Category Archives: Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon Christmas List 2013

By Kimberly Patch

Ten years ago the Boston Voice Users Group (BVUG) constructed a top 10 Christmas list of features and fixes we wanted for Dragon NaturallySpeaking Version 7. We solicited ideas by email and had a meeting where people brought more ideas and several dozen active Dragon users voted to rank the top 10. A voice users group in New York City got wind of the project and came up with their own version. Each group sent its top 10 list to Dragon maker Nuance, which at the time was still called ScanSoft. We also sent a supplemental list of 45 suggestions, also ranked by importance.

To our great disappointment, we heard nothing back.

I thought it might be interesting to look at those lists 10 years later, and come up with a new, 2013 list aimed at Dragon 12.5. There is no longer a Boston Voice users group.

The first two items of this year’s Christmas list are the #1 and #4 suggestions from the decade-old list. They are at the top again this year because I believe that if they’d been implemented 10 years ago we would be in a very different place with speech now. Better late than never.

#1: An email suggestion box that is separate from tech support (no personal response necessary) This would enable people to send in suggestions without being charged

#2: A ScanSoft [now Nuance] employee whose job description includes using NatSpeak *all the time*

#3: This is a bit of a cheat because it’s more than one suggestion. It’s a small bundle of suggestions from the decades-old list and supplemental list that are all on the same topic. This group of features would’ve helped what was at the time an active group of users writing custom commands to improve Dragon, and helping other users by doing so. I believe that if these suggestions had been implemented a decade ago Dragon would have a much more thriving user community today. Again, better late than never.

  • A link that allows you to open a macro file by clicking on a command in the command history dialog box
  • Commands that make the command browser usable hands-free
  • An easier way to disable built-in commands or at least change their names
  • A way to turn off a single or a set of installed macros
  • A way to assign a set of macros to multiple programs

#4 and #5: A pair of suggestions from a decade ago that address user frustration:
Better recognition logic or an option that will cut down on misrecognitions that are ungrammatical (“he walk”)
A strong correction option in the correction box to learn after 1 correction as if you had corrected 10 times

#6: A fix for the problem of a current window losing focus when there is no reason for it to have lost focus (this must be corrected by clicking the mouse in the window, which only sometimes works, or switching to another program and back). A related problem here is Dragon not realizing it’s in a dictation field. Since this has been so difficult to fix, let me suggest a more modest proposal – a practical workaround. Let the user tell Dragon to act like it’s dictating into a text box.

#7: A fix for the problem in Microsoft Word of periodic loss of connection to the text, which disables the Select and Say commands.

In 2009, shortly after Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 came out I wrote a blog entry suggesting 10 improvements for Dragon 10. The last three items on this year’s list – #8, #9, and #10 – are the top three items from the 2009 blog entry:

  • I’d like a default user option that would let me start the program hands-free.
  • I’d like the ability to check audio settings hands-free.
  • I’d also like the ability to save and switch Check Audio settings — this is useful if you travel a lot. I do an audio check whenever I land someplace new, but there’s no reason I should have to do another audio check rather than go back to a saved once I’m back in the office.

Giving credit where credit is due, I will say that #4 on the 2009 list was fulfilled. We now have separate controls for buttons and menus. I can say whatever’s on a button – like “yes” or “no”, and at the same time set Dragon to require longer names for menu items, so I can say “File Menu” rather than just File because menu items are often active when I’m writing text. Thanks for that.

We still have a ways to go, however. Here’s hoping for a good year in 2014.

Urgent Dragon Alert: automatic check glitch can prevent Dragon from opening

By Kimberly Patch

[2-27-13 Update: We’ve gotten word that the issue with the Dragon update service has been fixed. It’s safe to turn on automatic updates if you wish.

In addition, there is a service pack available for Dragon 12. We strongly recommend downloading and installing this update.

A version of Utter Command that is compatible with this update is scheduled for release next week.]

Dragon Naturallyspeaking maker Nuance is having technical issues with its check for update service.

The bottom line: don’t let Dragon automatically check for updates until this is fixed. The software checks periodically unless the “Check for Product Updates at Startup” feature is turned off. This feature is turned on by default.

Trouble is, if your software checks for updates and runs into this issue, Dragon will then not open, making it difficult to turn off the “Check for Product Updates at Startup” feature.

To protect yourself from this potential problem turn off the “Check for Product Updates at Startup” feature: go to Dragon Options\Tools\Administrative Settings\Miscellaneous and Uncheck “Check for Product Updates at Startup”.

If you’ve already run into this problem and Dragon won’t open, there’s a more elaborate fix posted in the Dragon forum:

It’s fairly obvious from the trouble that Nuance is getting ready to release an update. Once Nuance solves the update issues, you’ll want to download the update. The update is fully compatible with Utter Command.

Check back here periodically – we’ll let you know when you can turn the update service back on.

Heads-up: Dragon Recorder iPhone App

By Kimberly Patch

Nuance has released a free iPhone Recorder application you can use with the “Transcribe Recording” feature of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the desktop.

Dragon Recorder is a relatively simple recorder with a fairly clean interface that lets you record WAV files and transfer them to your computer via wifi. Once the files are on your computer, you can process them through Dragon’s Transcribe Recording feature, which is designed to transcribe the voice of a person who has trained a profile on Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It does pretty well with a relatively quiet recording of just that person’s voice.

Dragon Recorder gives you some useful, basic abilities:

  • You can pause, then continue recording.
  • You can play back the recording on the iPhone, and you can move the pause/play button to jump to different portions of the recording.
  • You can continue recording at the end of any previous recording. This is a little tricky — drag the play button all the way to the right and the play button will turn into a record button
  • You designate the first portion of the name of your file in settings. The second portion of the name is an automatic date and time stamp.

I can think of a couple of additions I’m hoping to see in updates:

  • The ability to bookmark recordings on-the-fly during recording and playback. I’m picturing several types of bookmarks you can use like hash tags. Bookmarks should also show up in the transcription.
  • Although this is designed to be transcribed automatically, it would also be useful to have slider bars for controlling the speed and pitch of recording on playback so you have a good way to manually transcribe as well.

What do you think? Let me know at Kim at this website address or look me up on Google+. Feel free to + me if you want to be in my Accessibility, Utter Command or Redstart Reports circles.

Getting Gmail working well with speech commands

By Kimberly Patch

If you haven’t used speech commands to control a computer, it might not be obvious that single character commands, for instance “y” to archive a message in Gmail, can present a challenge.

Single-character commands seem like a great idea, especially for Web programs, because your Web browser already takes up some common keyboard shortcuts. Gmail has a lot of single-character commands, and once you get to know them you can fly along using the keyboard. In general I’m all for more keyboard shortcuts because it’s easy to enable them using speech.

Command conundrum

Single-character commands that can’t be changed, however, can get speech users in a lot of trouble. Say a command or make a noise that’s misheard as text in a program that doesn’t use single-character shortcuts and either nothing happens or you get some stray text you can easily undo. Do the same thing in a single-character-command program and you can cause many actions to happen at once.

A stray “Kelly” in your Gmail inbox, for instance, will move the cursor up one message (single-character command “k”) and archive it (single-character command “y”). “Bruno” causes even more damage.

Turn off the keyboard shortcuts, though, and the program becomes fairly inaccessible for speech users. We need the shortcuts, and we can combine multiple keystrokes into single utterances to make things even better. It’s having little control over them that presents a problem.

Speech-safe single character shortcuts

Google Labs has a nifty extension that presents a simple fix. It lets you change the characters you use for keyboard shortcuts, including using two characters rather than one. Add a plus sign (+) to the beginning of every shortcut and they all become speech-safe.

Here are step-by-step instructions.
– go to your Gmail account, click the settings gear icon at the top right of the screen
– click “Labs”
– search for the “Custom Keyboard Shortcuts” extension and click to download. This will add a ”Keyboard Shortcuts” tab to your Gmail settings
– now, click the settings gear icon at the top right of the screen
– click Keyboard Shortcuts
– add “+“ to the beginning of every command

If you’re using Utter Command 2.0 you’re now all set. Say “Plus” and any one- or two-character command. Say, for instance “Plus j” or “Plus Juliet” to move down one item. You can also say a command multiple times in a single utterance. Say “Plus j Repeat 5” to move down five items, for instance. And you can combine two commands: “Plus j Plus y” moves down one item, then archives that item (say “Question Mark” to call up the keyboard shortcuts list.)

Raising the bar

The Google Labs add-on enables Gmail for speech users, but there are many other programs out there that use single-character shortcuts, including other Google programs, and other Web-based programs like Twitter. Message for Google: How about one facility that would let us control keyboard shortcuts across Google programs?

It would also improve things if we could have a larger number of characters available for a given character shortcut, the ability to also control control-key shortcuts, the ability to save and share different sets, and the ability to apply at least some shortcuts across applications

Important Note: If you were a beta tester or received the Utter Command 2.0 pre-release, you might not have the “Plus” set of commands. If this is the case, send e-mail to “Info” at this web address, and we’ll make sure you have the release version. The release version shows 15 new sets of commands on the “New commands for 2.0” list you can open from the Taskbar icon menu.

Tips, tricks, productivity, accessibility, usability and all things speech recognition.

Change People’s Lives

By Kimberly Patch

If you’re anywhere near Boston this week, make sure to check out the Change People’s Lives Conference and Expo this Friday, September 23 at the Hynes Convention Center. The event is hosted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Governor Deval Patrick will be giving the keynote address. Event collaborators include The Institute for Human Centered Design, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Work without Limits, and Easter Seals.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking maker Nuance is exhibiting, and Peter Mahoney, Senior Vice President & General Manager of the Dragon Business Unit, is scheduled to give a talk. Information about Utter Command will also be available at the Nuance booth.

The expo is free. It costs $75 to attend the conference sessions. Registration details are here:

Using speech recognition for passwords

By Kimberly Patch

I get a lot of questions about how to use speech recognition software for passwords.

Speech is inherently different from the keyboard because people can tell what your password is when you say it out loud. And when the password is unpronounceable you end up spelling it, which is both nonsecure and tedious.

I see a lot of people using the not-so-great solution of mapping a cryptic password to something pronounceable using the Dragon vocabulary manager or the Utter Command Enter List facility (UC Enter List lets you combine words with the Enter key). Neither method is very secure, because the mapping is in a utility that someone can simply look at.

The easiest good solution is to use what’s already there — check “Remember Password” on your browser and when you type your username the password will fill in automatically. Set a master password in your browser to protect the list of passwords (in Firefox click tools/options/security and check “Use a Master Password”).

Once you have Remember Password set up, put your username(s) in the Utter Command Enter List (say “Add Enter” to open the Enter List) and you’ll be able to say your username plus “Enter” in a single phrase. With “Remember Password” checked the password will fill in automatically and you’ll be able to log on using a single speech command.

Another good solution is a password manager like Roboform, which manages all your passwords (there’s a free version). All you need to do is enter a master password when you turn on your computer. Roboform also automatically fills in forms for you. It takes some set up, but in the end it makes things easier.

Dragon 11.5 free upgrade finally here

By Kimberly Patch

If you already use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, you’re entitled to a free upgrade to 11.5.

You must access the upgrade from within Dragon 11 — Click on “Help\ Check for Updates”, select “Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5” and follow the instructions to download the upgrade. Once it’s downloaded, click on the upgrade to install.

There’s more information here:

We strongly recommend upgrading. The upgrade fixes several bugs and gives you the ability to use your iPhone as a wireless microphone over a wifi network.

Utter Command is fully compatible with Dragon 11.5.

Making Google+ easier to use

By Kimberly Patch

Here are a couple of Firefox add-ons that make Google+ easier to use.

– Google+Manager
This adds the keyboard shortcuts Google should have included in the first place, a translate button for every post, a drop-down menu for common functions, and a tiny URL generator.

– i rec Plus 1 and Like
This adds a “+f” icon in Firefox next to the homepage button (near the top right corner). Click the button to get Google +1 and Facebook Like buttons for any webpage. You can use the Utter Command naming-a-mouse-click utility to click the button, then click the icon to share to either service using a single speech command (details in UC Lesson 10.24).

Quick Hotmail control by speech

By Kimberly Patch

I got a question today about controlling Hotmail by speech. Here’s a short answer.

The good news about web programs is more of them now have keyboard shortcuts, and more of the shortcuts are standard. This makes it easier to use speech control without customization.

Do a web search for “Hotmail keyboard shortcuts” and you’ll find several lists. Here’s one from

Hotmail has a pretty good set of shortcuts, including some defacto standards. Utter Command e-mail commands like “New Message”, “This Reply”, “Reply All” and “This Save” work in Hotmail because Hotmail uses the common shortcuts for these functions (see UC Lesson 8.3).

For the less standard functions you can speak keyboard. Here are a few that are particularly useful:
“Letter fi” or “Foxtrot India” goes to the Inbox folder
“Letter fs” or “Foxtrot Sierra” goes to the Sent folder
“Control Dot” goes to the next message
“Control Comma” goes to the previous message
“Control Enter” sends

Tip: Make sure to say “Shift” before “Control “ if you use any of the shift control commands.

Probably the best way to control drop-down menus that you use frequently in web programs is to use the naming-a-mouse-click ability (see UC Lesson 10.24). You can say two mouse clicks in a row to control a drop-down using a single speech command.

Heat and computers

Those of us who use speech recognition are giving our computers a pretty good workout — the speech engine takes a lot of compute power. As long as you have a fairly powerful computer and do a couple minutes of maintenance every few weeks you’ll be all set.

Unless, like last week, it’s very hot, and you try to use your computer in a room that’s not air-conditioned.

Computers naturally get warmer when you use them. On a cool day the heat dissipates pretty well by itself. Last week was a different story, however. When a computer gets too hot, the computer fan kicks on to cool it down. If it’s still too hot the chip will automatically slow down. This all presents problems for the speech user. First, the excess noise of the fan can make it harder for the microphone to process your speech, and can make the signal that ultimately passes to the computer chip less clean so the computer has to work harder to decipher it. These can both increase the lag between you saying a command and the computer recognizing it. And if the chip slows down, processing slows down further.

The moral of the story is if you find yourself trying to use speech on a hot day and you think the computer is slowing down, it probably is. Turn it off for little while and it will do better when you turn a back on. Find air-conditioning or wait till the air temperature is cooler and it will do even better. And make it a habit to turn off your computer when you’re not using it so it can cool down completely.

FYI Here’s advice on the ideal setup for speech-recognition and a two-step maintenance program for speech-recognition.