I've tried speech recognition over the years, starting with Macintosh, but nothing quite fit for me.
Since my current employer uses Windows 7, I decided to turn it on and see how well it works.
The short conclusion is, pretty well. Many people are saying that Windows 7 Speech Recognition is just as good as Dragon Naturally Speaking. I've never used Dragon so I can't say. My needs are also different in that I just want to control my computer at the moment; I don't want to try to use dictation (though it's a goal down the road).
The essential part of the solution for me was the installation of Windows Speech Macros. Why these aren't just included with Windows 7 I can't hazard a guess, but they go a long way toward tailoring speech control to your needs.
Basic Setup Instructions
These instructions work for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
- Connect a microphone to your computer.
- Turn on Speech Recognition (Control Panel > Speech Recognition, click Start Speech Recognition) and follow the wizard.
- Follow the speech tutorial and try out some commands to get the hang of it. For example, you can say “Show Desktop” to minimize all windows, or “Start” to “click” the Start menu.
Commands I commonly use 'out of the box':
- Show Desktop
- Close Window (actually closes the entire application, even if multiple tabs are open)
- Minimize Window
- Maximize Window
- Open Control Panel (or anything else in the Start menu)
- Copy, Cut, Delete, Paste, Undo, OK, Cancel
- Any command available in an Windows Explorer tab bar (such as New Folder, but it has to be visible)
- Click [button] - example, if a dialog box is visible, I can say Click Save.
Tips and Gotchas
- Lower your expectations. Don't try to control the entire UI right from the start. Get used to making sure a few commands work before you try to use a few more.
- If you say something that has multiple targets given the current context, you will see numbers appear on screen. If you see these, say the number out loud. The number will change to OK, and then you say OK to activate the command. For example, if you are in Microsoft Word 2007, and the Home tab is visible, and you say Paste, there are actually two paste commands available.
- Controlling your computer with verbal commands is a cognitive challenge once you get into it. You may have noticed that you find it easier to perform commands when given a list of options - you are relying on recognition of a command and you are not having to recall it. However, with voice commands, you have to recall everything, which means it gets harder as you try to do more. I keep a list of commands taped to my monitor, and when I've got one down pat I remove it and put something else in its place.
I'll post information on what I've done for Windows Speech Macros to make my life easier in a future blog. Have fun for now!