Category Archives: Tips

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.

Tip: Folder Direct

By Kimberly Patch

Every so often someone asks about calling up a folder directly without having to open Windows Explorer or a program like Word.

Until now my answer has been you can combine opening the program and the folder by saying, for instance “Word Open Budget Folder”, or “Windows New Budget Folder”.

But there’s a better way. Here’s a neat trick discovered by a clever UC user:

If you want to you call up a folder in any context and not just in a Windows Explorer window create a shortcut to that folder, and then add that shortcut to UC List as a file (not a folder) by issuing the command “Add File”.

You can also use the shortcut trick to create UC File links to files on network drives.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’ve come up with a clever trick that takes you beyond the Utter Command documentation.

Let me know at Kim at this website address or on Google+ +KimPatch (feel free to + me if you want to be in my Accessibility, or Speech Recognition circles).

Long web documents at a glance

There are two ways to speed up a computer task: Carry out the same steps you always have, but go faster, or find an easy-to-use tool that requires fewer steps.

If you need to navigate through long documents on the Internet — papers, standards documents, patent documents etc. — the Firefox HeadingsMap extension will save you a lot of time. It lets you navigate using a map of the headings in a document. The headings map also gives you a great overview — a quick mental map of the document. It works especially well with speech. And it shows errors in headings, which is useful when you’re putting together a long document.

HeadingsMap shows up as a small symbol containing an “h” on the Status bar at the bottom left corner of the Firefox window. If your Firefox window is maximized the “h” appears immediately above the “Start” button.

Click the “h” and a narrow window appears on the left containing all the headings and subheadings in a document. Click the “h” again and the window disappears. Right-click on the “h” and you’re presented with configuration options. I usually uncheck the “levels” checkbox, which makes the headings map a little cleaner looking.

In general, there are three different ways to navigate among items on tree views like the headings map:
– the mouse
– the Up/Down arrows
– the letter keys

The most efficient way to implement letter keys navigation is to let the user type more than one key of a selection, say “d o” to select “dove” rather than “dinosaur”. A less efficient way is to treat every letter as a new navigation event and jump to the next instance beginning with that letter.

Fortunately, HeadingsMap has implemented all three methods, including the efficient letter key method.This method works especially well with speech because you simply say the whole word to navigate to it, e.g. “dove”.

You can download the HeadingsMap extension here:

And here are a couple of especially long documents you can try it out on:
A paper on the effects of climate change on birds from the Public Library of Science:
The public draft of a World Wide Web Consortium standards document:

Friday Tip: Creative New Line

Although you can use the Utter Command Folders List utility to directly open any folder on your folders list using a single command, you’re also likely to at least occasionally navigate ad-hoc through the file system. A common way to navigate is to say a folder name to navigate to the folder (e.g. “Financials”), say “Enter” to go into the folder, say the name of a subfolder (e.g. “Budget”), then say “Enter” to go into the subfolder, etc.

Here’s a tip from Jacob Cole, an MIT student I’ve been training on Utter Command.

Navigate folders using the Dragon “New Line” in-line command, which was originally conceived as a text command. In-line commands are used within a text phrase. They’re mostly punctuation marks like “comma”. “New Line” is a little different. It literally hits the Enter key to give you a new line. The classic “New Line” example is saying a grocery list without pausing between lines, e.g. “Avocados New Line Eggs New Line Flour”.

Jacob pointed out that you can also use “New Line” to reduce the number of phrases you have to say when navigating through folders. Using the above example, instead of having to say four separate utterances to go two folder layers deep, you can say “Financials New Line” to navigate to the financial folder and go into it, then “Budget New Line” to navigate to the budget folder and go into it. Or even “Financials New Line Budget New Line”.

Happy navigating.

Have any good tips or pet peeve’s about using speech input? Let me know at info@ this website address.

Thunderbird tabs and consistency

Thunderbird now has tabs for open messages, which is very convenient. You can have three messages open and see where they are from the tabs — this is similar to tabbed browsing in programs like Firefox and Internet Explorer. And you can move among tabs using the same commands you use to move among tabs in your browser: “Tab Back”, “Tab Forward” and “1-20 Tab Back/Forward”.

Unfortunately, however, the keyboard shortcut to close a message tab is different from the standard close document/tab command used in most programs including Firefox, even though Thunderbird is developed by the same organization as Firefox. The usual command “Control Function 4” logically mirrors the common “Alternate Function 4” that’s used to close a window.

If the standard keyboard shortcut were enabled like it is in programs like Microsoft Word and Firefox, you could say the shortcut or “Document Close” to close a document or tab. And if you wanted to close more than one you could say “Document Close Times 3”, for instance.

If you dig through the keyboard shortcuts for Thunderbird, you’ll find that there is a nonstandard keyboard shortcut to close a message tab: “Control w”. So you can train yourself to say “Control w” to close a message when you’re in Thunderbird. Also keep in mind you can also say “Control w Times 3” to close three open messages. But it would be far better to not have to think about which program you are in when closing a tab or document. Feel free to complain to Thunderbird about this oversight at the Thunderbird support forum.

Here’s another Thunderbird tip: If you want to move a message rather than just closing it try “Move Recent”, “1-10 Down Enter”.
There’s more Thunderbird strategy on the Redstart Wiki:

Tip: Easier scrolling with mouse-speech combination

If you use a mouse to scroll, have you noticed how much fine motor control you use to keep the arrow on the scroll bar as you move the page? You’re doing a fair bit of work to do this. It’s akin to keeping on a balance beam.

If you can move your mouse, you can use an Utter Command touch/speech combination that’ll show you just how hard you have to work to use just the mouse to control the scroll bar.

Next time you use the mouse to scroll, place the mouse arrow on the scroll bar, then say “Touch Hold”. This command holds down the left mouse button. Now you can scroll by simply moving the mouse up and down. There’s no need to click, and there’s no need to keep inside the narrow confines of the width of the scroll bar. This command is especially effective when you’re reading and can leave the left mouse button down between moves. It’s also especially effective when you’re skimming quickly through a document — you can concentrate more on what you’re reading because there’s no need to take your eyes off it to make sure the mouse is on the scroll bar. When you’re done using this command make sure to release the mouse button: “Touch Release”.

You can use the same method in a drawing program to draw without having to have the pen touch the tablet.

There are more details on the “Touch Hold/Release” command in UC Lesson 4.5.

Keep in mind that the Touch Hold/Release method is one of several ways to control the scroll bar using Utter Command — if the combination is comfortable for you it’s a good one. If you need to be completely hands-free, see UC Lesson 1.8, which details all the ways you can use speech to navigate documents, and UC Lesson 9.5, which details Web navigation.

Happy navigating.

Guest Blog: Remembering Touch Commands

So you’ve mastered Touch commands, in fact you’ve mastered them so well that you’ve created dozens and now you can’t remember them all. To access them, you can say “UC List Touch”, but that draws your focus away from the screen that you are working on.

If you incorporate your Touch commands into your Custom Files, you will always have them at your fingertips — or tongue tips, as it were.

Some of you are already using Custom Files (e.g.,“Custom 1 Guide”, “Custom 2 Guide”). For those of you who aren’t, these are handy guides that can come up on the right side of your screen, providing a “cheat sheet” while you continue to work. They take up some space on your screen, but they are frequently worth it. Especially if — like me — you have a hard time remembering all those great Touch commands!

Right now I am using Custom Files for the two programs I use most frequently, Outlook and Firefox. In each of these programs, I have created a number of Touch commands to move the mouse and click at various spots on the screen. I decided that I wanted to have easy access to my touch commands so I could maximize my use of this powerful tool. I also wanted to reorganize my touch commands by program (when you add a new Touch command, it is added chronologically to the bottom of your list ).

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Say “UC List Touch” to call up your list of touch commands.
  2. Say “All Copy to Excel”, which will copy all of your touch commands into an Excel spreadsheet.  It will also copy all of the number coordinates that go with each touch command you’ve created, but don’t worry about that, the next step will take care of that.
  3. Select your touch commands by saying “40 Downs” or some number that will capture them (if you have a lot of touch commands, you might need to say “100 Downs”, for example.)
  4. Say “All Copy to Notepad”. This will copy your touch commands into Notepad, which will remove all of the formatting from Excel (you don’t want to have the lines that separate each Excel.
  5. You now have a clean list of all of your touch commands that you can organize. Rearrange them by program, or any way that you would like. Once you have them in an order that makes sense to you, you can easily copy and paste them into your custom files.

Now your touch commands are part of your cheat sheet. So the next time you are working in a program and you want to remember all of those handy dandy touch commands you created for it, just call up your custom file and there they are.

ONE BIG CATCH: Since the Custom File does take up a portion of your screen on the right side, some of your touch commands may be “off” since part of your screen is now filled by the Custom File itself. So you can look at the file to remind yourself of your touch commands, then close the file and continue. It’s still easier than scrolling through the list you see when you call up UC List Touch.

– Big Talker

Speaking to Excel

I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries lately about using speech recognition in Excel.

The fastest way to learn to apply Utter Command to Excel is to read UC Lesson 10.9: Navigating, numbers, functions, selecting and formatting in tables and spreadsheets, and UC Lesson 10.10: Putting it all together in any program (say “UC Lesson 10 Point 9” and “UC Lesson 10 Point 10” to call them up). Then take a look at the Top Excel Guide, which opens a list of useful shortcuts along the right edge of your screen.

Here are some basics:

  • “Cell” followed by a letter and number jumps to any cell, e.g. “Cell B 2” or “Cell Bravo 2”
  • “Control Space” selects the row the cursor is on
  • “Shift Space” selects the column the cursor is on

Here are some particularly useful combinations:

  • A number followed by a direction selects cells — keep in mind you can select in two directions at once, e.g. “3 Rights · 5 Downs” to select 3 columns to the right and 5 rows down
  • “3 Downs · Control d” selects 3 rows down, then invokes the fill function to copy whatever was in the first row to the selected rows

And here’s a method that will save you time whether you use one formula or many:

Add the formulas you use to the Vocabulary Editor, with a comfortable spoken form. For instance “Equals Sum” to type “=SUM(”

To add a formula, say

  1. “NatSpeak Vocabulary”
  2. Speak the formula using “spell” to put the written form in the Written Form text box, e.g. “spell equals caps Sierra Uniform Mike close paren” to type “=SUM(“
  3. “1 Tab”
  4. Put a comfortable and memorable written form in the spoken Form dialog box, e.g. “equals sum”.
  5. “Enter”
  6. Escape” to exit or “Written Form” to add another.

Now every time you want to type “=SUM(“, say “equals sum”.

Tip: Finding a command

Here’s a very quick tip.

If you know the name of a command, or even part of it, and want to look it up in the Utter Command documentation, say

   – “UC Index” to bring up the Utter Command Index
   “Find Open” to put the cursor in the find dialog box
   – type a keyword you want to look for, for instance “Wait”, “Drag” or “Before”
   “Enter” to find the first instance
   – if necessary, “Enter” again to find subsequent instances

Once you find what you’re looking for, use the reference number to call up the full lesson on the command, e.g. “UC Lesson 4 Point 5”. This is also a good way to see the consistent patterns in the Utter Command speech command set.

Tell me what you think – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

Happy new year!

Tip: Beat the heat

Here in Boston right now it’s ridiculously hot outside. If you’re using speech recognition on a computer in a room that’s hot, you might have a fan going and/or the computer fan might be going continuously rather than occasionally. And if this is the case, you’re probably getting worse than usual recognition.

There something you can do about it, however. Dragon NaturallySpeaking does an audio check when you initially train a user. The audio check adjusts sound levels and checks for background noise. If your background noise changes, it’s a good idea to do an audio check. This includes if it’s a hellishly hot day out and there’s extra fan noise around.

To do an audio check say
1. “NatSpeak Accuracy” to open the NatSpeak Accuracy Center window
2. “Under c” (or “Under Charlie”) to click “Check your audio settings”, which brings up the Audio Setup Wizard dialog box
3. Now follow the instructions to go through the wizard

Unfortunately the Audio Setup wizard is not hands free. Log a complaint to NaturallySpeaking maker Nuance about this (see the UC Exchange page on NatSpeak Utilities and Resources for ideas about where to do so.)

Remember to run the Audio Setup Wizard whenever the general noise around you changes, or when you take a laptop to a new space. Accurate audio settings make for faster, better recognition.

Keep cool.

What are your speech pet peeves? Tell me about them – reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.