After being first reported on back in November, system-wide voice dictation is finally beginning to roll out for Chrome OS on the Canary Channel. That means, of course, that users will need to be on the least stable of the channels available to Chrome OS users. So those who are waiting for this feature to roll out may want to wait until it hits the Stable Channel to prevent issues. Having said that, dictation is a feature that's been a long time coming and which should prove useful. Prior to the launch of native system-wide dictation, the only way to voice type was via the keyboard. That meant getting a Chromebook's on-screen keyboard to appear and then tapping the mic icon on that. Now, by turning on a flag in the system's hidden settings on the Canary Channel, that mic icon can be clicked where it appears in the system shelf near the status area.
Not only does that mean it's accessible from anywhere. As an accessibility feature, it's now usable with a quick click without ever needing to flip a Chromebook into tablet mode. On the keyboard side of things, users with dictation enabled can now click the search icon simultaneously with the "d" key to access the feature as well. That's bound to be useful for quite a few users once it finally rolls out to the Stable Channel but there's been no indication as to when that will happen.
In the meantime, turning the feature on is relatively straightforward but switching to the Canary Channel requires a complete system wipe. That means anybody who isn't already on the channel is going to want to back up all of their files before getting started. Then, users need to navigate to system settings – which is easily accomplished by clicking the status area of the shelf and then the gear icon. In the three-dash hamburger menu at the top right, users will need to navigate to the "About Chrome OS" section and then to click "Detailed build information." The option to switch channels will be under that button and users should be careful to follow on-screen instructions throughout. Moving on from there is easy enough, navigating to "chrome://flags/#enable-experimental-accessibility-features" and enabling the feature will result in a new item in the accessibility settings menu called Dictation. Clicking that and enabling it, after the subsequent restarts, finishes the process.