Category Archives: Speech Commands

Tip: Taking the named Touch commands to the next level

Once you get used to naming a mouse click, you might want a little more. Take a look at UC Lesson 10.24 and you’ll find you can combine named mouse touches with other keys in a couple of useful ways.

Here’s a good use of combining a named mouse touch with a letter key. When you’re in an e-mail message in Thunderbird*, you can click on the Sender’s address to drop down a menu that includes Copy e-mail Address and Add to Address Book.

To enable copying the sender e-mail address or adding it to the address book in a single speech step, name a mouse Touch to click on the sender address:

1. Position the mouse on the Sender’s address using a command like “20 By 11”

2. say “Add Touch” to bring up the Touch dialog box

3. name the touch something like “Sender”

4. say “Enter” to put the touch on your Touch list

5. say “Window Close · Yes” to close the UC List dialog box and save changes

6. If necessary, say “Restart NatSpeak” to restart the speech engine.

Now try the command and some combinations.

With an open email in Thunderbird you can say “Sender Touch” and it will click the Sender address to drop down the menu.

Better yet, you can say “Sender Touch c” (or “Sender Touch Charlie”) to copy the address to your clipboard, or “Sender Touch b” (or “Sender Touch Bravo”) to bring up the New Card dialog box with the address entered into it.

Have you found a good application for advanced Touch commands? Tell me about them – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

*Thunderbird is a free, open-source, full-featured e-mail program from Mozilla. It’s included in the UsefulFreeSoftware list on the UC Exchange Wiki (say “UC Exchange”).

Tip: Use TinyURLs to tame long Web addresses

Long URLs are awkward in many situations, most especially on Twitter, where character count is paramount. The Firefox Tiny URL Creator add-on gives you more room by reducing any URL to just a few characters.

Tiny URL creator also solves an occasional issue with the Utter Command Site List. The Site List — the list of websites you can get to using a single speech command — handles URLs of up to 100 characters. The Tiny URL Creator eliminates this limitation.

To set up the Tiny URL Creator, download it. It will add a menu item to the Firefox Tools menu. To create a URL from the current URL in Firefox say “Under t t c” to click Tools/Tiny URLCreator/From Current URL. Creating a tiny URL puts it in your system clipboard. Say “This Paste” to paste it anywhere.

See the UC Exchange page UCandFirefox  for more details.

Have you found Firefox or Thunderbird add-ons that make things easier when you’re using speech? Tell me about them – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

Rulers right

I’ve changed the way I position the mouse rulers, and it’s changed my behavior.

I used to leave Rulers in the default position of top and left. But lately I’ve been using them on the right and bottom, and and I’m liking this better for a couple reasons. I tend to notice them less when they’re tucked above the Taskbar and off to the right. So I tend to leave them on whether I’m using them or not. More important, they don’t change the position of windows, and so don’t affect named mouse touches.

(To change Rulers so they’re just on the right and bottom say “Rulers On”, “Rulers Right Bottom”)

Where do you like Rulers? Let me know here or e-mail at info at this Web address.

More on naming a mouse touch

We’re continuing to find new uses for Utter Command’s naming-a-mouse-touch ability.

Here are some new ones:

– “Folders Touch” to click the folder tree button in Windows Explorer. This lets you toggle the folder tree pane on or off  – thanks to Bill Z the trainer

– “Web Touch” to click on the top left corner of a Web page, away from any links. This lets you return focus to the page – thanks to Jill

– In general, iTunes buttons – thanks to Jill

– “Snapshot Touch” to click the snapshot button on the history window in Photoshop – thanks to Eric

– “Highlight Touch” to click the highlighter button in Word – thanks to Jeff

And here’s a new one I’ve been using: “Right Touch” and “Left Touch” to click the right and left side of a horizontal scroll bar in Excel. This lets you scroll left and right by page.

We’re also finding some new uses for naming two mouse clicks in a row.

– “Balloon Middle Touch” to dismiss the Dragon NaturallySpeaking balloon that comes up in NaturallySpeaking 10 Service Pack 1. The command clicks the balloon to make it go away, then clicks the middle of the screen to put the focus back on your application – thanks to Bill Z the trainer

– “Capture Settings Touch” in FastStone Capture. The command clicks the tiny main menu icon on the software toolbar menu, then clicks settings. This makes it easy to switch among full-screen, active area and window capture – thanks to Eric

And here’s one from Daniel:

– “I use a Microsoft address book that always opens in the wrong folder (“shared contacts” instead of “main identity contacts”). The window is also divided so I can’t switch folders with the cursor without moving the mouse or tabbing a lot. So I named a Local Touch to click “main identity contacts” and another one to click inside the portion of the window that lists the names and addresses. What it comes down to is that the brief command “Local Contacts Names Touch” puts me where I want to be after the window opens. This is extremely convenient!”

Thanks, and keep them coming – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

4/30/09 Note: see the naming a mouse touch video.

Tip: Naming a mouse click

We're getting some good feedback from people who are speeding themselves up in all kinds of situations using UC's naming a mouse click ability. We didn't anticipate some of the ways people are using this ability. I'll detail these in a future post.

Here's how to name a mouse click:

1. Position the mouse using the mouse rulers commands on something you regularly click and can't get to any other way, for instance the Indent button in Google documents, e.g. "50 By 10"

2. When you've got the mouse exactly where you want it, say "Add Touch" to call up the UC list dialog box with the coordinates entered

3. Add a name for the coordinates, e.g. "Indent"

4. say "Enter" to put the new command on the Touch list (at this point you can repeat steps 1-4 to add more commands).

5. say "Window Close · Yes" to close the UC List dialog box, and restart NatSpeak


Now you can say "Indent Touch" to click the Google Documents Indent button.


Things really heat up when you use the naming a mouse click ability to click twice using a single speech command.

Let me know how you're using the mouse click ability by commenting here, on the Web site comment form (say "UC Make"), or sending e-mail to info@ this website address.

Tip: make sure to export your lists to back them up (say "UC List Export").

Note: some early prerelease copies of Utter Command don't contain the naming the mouse click utility. It'll be available in the general release, and all prerelease customers will get a copy of the general release when it comes out. If you're a prerelease customer and would like an upgrade before the general release, please contact us.

Keyboard shortcuts: naming, sharing and seeing


The way we control computer programs is fairly inefficient.

Keyboard shortcuts are underused in favor of using a mouse to click through menus. This is short-term practical — it takes less thought to browse through menus than to remember a keyboard shortcut. But it’s not very productive.

Look at the whole picture and you find good reasons to make the less productive choice. There are barriers to using keyboard shortcuts. Help and learning tools for keyboard shortcuts are scant at best. And inconsistencies across programs make the learning task larger.

So how do we improve things?

We can (continue to) encourage software makers to improve keyboard shortcut documentation and consistency. This is important, but it’s not going to change the world.

I think things would improve greatly given universal abilities to

1. name our own keyboard shortcuts — this currently exists in some but not all programs
2. share sets of shortcuts
3. see all shortcuts for a given application, and even compare shortcuts across applications

This would provide a good mental map of functionality — both of individual programs and across the landscape of suites.

It would make efficient functionality accessible across the board. It would enable individuals, organizations, departments or corporations to make applications more efficient and even standardize shortcuts across applications. The ability to share shortcuts would put a lot of brains on the problem and make the process efficient and evolutionary.

Given a map of all shortcuts, you could make things even better by allowing the user to mark the map — maybe using color labels.

Tools like this are the equivalent of a downhill groove for water– it would make it easy to be more efficient.

Keyboard shortcuts are least standard and most lacking in Internet applications. I’m thinking an ability like this could be built into or be an add-on to a browser.

And in addition to increasing productivity across the board, keyboard shortcuts are central to accessibility. The blind community relies on keyboard shortcuts. And speech commands often tap keyboard shortcuts — they’re often the hooks people use to write custom macros, and Utter Command allows you to speak and combine keys including keyboard shortcuts.

So who’s going to step up to the plate?

Friday Tip: Remembering boilerplate and vocabulary commands


NatSpeak boilerplate Text and Graphics commands allow you to insert any text or graphics into a document using a single speech command. These commands can be very powerful — they’re good for adding text and graphics that you use often, such as your address or a set of directions.

The NatSpeak Vocabulary editor allows you to add words or phrases to your vocabulary that have different spoken and written forms. This allows you to make words like your email address easily pronounceable.

The key to using boilerplate and vocabulary commands is being able to remember them.

There are two ways to make these types of commands easy to remember:

1. Word them consistently

2. Make them easy to look up

I find the easiest way to remember boilerplate Text and Graphics commands is to simply say the first part of the text you’re inserting followed by “Full”. So “Redstart Full” prints the full name and address of Redstart Systems. If you have two different versions of the address, add a number. “Redstart Full 1” prints the same address in a different format.

You can use the Utter Command Clipboard facility to make anything easy to look up. Once you name your Text and Graphics command say “Line Copy To” followed by the name of the UC Clipboard file and you’ve got it recorded. For example, to keep your boilerplate commands in “UC List 1” say “Line Copy To List 1”.

Now any time you want to consult your list of commands say “List 1 File”. You can also print it out.

I also use the start-to-say method for vocabulary words that have different written and spoken forms. I’ve put my Redstart email address in as a vocabulary word with the spoken form “Kim at Red” and my Gmail address in as a vocabulary word with the spoken form “Kim at G Mail” (in address commands I use “Kim” whether or not the actual address is just Kim or something longer).

One caution in using vocabulary in this way — make sure commands are at least two words and make sure the two words are not a common phrase that you’d want to say as is. If you need to, use the “Full” method above to avoid this problem. Also make sure to save your user after adding vocabulary words.

If you wish, keep vocabulary words that have different written and spoken forms on the same list as your boilerplate commands.

The difference between boilerplate commands and written/spoken vocabulary words is a block of boilerplate is returned exactly as written, while vocabulary commands are treated like words, with appropriate spacing before and after them.

UC Commands Tip: say “NatSpeak” followed by the first one or two words in a NatSpeak dialog box title to call up that dialog box.

Commands for the dialog boxes mentioned above:

“NatSpeak My Commands” calls up the NatSpeak My Commands dialog box where you can write a boilerplate Text and Graphics macro

“NatSpeak Vocabulary” calls up the NatSpeak Vocabulary Editor dialog box

Friday Tip: Quick definitions

The second fastest way to look up a word in a dictionary using Utter Command is to select the word, then say “This Dictionary Search”. This command looks up the selection in and returns the results in a browser page.

The fastest way is to combine selecting the word and searching. For instance, “Word Dictionary Search”.

You can use these commands whether or not a browser is open.

Happy searching.

Speeding search by speech

Keyboard shortcuts are powerful tools for the speech interface because they work across all programs and they can be combined — you can say several keyboard shortcuts in one phrase to speed things up.

This is why we encourage all software makers to make all features available via keyboard shortcuts.

Google is experimenting with adding keyboard shortcuts to search results. Here are the experimental keyboard shortcuts:

Command Action
Letter J Selects next result
Letter K Selects previous result
Enter (or Letter O) Opens selected result
Slash Moves cursor to search box
Escape Moves cursor to results

And here’s how to speed things up further with Utter Command combinations:

Command Action
Letter J · Enter Opens next result
Letter K · Enter Opens previous result
J Times 1-100 Moves down 1-100 and selects result
K Times 1-100 Moves up 1-100 and selects result
J Times 1-100 · Enter Moves down 1-100 and opens result
K Times 1-100 · Enter Moves up 1-100 and opens result
Escape · Enter Moves cursor to results and opens

To try these out

1. Go to the Google experimental page
2. Under the Keyboard Shortcuts heading click “Join Experiment”
3. Go to regular Google search or Advanced Google search, type a query, then try the shortcuts on the results.

As long as you’re logged in you’ll be able to use these shortcuts in the regular and advanced Google search pages.

Note: the Join Experiment button uses cookies. If your browser is set to remove all cookies at the end of a session and you want to retain this setting add to your exceptions list (Firefox: Tools/Options/Privacy/Exceptions; Internet Explorer: Tools/Options/Privacy/Sites).