Windows Speech Recognition

I have long been an owner of an earlier version of Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking (version 7 I think) and have had much frustration in the past mainly due to the the software’s inability to recognise regional accents, well my accent anyway! Nuance appear to have a policy of no trial before buy with Naturally Speaking, which is a shame since I don’t feel like stumping up £80 to try out version 10 (once bitten etc etc), especially if it ends up that I find that it doesn’t meet my needs or expectations. I certainly don’t see why Nuance can’t make a time limited evaluation copy available for download. Maybe they think that potential buyers won’t be impressed with their software and won’t buy as a result, who knows …

Not being so much of a computer tech geek these days since succumbing to RSI, I have only just realised that both Windows Vista and Windows 7 ship with Microsoft Speech Recognition engine in them for free. Go to Windows Start menu and type in “Windows Speech Recognition” and hit ‘Enter’. You can use your computer’s inbuilt microphone, but may find much better results with purchasing a separate headset with microphone which sits approximately 3 cm from your mouth. The better quality the mic/headset, the better the results will potentially be.

The speech recognition engine from Microsoft appears to be reasonably usable. I quickly was able to enter the learning text. I was also quite surprised at how well it performed given the ultra quick learning cycle, and my low toned Scottish accent.

My trial in using this software is just beginning, and I’ll report back with a more detailed analysis later, but initial impressions are quite positive with certain reservations eg it works (or more accurately works with full features) only when using Microsoft applications, ie Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, Notepad, Wordpad etc, and only partially with some third party applications like Open Office and not at all with others eg Firefox (my usual browser, which it also appears to slow down). If I set Microsoft’s monopolistic tendencies aside, and try it out with their software, I find that it does a reasonable job of making Internet Explorer navigable with speech.  I would have preferred a little more help, however, with finding typical commands available to use with the browser. The windows help on the subject is reasonable, but not great. The few commands I did manage to find are as follows –

Windows 7/Vista Speech Recognition Commands for Internet Explorer 8. If anyone finds any more be sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this.

Speech Function
START LISTENING turns on speech recognition
STOP LISTENING turns off speech recognition
OPEN INTERNET EXPLORER opens internet explorer browser
MINIMISE INTERNET EXPLORER minimises internet explorer browser to the task bar
SWITCH TO INTERNET EXPLORER opens internet explorer browser from taskbar
CLOSE INTERNET EXPLORER closes internet explorer browser
BACK Back button
HOME Home button
FORWARD Forward button
STOP Stop button
REFRESH Refresh button
CLICK ‘link name’ Click on link with name ‘link name’
HOVER / HOVER OVER THAT Hover over menu to display contents
CLICK ADDRESS BAR Click on and select address bar
CLICK GOOGLE Click on Google search bar
SHOW NUMBERS generates numbers for every link on browser
TEN OK selects link number 10 displayed in SHOW NUMBERS above
PAGE UP scroll page up by one page
PAGE DOWN scroll page down by one page
SCROLL DOWN scroll page down by approx 1/2 page
SCROLL UP scroll page up by approx 1/2 page
bookmark name speak bookmark name to select your bookmark (or use numbers to select it)
PRESS CONTROL TAB navigates to next tabbed page
PRESS CONTROL SHIFT TAB navigates to previous tabbed page

Who knows whether speech recognition will ever be a complete replacement for a keyboard and mouse, but with a free copy embedded in Windows 7 and Vista it’s certainly well worth a try out.

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1 comment

  1. Michel says:

    I’d love to hear more about your experiments! Recently i had a personal introduction with dragon Naturally speaking version 10 and it seemed really good too. It seems important not to speak too loud though, as the program will work less effective and you’ll wreck your voice to boot! I will test version ten myself soon.

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