Category Archives: Tips

Speak quietly and you don’t need a big stick

Computers can be frustrating when they don’t act as you anticipate. You can anticipate better, however, if you know what they’re going through.

One thing I’ve found with speech recognition is when something is misrecognized the common instinct is to speak more loudly into the microphone — like you’re talking to a person who didn’t quite hear.

This usually makes things worse. Most good microphones are fairly sensitive, and are more likely to interpret the sounds coming out of your mouth more accurately if you speak a little softer rather than louder.

If you notice recognition falling off a bit, speak a little more softly. Picture someone onstage singing so loudly into the microphone that its distorted, and how nice it is when the person backs off a bit. Also think about putting the microphone further away from your mouth — I keep mine about 2 inches away.

Another common cause of recognition falling off is breathing into the microphone. It’s important that the face of the microphone is pointed slightly downward so you’re not breathing directly into it. Picture someone on an outside stage trying to use a microphone in a heavy wind. It’s lots easier to hear when the wind dies down.

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.

Dealing with the Office 2007 ribbon

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about Microsoft Office 2007 versus Microsoft Office 2003.

My stock answer is I prefer the 2003 drop-down menus to the 2007 ribbon. It’s funny, at the same time as Office made the switch from drop-down menus to the more Web-like ribbon, the Web application Google Documents made the opposite move — changing from a tab-based interface to drop-down menus. Out of the box, 2007 is less efficient — it takes up more screen space and requires more steps than 2003.

Having said that, the 2007 interface is also very configurable. You can put any drop-down menu or menu item on the Quick Access Toolbar that runs across the very top of the screen. And you can hide the ribbon. If you take the time to put the items you use most on the Quick Access Toolbar, you can make Office 2007 much more accessible.

For details on setting things up and using Microsoft Office 2007 with Utter Command, see UCExchange: UCandOffice2007 .

What’s your opinion on 2007 versus 2003? Reply here or let me know at info@ this website address.

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.

Tip: Speedy Attaching with the Message Paste command

Say you’re in Windows Explorer or an Open dialog box where the files you want to add to a future e-mail message reside. You could open up your e-mail program and use the attach utility to attach files, or, since you’re already right there with the files, you could speed things up this way:

To attach files to a new e-mail message starting from Windows Explorer or an open dialog box:

  1. select the files you want to attach, by saying, for instance “3 Downs” (see UC Lesson 5.5 for instructions on selecting noncontiguous files by speech)
  2. say “This Copy”
  3. say “Thunderbird Message Paste” (or Outlook, Express or Eudora, depending on the e-mail you use)

And there you have it, a new e-mail message with files attached.

Friday Tip: Cutting and pasting from the Web

I’ve been asking people two questions lately:

1. What tasks do you do the most on your computer?

2. What tasks are frustrating to do by speech?

Cutting and pasting from the Web comes up frequently in both categories, and the frustration lies in selecting text from the Web.

When it comes to selecting text from the Web there’s good news and not so good news. The good news is that it’s easy to select in Firefox. The not so good news is selecting is not as easy as it should be in Internet Explorer.

Selecting text in Firefox

In Firefox you can use the same selection commands you’d use in any program. There’s a trick, however.

The Caret Browsing hotkey — “Function 7” — toggles text navigation commands like “3 Down” and “Go Home” from acting on the text to acting on the scroll bar. If you’re clicked into a text field, you’ll see the cursor appear and disappear when you say “Function 7”. When you can see the cursor, caret browsing is on and you should be able to move the cursor in text.

To see this say

“New York Times Site” to bring up your default browser (should be Firefox) to the New York Times site

“10 By 30” to click somewhere in a text field — adjust the numbers of necessary

“2 Down” to move the scroll bar up and down (by default)

“Function 7” to toggle Caret Browsing hotkey

“2 Down” to move the insertion point in text

Once you have the insertion point where you want it, you can use regular selection commands like “1-100 Lefts/Rights/Befores/Afters/Ups/Downs/Lines/Line Ups…” commands to select precisely.

So if you wanted to move the insertion point to the beginning of a line a couple of lines down, then select the next three lines plus the first two words on a fourth line, you’d say, “2 Down Home”, “3 Lines · 2 Afters”.

Selecting text in Internet Explorer

In Internet Explorer, you can select text using the Shift mouse method (you can use this in Firefox too, but the above method is generally easier).

Say, for instance, “10 By 40” to click at the beginning of the selection, then, for instance, “40 By 60 Shift Touch” to select from the beginning coordinates to the new coordinates. If you want to adjust the selection, say the second command again with different numbers.

Copying and pasting

Once you have something selected in either program you can copy and paste by saying a copy command like “Copy to Word” or “Copy to Window 1”.

Your tasks

I’d like to know what tasks you do the most on your computer and what tasks are frustrating using speech — let me know and chances are I’ll find a way to speed you up.

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: Getting back to where you were on the Web

Question: when you’re looking for a website you’ve been to before, but haven’t put it on your UC List or in your bookmarks, what’s the fastest way to get back to it?

I’ve got a two-step solution for you, assuming you’re starting in an open browser. It works the same in Firefox and Internet Explorer.

1. Combine the command that puts the cursor in the address bar with the first two letters of whatever you’re looking for. If I’m looking for the Evite site, for instance for instance, I would say “Under Delta e v”

2. If the first choice is what you want say “Down Enter” to finish the job, if it’s the second choice “2 Down Enter” etc.

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.

Solving the page down problem

Whenever I talk to people who use speech commands to control a computer I encourage them to complain. Something that frequently comes up is it’s a drag having to say “page down” so much.

We’ve come up with several ways to diminish the drag:

1. Several screens at once

First, “Page” is a back-of the-mouth word, which is more difficult to say than words that only use sounds that originate in the front of the mouth. This isn’t a problem for commands you don’t use frequently, but looms large when you have to repeat something over and over again.

And when you say “Page Down”, you’re really moving by screen, not by page. This is fortunate, because “Screen” is easier to say than “page”.

Using Utter Command you can say “Page Down” and “Page Up” to hit the page up and page down keys, but you can also say “Screen Down” and “Screen Up”. And you can move multiple screens: “2 Screen Down”, “5 Screen Up”

2. Right to the point

You can also go to a given screen. “Screen 3”, for instance, jumps you right to the third screen of information in a document.

And in programs whose Find facilities recognize page numbers, including pdf’s, you can go right to a given page by saying, for instance, “Find Page 22”. You can try this out on a UC lesson document: “UC Lesson 1”.

3. Wait

It’s still tedious to say “Screen Down” every couple of seconds when you want to glance quickly at subsequent pages. Try this: “3 Screen Down Wait 5”. This moves down a screen, waits 5 seconds, moves down another screen, waits 5 seconds, then moves down another screen.

4. The right tool for the job

It’s also important to look at exactly why you’re going through a document screen by screen. Often you’re looking through pages for a certain section. In this case the screen-by-screen facility isn’t the right tool for the job, but you may be using it because usually it’s the best tool available.

If you’re looking through a document that has numbers, letters or symbols to differentiate sections you can use the UC Keywords facility go directly to any of these. To see what I mean say “Find 1 Period”, “Find 3 Period” in this document. Now picture a longer document with more and longer sections, and a section outline along these lines:

1. Speech Command Problems
1.1 Page Down
1.2 Page Down Solution

2. Speech Command

You could say, for example “Find 1 Period”, “Find 1 Point 1”, “Find 1 Point 2” and “Find 2 period” to jump among these sections.

Using the UC Keyword list you can use any section organization scheme you want — numbers, letters, numbers and letters (1a., 1b….) or heading words themselves (“Find Introduction”, “Find Summary”). Sometimes I put tildas (~) at key points in a document so I can jump to those points (“Find Tilde”). I also use the word “PLACEHOLDER” this way (“Find Placeholder”).

You can also use “Wait” with keywords. I use this one to scan a document for placeholders: “Find Placeholder Wait 2 Repeat 5”.