MS-Excel / Excel 2003

Hands-Free Data Entry

Excel versions 2002 and 2003 support Speech Recognition, which enables you to do hands-free data entry by dictating the text or numbers that you want entered in the current cell and to issue voice commands that allow you to choose menu items, dialog box options, or even toolbar buttons by simply saying their names.

According to Microsoft, to be able to use Speech Recognition in Excel, your computer must be at least a Pentium II running at a minimum speed of 300 MHz with a minimum of 128MB of RAM. You also need a top-quality microphone, preferably one that's attached to a headset (like the kind used by office receptionists). The giveaway microphones that come with PCs are just not sensitive enough for speech recognition because they tend to pick up stray sounds, which frankly make it impossible to have your voice commands correctly processed.

When using Speech Recognition to dictate data entries, you need to keep the microphone close to your mouth and in the same position as you dictate. Speak normally and in a low but not monotone voice (use the same voice and intonation that you used when training Speech Recognition), pausing only when you come to the end of a thought or the data entry for that cell. Keep in mind that it takes time for your computer to process your speech, and therefore, depending upon the speed of your processor, it may take some time before your words appear on the Formula bar and in the current cell.

Be prepared to turn off your microphone as soon as Speech Recognition has recognized the cell entry (accurately or not) so that you can complete the entry by pressing the Enter key or an arrow key, clicking the Enter button, or clicking another cell. If your mike doesn't have a physical off/on switch, you can turn it off by clicking the Microphone button on the Language bar, shown minimized on the Windows XP taskbar. Note that you can also complete a data entry by clicking the Voice Command button on the Language bar and then saying something like "down arrow" or "enter."

When dictating cell entries, you can include punctuation and special symbols in your entries by calling the symbol by the word that Speech Recognition understands. Table below gives you a list of these symbols and what you should say when dictating them as part of the cell entry.

Dictating Punctuation and Special Symbols
To EnterYou Dictate
."Period" or "dot"
?"Question mark"
'"Single quote"
'"End quote"
""Quote" or "open quote"
""Close quote" or "end quote"
!"Exclamation point"
@"At sign" or "at"
£"Pound sign"
$"Dollar sign"
%"Percent sign"
)"Close paren"
-"Hyphen" or "dash"
+"Plus sign" or "plus"
["Open bracket"
]"Right bracket"
|"Vertical bar"
>"Greater than"
<"Less than"
Enter"New line"

When dictating numeric entries in your cells, keep the following idiosyncrasies in mind:

  • Speech Recognition spells out all numbers below 20 so that when you say "seven," the program inputs seven and not 7 in the cell.
  • Speech Recognition enters all numbers 21 and higher as digits so that when you say "thirtyfive," the program inputs 35 in the cell.
  • To have Speech Recognition enter the fraction 1/2 in the cell, you say "one-half."
  • To have Speech Recognition enter other fractions, you say the number of the numerator, "slash," followed by the number of the denominator as in "one slash four" to insert 1/4 into the cell.
  • When you say ordinal numbers ("first," "second," and so on), Speech Recognition inputs 1st, 2nd, and the like in the cell.
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