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Dragon NaturallySpeaking
by Mary Tolorton

Well, Donna asked me to write a bit on using the new Word PerfectOffice 2000 that came equipped with a Dragon NaturallySpeaking. So far for me it’s been mostly a toy, although it’s nice to use when I get home from work and my hands are really hurting so I just don’t want to type. I’m using it now to dictate this article.

I had to make about five corrections in the previous paragraph. I’ve done about half of the training that comes with the program, which consists of excerpts from several books including 2010: A Space Odyssey, Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook and some commentary from Mark Twain. I’ve also added some of the specialized vocabulary for my husband’s paleontology papers, so that when I come up with words like brachiopods and eurypterid I don’t have to stop and type them in manually.

I find it a good way to get my thoughts down on paper much faster than I can using my two finger typing system. I have to review each paragraph right after I type it though, since sometimes when I go back to proofread, the words the program didn’t recognize don’t make sense to me anymore.

To start dictating you do have to use your mouse or keyboard to click on Dragon NaturallySpeaking on the menu bar. You also have to use the mouse or keyboard commands for saving your file. Once you are dictating you can make all your corrections, including training the system to recognize words that it didn’t get right the first time, using your voice. It tends to lag about half a sentence behind me as I dictate.

One of the things I don’t like about voice dictation is that you have to say your punctuation out loud. Sometimes I wish it was like the old Victor Borge comedy routine where you could make a pop with your lips for a period and another funny little sound for a comma; but it’s not. For a period you say the word "period". I did just have to go back and manually type in "period", since when you say that word it puts in the end of sentence punctuation. It will allow me to verbally spell in words, but I haven’t gotten the hang of that yet. But that’s a limit of all voice dictation programs not just NaturallySpeaking.

The version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking I’m using came with WordPerfectOffice 2000 Voice Powered edition. It is customized just for WordPerfect so I can’t use it to dictate into any other program at this point. It came with a pretty good microphone. I did put on a better microphone about a month after starting to use the program and I am getting slightly better results.

I think the technology of speech recognition for dictation still has a long way to go. I’m using a Pentium II with a 350 MHZ processor, and it keeps up pretty well. It does let me speak at a normal pace. Although sometimes it’s hard to speak at a normal pace while composing, because as I stop occasionally to reconsider words I find myself stammering. Take my word for it, if you stammer you should not use voice dictation. Right now I’m getting an accuracy of about 85 percent. I’d say it’s just a little worse at recognizing speech than an older friend who is hard of hearing that you are speaking to in a noisy room. At least in the dictation program you can go back and change words, with that friend you may never know if they exactly understood what you said.

Well that’s more than the bit Donna asked for, I think. So I’ll end here. If you have other questions about using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with Word PerfectOffice 2000 please ask myself or Donna and if I have an answer I’ll get back to you with it. Or you can reach to meet at my e-mail which is mtolrton@borg.com.

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February 2003