kenosha News on 12-25-05

Record sound and dictate with built-in Windows software

If you need to record live sound onto your computer, you won’t need any special software. Use the Sound Recorder program by clicking on Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Entertainment. (Your menu path might be different.) To use it, you will need a microphone; you can get one any electronics store or the electronics department of a store like Walmart or Target. Plug it in to the microphone jack on your computer. You’ll also want to have speakers or headphones to listen to the sounds you’ve recorded.

When you’re ready to record, click on the record button – the one with the round red circle on it. Click on the stop button when you are finished recording. To listen to your sound click the Play button. You can also edit your sound to remove blank space at the beginning and end of the sound. Once you’re happy with your sound, save it by clicking on the File menu and selecting save as. Your file will be saved in a .WAV format. This won’t be playable on an MP3 player but if you burn into a CD it will be playable in a CD player.

Why would you want to record your voice? You might want to record a poem, story, or Bible verses to listen to later. I used this technology to record French vocabulary words for a pronunciation tutorial. (Get more info on-line at sabbarpublications.com.) You might want to record your children singing Christmas songs and send it via e-mail to grandparents.

Another exciting capability built into Windows is dictation – capturing words that you speak into a document. This requires the language bar; to display it, right- click on an empty space on the Microsoft taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Drag to the Toolbars item and select Language bar. The language bar will then appear toward the right near the date. There are several buttons on the language bar. If you haven’t set up your software yet, clicking the Speech Tools button leads you through the voice training wizard. Hold your microphone at a natural distance and read the sample text clearly. This process takes about ten minutes and teaches the computer to recognize your voice patterns.

Once you’ve completed the training wizard, open the software you want to use - for example, Microsoft Word. Then click on the dictation icon on the language bar. Speak your text into the microphone. At first you’ll see only a series of dots in a gray box, since the voice recognition software prefers to recognize a full sentence at a time. When you complete a sentence you’ll need to say the word “period.” Don’t worry if it doesn’t recognize your speech perfectly; you can always go back and correct what you’ve written using your keyboard and mouse.

You can also use voice recognition and your microphone to access the commands in your software. To do this click the “voice command” button on the language bar. Then say the name of the menu item - such as “File;” then say your menu choice. You can change modes from dictation to voice command at any time by clicking on the corresponding button on the language bar.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 12-25-05