With so many people accessing their data via small portable devices such as PDAs and cell phones, safety has become a primary concern: People are driving cars, walking, or performing other tasks while interacting with these devices, dividing their attention in ways that can be dangerous. To counter this problem, Microsoft has created Voice Command, software that lets you interact with devices running Windows Mobile 2003 software for Pocket PC or Pocket PC Phone Edition. Here's what you need to know about Voice Command.

What It Does
Voice Command lets you speak commands to your portable device while keeping your eyes on another task you're trying to accomplish. Valid commands include such things as "Call Mark Smith at home," "What are my appointments today?" and "Play the Beatles." The latter command would launch Windows Media Player (WMP) and play all your Beatles songs.

You don't need to train the system for your voice or learn exactly what phrases you can use. Voice Command accepts a variety of inputs for the same tasks. For example, you could say "Start Inbox" or "Read email" to check your email.

Voice Command also talks back to you. When you inquire about upcoming appointments, for example, it tells you what your schedule looks like. If you say "Play music," Voice Command responds, "What do you want to play—artist, genre, or album?" If you say "artist," Voice Command rattles off a list of choices, such as "Ataris, Blink 182, Candlebox." When you say the band's name, the music starts.

Voice Command specifically works with Pocket PC's phone-dialer, Calendar, Media Player, and Contacts, and you can use it to launch any Pocket PC application. However, it doesn't offer navigational support (e.g., a "go back" command) or support for other applications.

What You Need
Voice Command requires a Windows Mobile 2003-powered Pocket PC or Pocket PC Phone Edition device. You must also be using the latest ActiveSync software (version 3.7 at this writing) and be running Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Windows 98 SE on the PC client. You can purchase the software online (http://microsoft.handango.com) or through retailers such as CompUSA and Circuit City.

Recommendations
For busy business people or anyone that would benefit from voice activation and control, Microsoft Voice Command is an excellent solution that works surprising well. Voice Command's simple, conversational style is a huge productivity win for anyone on the go.