Speech recognition

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Revision as of 15:02, 23 August 2012 by Unhammer (talk | contribs) (Free Speech Recognition Engines)
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Speech recognition is any means by which you can interface with your computer via spoken word. This page is designed to identify applications that can facilitate speech recognition and to serve as a guide in installing and using this software in Arch.

A note to newcomers: Speech recognition is something that traditionally has not been well supported in Linux. If you become interested and choose to dig below the immediate surface, you can expect difficulty in finding documentation or help from the community.

Types of Speech Recognition

Speech recognition can mean several things:

  • Text-To-Speech:
    As it sounds, Text-To-Speech (or TTS) will manipulate a string of text into an audio clip. There are several programs available that perform TTS, some of which are command-line based (ideal for scripting) and others which provide a handy GUI.
  • Simple Voice Control/Commands:
    This is the most basic form of Speech-To-Text application. These are designed to recognize a small number of specific, typically one-word commands and then perform an action. This is often used as an alternative to an application launcher, allowing the user for instance to say the word “firefox” and have his OS open a new browser window.
  • Full dictation/recognition:
    Full dictation/recognition software allows the user to read full sentences or paragraphs and translates that data into text on the fly. This could be used, for instance, to dictate an entire letter into the window of an email client. In some cases, these types of applications need to be trained to your voice and can improve in accuracy the more they are used.

Development Status

Several years ago there was a push to implement speech recognition in Linux. Since then, many of those projects have stagnated.


The two major players in text-to-speech applications are Festival and eSpeak. Comparison available here


Festival offers a general framework for building speech synthesis systems as well as including examples of various modules. As a whole it offers full text to speech through a number APIs: from shell level, though a Scheme command interpreter, as a C++ library, from Java, and an Emacs interface. Festival is multi-lingual (currently English (British and American), and Spanish) though English is the most advanced.

  • Free
  • Can install several different voices/accents.
  • Available in Extra

Site Link


eSpeak is "a compact open source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages, for Linux and Windows".

  • Open source
  • Lightweight
  • Available in the community repository
  • Excellent language support
Installing eSpeak

To install eSpeak:

 pacman -S espeak
Testing eSpeak
 echo "Hello.  This is a test." | espeak
eSpeak Usage/Configuration

The Documents page on the eSpeak website here provides an excellent guide for using different voices, adjusting pronunciation, etc. There are many different accents included in this install that are worth trying out.

Voiced Commands


Gnome-Voice-Control is a dialogue system to control the GNOME Desktop. It is developed on Google Summer of Code 2007.

Available in AUR


VEDICS (Voice Enabled Desktop Interaction and Control System) is an assistive software which lets the user to interact with the OS using voice commands.

Note: Not yet tested

Site Link


  1. Perform common window operations like close, minimize, maximize etc.
  2. Invoke default applications like browsers, mail clients etc.
  3. Access any element on the desktop just by saying its name.
  4. Supports GNOME3, GNOME2


Perlbox Voice is an voice enabled application to bring your desktop under your command.


  • Last updated in 2005
  • Package is in AUR, but missing festival-don dependency.

Site Link


  1. Text to speech (Thanks to the Festival speech synthesizer)
  2. Voice control to open user specified applications. For example, if you say "Web", the Perlbox-Voice Control will open the browser of your choice.
  3. Desktop plugins to control your Linux desktop using only your voice. You can switch virtual screens, cycle through desktops, invoke the run dialog, quick lock the screen.
  4. Custom commands are fully supported, and you can add commands on the fly.
  5. Pseudo Commands' allow you to enter commands that the speaker should say. For example, if you say "Good morning", the computer voice could say "And good morning to you".

Speech Recognition

Free Speech Recognition Engines

CMU Sphinx

See http://cmusphinx.sourceforge.net/ and Wikipedia.







Proprietary Speech Recognition Engines

Dragon Naturally Speaking in Wine

Dragon Naturally Speaking software by Nuance is a well-functioning and popular implementation of speech dictation. It is developed for Windows, but has been run sucsessfully in a a linux enviornment using wine. It can be used independantly for dictation into other wine programs such as notepad or it can be paired with Platypus to interface with any native linux program. Platypus also provides a feature to control of your OS using voice commands, similar to the programs described in the Voiced Commands section.

Nuance's software is non-free, so you will have to purchase a copy. Note that Dragon provides you with the ability to install it on a set number of machines. Installing/Reinstalling in wine may use up some of these licenses.

Platypus Project

Wizzscribe SI

Verbio ASR

DynaSpeak from SRI International

LumenVox Speech Engine