Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, a voice recognition program created by Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com), integrates seamlessly with most popular PC applications, including Microsoft Word and Outlook, Internet Explorer and many popular search engines. The software, which comes with a wired headset, enables users to open and close programs, write documents and e-mail, cut and paste inside documents, search the Web and control their PC entirely by voice.
Dragon delivers up to 99% accuracy of voice dictation, in any of eight regional accents at about three times the rate of standard 40-words per minute typing, an improvement of about 20% over the previous version. Spoken words, dictated at up to 120-words per minute, appear on screen almost instantly.
Though the software can work right out of the box, you can enhance initial recognition accuracy through optional training that consists of reading aloud with natural pronunciation for several minutes from a provided text. When the words on screen change color, the computer has heard and recognized them. A New User Wizard analyzes the user's writing style to further increase overall accuracy. Once the user masters navigation of the program, it can become second nature to speak commands rather than type them.
You can take advantage of Dragon Voice shortcuts to collapse common multi-step tasks into direct voice commands. For example, you can say, “Send email to John Rogers and Melanie Fortune,” and the software opens your email program, creates a new email and puts the appropriate contact names into the “to box” in one step before you talk in the message.
Another feature that saves time and boosts productivity is Quick Voice formatting and the ability to use natural language commands to set or change formatting.
The ability to use macros to create custom voice commands, insert boilerplate text or bitmaps, such as name, title and signature, and to automate other complex or repetitive document creation tasks is another time saver. To schedule a meeting, you need only say, “Schedule meeting with Jay Smith and Rosalie Bond.” The program will open a new calendar entry in Outlook and will add it to the selected contacts.
The software also supports input of data into forms or spreadsheets, increasing the speed of form-filling tasks because most people dictate numbers faster than they can type. Also, saying the numbers rather than typing them can improve accuracy of transcription.
Dragon Professional supports voice-commanded searches of any spoken keyword from your defaulted browser, as well as any of the other major search engines the software supports, including Google, Yahoo, AOL Search, AltaVista, Ask.com and Microsoft Live Search.
The program supports the use of a Bluetooth headset and is network compatible for multiple users. It can handle custom vocabularies and will accept dictation from any Nuance-certified digital recorder when synched with a PC, enabling automatic transcription of voice inputted away from the office. And here's another plus: Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been shown to reduce temporary labor costs and insurance premiums by reducing repetitive stress injuries and worker compensation claims.
The Intuos3 6×11 pen tablet by Wacom (www.wacom.com) is a CAD-compatible tablet that features active areas matched to the screen aspect ratio of widescreen and dual monitors. Suitable for workstations and laptops, the tablet, which comes with both a pen and mouse, provides a very generous 66-sq.in. active display area. The tablet is slim and lightweight enough to carry with a laptop.
Eight programmable ExpressKeys and two finger-sensitive Touch Strips positioned on the upper left and right area of the tablet can be used for keyboard shortcuts, scrolling and zooming, and for controlling brush size if you are using the tablet with drawing software.
The cordless, battery-free Grip Pen offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The ergonomic five-button mouse serves as an alternate input device, reducing repetitive motion during an extended work session.
The tablet takes advantage of Microsoft Vista enabled note taking capabilities, including handwriting recognition, which converts a wide variety of handwriting styles into typed text (no training required).
When using the pen, note-taking and sketching in the Microsoft Journal application is similar to taking notes in a physical notebook, but the input is digitized and can be shared with other computer users. The eraser end of the pen enables quick deletion of handwritten or hand-drawn mistakes.
The tablet also features various pen gestures, which expedite the overall computing experience. For example, Scratch Out allows you to delete text automatically by scratching over the targeted text.
Office 2007 applications, including Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint running on Vista, support digital inking tools that can facilitate easy collaboration. You can choose a pen or highlighter tool to jot notes, create rough sketches or mark up drawings and other documents, spreadsheets, presentation slides and e-mail messages.
The tablet, which is also available in smaller and larger sizes, comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 for digital photo editing and Corel Painter Essential 3 for digital painting.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].