Around December of last year, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I needed help. Not just with my short story writing, or my book writing, or even my blogging, but with everything that I do using my hands.
So when my mother and wife asked what I wanted for Christmas this past year, I said, "Gift cards."
They asked from where and I said, "Staples."
So I got gift cards from Staples and from Borders. I went out shopping and picked up some new software for my computer. The software that I bought was Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition.
Note: for those of you who may be just visiting here for the first time and do not know what kind of problems I have with my hands, I was diagnosed with C-M-T back in January 2008.
After spending about a week or so staring at it, I decided to load it into my computer. Then, after five minutes or so, I stopped the process and put it back on the shelf, where I spent another three or four days staring at it.
Finally, I decided to once and for all, to load the software and get on with it. In the meantime while all this waffling was going on, I happened to mention in this post that I picked up this particular software over the holidays. Well, my good blogger friend, Mama Zee, asked in the comment section of that post that she couldn't wait to read my review of this software, and my good blogger friend Jane Turley, happened to ask if I was able to get it to do a particular something that she wasn't able to get it to do.
So as to kill two birds with one pebble, here is my personal take on the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 voice recognition software. This review will contain some pluses and minuses, and the fun part of this review will be you the reader trying to figure what are the pluses and what are the minuses.
1} It took overall about 15 minutes or so to load.
2} The basic tutorial took about twenty minutes or so. The one main thing that the tutorial does is that it analyzes the way you speak, and adjusts accordingly on what it thinks you need to use. For instance, I talk relatively fast. If you ever get the chance to have a verbal conversation with me, the one main thing that stands out is that I talk fast. I also talk like I got marbles in my mouth and talk in incomplete sentences. So the system was initially set up that speed was more important than accuracy. That lasted, oh about one day. I'm a major perfectionist and I quickly adjusted it so that although the speed was still there, there was a little bit more accuracy to it.
3} It's not quite user friendly. The handy dandy user guide that you can download is about 130 pages, most of which I don't really use with this Standard version (there are Professional and Medical versions available as well). Also, the online help guide that you can use whenever you get stuck, is about as crystal clear as say, the help guide that you get when you're using Word or Excel. Some of the commands I had to learn by trial and error, which was fortunate for me, since I can still use my hands on the keyboard. I hate to think what kind of grief a person would go through if they used this product and didn't either have any use of their hands at all or at the very least minimal usage
4} You can schedule data collection, accuracy training and even have it fine tuned to your writing style. Problem is, in order to do that, you need a password for Windows. If you're like me, chances are that when you bought your computer/laptop, you had the main operating system (in my case Windows XP) already loaded and/or you're the only one using your computer, thus no password is necessary. Another potential problem in not having a Windows password (and thus not being an Admin on your own computer) is that if you ever need to uninstall the software because you bought a new computer, you'll have a problem in doing so.
5} It does take up a bit of memory. Initially it takes up, according to the box, 2 GB of memory. This may be true, but I'm not quite sure about this, at least as it applies to my computer. Also, whenever you decided to save the updates of your user file, it uses each time .1 GB of memory. And speaking of computers, if you have a notebook, it does make it bit sluggish and act weird.
6} You have to close out programs in a particular order. I discovered that if you don't close out those out in a particular order (usually anything first, then Dragon last), the Dragon program has a tendency to make your programs go through that wonderful thing called "Program not responding" aka the Deep Freeze/End Non-Responsive Program Now. If you close out your Dragon first, please wait for about one full minute before you close anything else out. And yes, that includes shutting down your computer.
7} As for actually using it, I've mostly confined myself to re-writing short stories with it and a few blog posts. I've also used in the comment section on both my blog and other people's blogs (good idea), and I've used it in the chat rooms (bad idea). The problem with using it with original stories, is that it forces you to completely change your writing style.
This is the normal formula for writing: Brain to fingers to keyboard to screen. Pretty simple and straight forward.
The formula for writing with Dragon is this: Brain to mouth to microphone to screen.
Essentially, it makes you not only think about what you want to write, but how you want to say it. I don't know about you, but my writing style is a complete 180 from my speaking style. This forces you to adapt your speaking style to your writing style.
8} Vocabulary. As the system gets more in tune to your style of speaking (the English version actually contains five different English dialects: US English/Canadian English, UK English, Australian English, Indian English and Southeast Asian English), the vocabulary expands and modifies greatly. You can tweak the formatting styles to your personal preference, but for the most part, it's pretty good.
And Jane, to answer your question, I can't get it to recognize George Carlin's 7 dirty words you cant' say on television. The only dirty word that it will recognize without me manually fixing it, is Damn
In spite of all the grief I've gone through and some of the unpleasant surprises I've discovered (note, do not go clicking the various menu items if you don't want to go through the aggravation of a fifteen minute tutorial to reset your user file again, because it will force you to do just that in before you can continue to use it), I do enjoy using the software. It is an excellent tool for me, because usually when I get home from work, my hand are basically shot for the day. And it is an excellent tool for anyone who has problems with their hands, be it genetic (like mine) or non-genetic.