I'm dictating this post using the voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking. I ordered this software when I started having problems with a shoulder that was preventing me from writing and typing easily. Prior to this I was using the voice recognition software that came with my Windows package on my laptop. The Windows software had a hard time understanding my speech; it garbled words and missed punctuation marks, and I found I had to go back and make way too many corrections for the exercise to be worthwhile.
Dragon is definitely a superior product. I ordered it, by the way, on Amazon for under $50. The main thing I found amazing is a feature whereby during setup, it will scan your document files and pick up unique words and phrases and constructions that you personally use. It's as if it's checking your idiosyncrasies and incorporating them into its own little brain. This is extremely useful. For instance, I'm writing a novel that features a character with the first name of Shirlene. The first time I used that name in dictation, Dragon got it right, including capitalization, having read it during its initial scan of the novel's master file.
I might add that I'm using my USB microphone headset instead of the jack-type one that came in the box, having seen reviews where this is recommended.
It certainly takes getting used to and can feel very awkward at first. There's a tutorial that helps you, of course. I find myself, while using Dragon, dictating and then correcting by hand as I go, learning more sophisticated commands along the way, and that will lessen my dependency on hand correction over time. My need for corrections is much less than with the Windows program. (Right here, another for instance, Dragon automatically capitalized Windows, sensing my 'commercial' use of it.) I find myself most annoyed by Dragon's lack of ability to understand when I want to use a contraction, such as 'I'm'. OK, I just dictated that word, I'm, again, and it got it right. I enunciated it a little bit better that time. I also just tried over-enunciating the word and it turned it into "I aim". The voice commands for using the edit functions and moving the cursor are quite user-friendly.
The real challenge for me is the very act of dictation. I'm amazed at how different the experience is from writing longhand or typing. There's a whole different neural pathway from your brain to your mouth than from your brain to your hands. I sort of knew that already, and have been looking forward to this experience. I've found that one huge key is to not look at the screen while I'm dictating, because the words appear on the screen with some measure of delay. When I look away from the screen while talking, as right now, my thoughts seem to flow much more easily.
I think I'll get best results if I do a whole bunch of dictation, as in whole pages, then go back and do corrections later. Correcting as I go is a flow-killer. This is definitely the kind of thing where repeated, constant practice yields great rewards.
So, thumbs-up on Dragon. I intend to make another post about all this after I've gotten more comfortable with the software and used it for dictating large amounts of new material; in my case that's going to be mostly fiction.
[Photo of Dragon Gate, Chinatown, San Francisco by ES.]
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