Coders, save your wrists!
Posted by David Chandler on February 6, 2006
I’ve been waiting for years for voice recognition software to get good enough to take some of the pressure off my increasingly tender wrists and elbows. My wait is over. Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred edition, version 8, fills the bill! I haven’t tried coding with it yet, but it is wonderful for answering e-mails, creating documentation, and browsing the Web (referencing APIs, of course). The voice browser, which allows you to navigate simply by saying the first word or two of the hyperlink label, is something I’ve wanted for a very long time, and is actually more productive (and more fun!) than having to move the mouse. There’s also a great choose-by-number system for entering data in text fields, drop boxes, etc., without having to voice tab all over the place.
You can use Dragon to navigate any standard Windows program by voice just by saying the name of a menu item or button label. If you really get stuck, you can always say what key you want to press (“press Ctrl-F7”). You can start any program without having to navigate the Windows start menu: just say “start” and the name of the program as it appears in the Start menu hierarchy, like “Start Microsoft Outlook.” Now add shortcuts to your most commonly used folders in the Start menu, and you’re on to something even easier than Windows Favorites.
The freeform voice recognition is incredible, as are the capabilities for making corrections by voice. “NaturallySpeaking” is no joke. You don’t … have … to …. speak slowly at all. In fact, it works better when you run your words together like usual because it gets more contextual clues that way. The autopunctuation feature is remarkably good at figuring out where to put periods and commas, too.
The package I got came up with a nice headset microphone (analog) that works just fine. I’m hooked! You can even move the mouse with your voice using the ingenious MouseGrid feature. That’s definitely slower than moving your wrist, but when you’re kicked back in the easy chair in a comfortable posture, who wants to reach for the mouse? Most of what you do with the mouse you can now do by voice, anway.
Oh, and it only takes 5 minutes of training up front, and it gets better as you go. Thank you, thank you, Dragon.