Microsoft has made it easier for people to initiate keyboard commands and use special characters via voice in its latest Windows 11 developer build.
Windows Insider Preview Build 22538, which Microsoft released last week, builds on the Voice Access feature Microsoft introduced last year in Build 22518. Voice Access is aimed at people with mobility disabilities and frontline workers who need their hands free for other tasks.
Voice Access substitutes the mouse, keyboard and touch inputs with talking. Microsoft said the latest changes make it possible to spell names, enter phone numbers, add emojis and select text without touching any hardware.
Commands that the new build allows for include "show keyboard," "hide keyboard" and "click a number" to input that number. Microsoft made a list of all the commands Voice Access currently supports.
"The capabilities they introduced are going beyond dictation functions," said Raul Castanon, an analyst at 451 Research. "It might seem like a minor improvement, but it adds much more depth and complexity to what you can do with voice."
Voice Access can be found in Settings > Accessibility > Speech. A speech model must be downloaded for on-device speech recognition. The feature can be used even when the PC is offline.
After installing the speech model, people can set Voice Access to start as soon as they sign on to their PC. People can use voice commands to activate and deactivate Voice Access through phrases such as "Voice Access wake up" and "Voice Access sleep."
Microsoft has been adding voice capabilities to its applicationss for some time. In 2020, Microsoft made it possible to compose emails in Outlook using voice commands to add recipients and send emails.
Voice Access currently supports only U.S. English voice commands. Microsoft declined to comment on when the feature might be widely available. Because it is in a developer build, the technology might not make it into publicly available Windows 11 updates in the future.
The latest build also includes the first significant update to the Task Manager system monitor app since Windows 2008.
Microsoft modernized how the app looks, making its user interface more in line with other Windows 11 apps such as Widgets and the Start Menu, which use Microsoft's Fluent Design language.
Developers running the new build discovered that Windows users could turn on the redesigned Task Manager. Microsoft did not advertise the change in its developer blog post.
Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.