Well that didn’t last long

That” being – using voice recognition software. Too many words sound alike. I type fast. I’ve been doing it so long that I can think and my fingers automatically move. I don’t have to worry about individual letters. I don’t have to worry about where the letters are on the keyboard. If I misspell a word, most of the software I use will immediately let me know.

But, if the wrong word is inserted while I’m talking to my computer, it is that much harder to detect if I’m not paying attention as I’m talking. If I wait until the end of a paragraph to double-check my work, it’s very easy for me to scan right past the wrong word. My brain sees the right sound from the word on the screen – sometimes it misses the fact that it’s not the right word (or words). I may use a wrong word every once in a while when I’m typing, but it’s not common. It’s too common when I’m talking and the computer is listening.

So I’m back to typing full time again.

I might return to the speech recognition software, but only when I have a lot of time.

(Also, this morning I discovered that I needed to warm up my voice before starting to talk to the computer. The first bunch of sentences came out completely garbled.)

Ah well.

Talking to my computer (again)

Well, it’s been a while, but I’ve finally succumbed to the guilty pleasure of talking to my computer once again.  I used to do it a few years ago with third-party products on my underpowered desktop computer.  They (and my computer) were horribly slow.  I could type faster than I could dictate.  Way faster.

Fast forward a couple of years.  Then for a while I tried using the speech recognition software that was inside Office 2003.  My machine was a bit faster and the software was a bit better, but even so I could still type faster than I could dictate.

The biggest advantage to dictating was the fact that I’m a horrible speller. If the software correctly recognized the word I was trying to say it would spell it correctly.  Even so, it wasn’t worth the overall lack of productivity.

This morning before I sat down to work (what, me procrastinate?) I had a vision: fast computer, new software packages, better dictation.  Gotta be. So I popped open the help file in Word 2007 and did a search on speech.  Nothing was there except a pointer to Vista.  Interesting.  Speech recognition built into the operating system.

I fired it up, trained the software, trained myself, and had at it.

Now, after working with it off and on throughout the day, I’d give it a qualified thumbs up.  I still need to speak just a bit more clearly than I would normally, which is a bit of a pain. (My brother accuses me of sounding like I’m always talking with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.)

I really like the correction feature which will pop up a dialog box of alternative phrases that I might have intended to say had I not had mashed potatoes in my mouth.  It’s easy from that dialog box to select the correct word or words, or even change to a whole new set of words or phrase without having to touch the keyboard.  You can even spell the word(s) if you need to (again, without touching the keyboard).

The slickest feature of all is the ability to have the software identify all the widgets for the UI.  You can tell it too “show numbers” and it will display translucent numbers on top of every menu option, button – pretty much anything that you could control or click on with your mouse.  You simply say the number of the thing you want to do then say the word OK.  Magic.

My computer has been very responsive throughout the day and the software has kept up with me as I talked.

For a nightcap, here’s a quick test of unedited dictation:

“The following table shows commands for using speech recognition to insert punctuation marks and special characters.  Words in Italics thought to indicate that you can say many different things in place of the example word or phrase and they use will results.”

Not too bad.  Missed a couple words.  Here’s what it should have been:

“The following table shows commands for using speech recognition to insert punctuation marks and special characters.  Words in Italic font indicate that you can say many different things in place of the example word or phrase and get useful results.”

I don’t think I’d want to write a c# program using dictation.  But for expressing my thoughts in regular text, I think this could be very worthwhile.  It is definitely faster than typing by hand.  Finally.