Your keyboard is only as fast as your ability to type.
I can only muster about 35 words per minute (wpm) because of carpal tunnel, and a bunch of us are
"hunt and peck" typists. Voice recognition software such
as Dragon Naturally Speaking can clock in at up to
160 wpm or as fast as you can speak.
Most of my students, after completing training
in how to use Dragon, can get up to 40 wpm with
minimal correction time. As the software learns
more about your personal speech patterns, you also
become proficient and comfortable with dictation. Teaching your computer to type can be fun and is
really worth it because it can save you a lot of time
in the long run. For example, suppose you want to
type a sentence that reads: Mount Rushmore is
composed of faces from the past.
In typing this sentence, you perform these
actions: (shift) M ount (space key) (shift) R ushmore
(space key) is (space key) composed (space key) of
(space key) faces (space key) from (space key) the
(space key) past (.)
To dictate the same sentence into Dragon, you say:
"Caps on Mount Rushmore caps off is
composed of faces from the past period."
To compose this simple sentence, you perform 53 separate tasks on the keyboard, as opposed to 12
for the dictated sentence. You don't have to be a
rocket scientist to see that Dragon wins even if you're a
fast typist. And what if you made a typing error!
Now you've got to use the backspace key and retype.
However, Dragon packs a 230,000 word dictionary and never misspells a word as long as it
understands what the word is (note that this is your
responsibility). In addition, Dragon looks at the way you
used the word in the sentence. So, if you say the
word "its," Dragon knows whether to add or omit
the apostrophe for you. It also knows when to
capitalize words. If Dragon makes a mistake (and it will a
lot, at first), you simply say "correct that," and a box
appears with alternate choices. You can select the
correct word by saying "choose three," for
example. Dragon replaces the mistake with the correct word.
Teaching your computer to understand you takes
a little time. Here are a few of the common
problems people run into.
- "The computer keeps making mistakes."
In the beginning it will. Voice recognition
software has to be taught. Neither one of you
understands the other. Like a small child, it tries to get it
right, but when it makes a mistake you must correct
it. So, like any parent, you must have patience!
Often when Dragon makes a mistake, people try to
correct it by slowing their speech, enunciating
louder, and in some cases almost shouting at the
poor computer. Would you do this to a child?
Consistency is important. Don't deviate from your
normal dictation tone when you are correcting.
- "I can't seem to get my speed up...
I'm spending time waiting for the words to come up on the screen."
Wait time corresponds to the speed of your computer. An 800 MHz system processes your
dictation information faster than a 233 MHz
system. Speed also depends on the way you dictate. Do
not wait for the words to appear. Dragon remembers everything you say. Also remember to keep
commands short and choppy and your text fluent. Punctuation marks are not commands. Try not
to break up your sentences into chunks. Your speed increases as you learn to trust the software and
it learns your speaking style. To hit that 160 wpm mark, you must set aside at least an hour a day
to practice dictating. Recite from the newspaper or
a book every day for at least two months. Remember a good relationship takes time.
- "I have a laptop, and I get good results
at home but not at the office."
Do yourself a favor and dump the cheapie
headset that comes with the software. Acoustics can
occasionally affect Dragon's performance, but a
higher end microphone headset should eliminate any problems. LABTEC makes a good one for
around $50. Remember to go through general
training again when you get your new headset.
- "I'm nervous" or "I have a cold or the flu"
If you are nervous, don't use it as an excuse.
Stick to your normal dictation strategy. If you are
sick and you really feel that your dictation is not up
to snuff, you'll know immediately because Dragon won't recognize your words. Do not change
your normal speech patterns. Just as you avoid
people when you are ill, do the same with Dragon.
Back off and use the keyboard until you are better!
- "I have a problem with commands...
sometimes it does not recognize them, or they are not distinguishable from my text."
If you have a persistent problem with a
command, you can remedy the situation two different
ways. The best way is to train the command. Say
"click tools," and when the drop down list appears,
say "click train words," or use your mouse. Next
type the command in capital letters in the box, and
recite as needed until Dragon recognizes the command. This procedure should only be
necessary the first time, and from that point on,
Dragon should recognize the command. The second
remedy is to hold the Ctrl key down and repeat the command, which forces Dragon to accept it.
With the former method Dragon learns from its
mistake, but with the latter, you have simply eliminated
the problem until next time.
- "It doesn't recognize certain words."
Not every word you use in your vocabulary is
in Dragon's dictionary, especially proper names.
You must teach the software these words, so it can
add them to its repertoire. To add a word to the
dictionary, say the word or phrase, and say
"correct that." When the box comes up, simply type in
the correct word or phrase and select it. If you do
it right, Dragon won't make the same mistake again.
Like anything else, teaching your computer
takes practice. With a little effort, you and Dragon can
get up to that magic 160 wpm mark and you'll amaze
all your friends with how "smart" your computer is!