Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Using speech recognition in Word

WORKING speech recognition in Windows, with Dragon NaturallySpeaking! Buy now!

I have to briefly rave about this discovery, even though it's not directly related to Microsoft Word! Just watch the video and you will get the gist of it!

Must be a trick!
Amazing, huh? Now, I have been using this product, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 by Nuance, mostly in Microsoft Word, for a couple of weeks now, so I can give you a quick low-down.

Well, in short, it really does work just like in the clip! Okay, so the people you see in the video are quite proficient in using the program, but the speech recognition really does work that quickly and accurately! It has really revolutionised my use of Microsoft Word - I'm involved in the translation business and for us, time, or rather typing speed, really is money. But there is an upper limit to how fast anyone can type, especially if they are a translator, since translators are not usually professional typists. Even for those who do type quite fast, like me, the hours per day we need to spend typing at high speed really do take their toll on our finger joints.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking has drastically reduced the amount of typing I need to do and now my most common bottleneck is the actual thought process involved in writing text, rather than the limit imposed by typing speed, which is how it should be!

What's the catch?
Of course there are downsides. Although Dragon NaturallySpeaking has an exceptional dictionary, it cannot possibly cater for all possible proper nouns that one might wish to type. So for example in a historical text, you are likely to encounter the names of people, places and events which DNS simply can't cope with. You will probably need to enter those manually, though you can program in new words, which DNS then recognizes perfectly. It's just a question of whether you feel it's worth taking a few seconds (it's that quick) to train the new word, or just type it the few times it appears.

Obviously, although you can talk very quickly when using the program, you do have to enunciate quite clearly, and any time you stumble over a word (which is quite often in my case) DNS gets confused. Also, I have a cold at the moment, and this has slightly affected accuracy!

This is not intended to be a full-blown review, I just want to open up the possibility to you of using a speech recognition program such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Maybe you tried this program, as I did, a few years ago, and weren't very impressed. Now all I can say is, buy a decent microphone, make sure you do some of the training routines after installation, so that the programme is calibrated to your voice, and give it another try! I think you will be blown away!

For the first time, it really occurs to me that we could be seeing the beginning of the end of the keyboard as a practical data entry device! I have no hesitation in recommending this amazing software, and at $160 for the standard version, it is a bargain! In my job, the increase in productivity that it brings means it could pay for itself in less than a week!

Now you just have to think about how you are going to keep the people around you quiet while you are trying to type, or rather speak!

P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention, this whole article was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. With the exception of a few minor corrections and alterations, the entire text was spoken by me and recognized by DNS.

P.P.S. There are several versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Standard, Preferred and Professional. Preferred is the most popular, and the one you will probably go for. Standard is a somewhat slimmed down version that seems to be intended for family use, while Professional is a fully featured, quite expensive version, with advanced scripting facilities which you would need to know why you need. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a demo version, but I believe on-site demonstrations are available for potential corporate customers.

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