The result of too much computer work and too much music performance has been a repetitive stress injury in my wrist, causing my thumb, back of hand, and lower forearm to become inflamed with painful muscle spasms. As much as I read on the Internet, even using the wonderful scroll wheel on my Kensington trackball proved to be too much for my hands, and clicking with my thumb on the left mouse button had to be the worst thing I could do to it.
Enter into the picture Dragon NaturallySpeaking! I had almost completely forgotten about it. Though I had it installed on the living room computer, I never used it there because the living room was always too noisy. So I installed it on the two computers upstairs after uninstalling it from the living room computer. (Hot tip: as you only are permitted two installations, make sure you have the antivirus turned off temporarily when you uninstall your copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking that you are not using, or it will not be able to “phone home” to free up the activation used so that another computer may use it instead.)
One of Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s greatest strengths is how well its commands work with browsers. You can tell it to “go to first tab” through “eighth tab” (beyond the eighth tab use “next tab” and “previous tab” instead), click on any link on the page. In Gmail click on the various tabs at the top (“click updates”, “click inbox”, etc.), use page down, page up, “start scrolling down”, “stop scrolling”, and many other commands found in the Command Browser. Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s dictation box, it is easy to use the program to compose emails. Do watch out for homonyms and other uncaught misspellings. Careful proofreading is REQUIRED when using any voice recognition/dictation software!
In Microsoft Word and many other programs it works like a dream, even allowing you to change the font and font size, to bold and italicize, change the styling (“click heading one”), and a whole host of different commands found in the Command Browser. What command I did not find in the Command Browser but that does work is “insert date”, which brings up the date format box, whose list you can move down inside of using the command “go down X number of lines”. Then say “Click Ok”.
Now, though I’m singing the praises of Dragon NaturallySpeaking quite profusely, one should be aware that – hidden away in the accessibility section of the settings – is Microsoft’s own speech recognition software, which also has a command structure and even a virtual mouse. I’ve not used the latest version of this program, so I cannot comment on how it compares with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It would have to do pretty darn well to compete!
In closing, though it has its own learning curve at first, using some kind of voice recognition software is definitely a boon to anyone who’s taken on a physical disability and is not able to use their hands, but surely is a very good preventative measure to take to avoid getting a repetitive stress injury in the first place. Highly recommended!
PS – this entire post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking via Word’s “Blog Post” feature. It was such a huge surprise when I went in to proofread the post again to find that WordPress itself worked flawlessly with the program, very much integrated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking so that I did not have to use the dictation box and transfer into the posting area! Though I could not use the “select that” and “correct that” commands, I could still use the “scratch that” and “undo that” commands, and if I manually selected a word I could say “Select That” or “Correct That” and choose among the options. I found one quirk that in order for “click update” to work the Update button had to be visible on the screen. I used the command “go to top” so it was just visible, and then the command worked.