Sunday, 30 March 2014

Voice Recognition Software and I: Part 2

 Since I started using Voice Recognition Software I have learned a few lessons:
  1. Pronunciation: I might be fluent in English, but talking to a person is not the same as dictating to a computer. Since the computer does not understand speech, it only recognises frequencies and audio patterns, clarity is essential.
  2. I have also learned (and the software will tell you that when you start out) is to speak fluently, ie speak in whole sentences, then it is more accurate. And yes, it actually is.
    A sentence in a novel might look like: John frowned. "What do you mean it exploded?"
    When you dictate that, the sentence will sound like: NEW LINE John frowned FULL STOP OPEN QUOTE what do you mean it exploded QUESTION MARK CLOSE QUOTE NEW LINE
    It does take some getting used to. The words in capital letters are INSTRUCTIONS to the computer, rather than dictation. You need a pause before you say them, otherwise the computer will type the "full stop" as part of your sentence. Still happens to me, especially if I am not paying close attention.
  3. DNS (Dragon Naturally Speaking) can type directly into Microsoft programs. I, however, use YWriter5 or Open Office to write; neither of which are Microsoft products. No problem.
    When DNS recognises the software as being not directly compatible with its interface, it opens a text window that you then use for dictation. When you have finished dictating a portion of writing, issue the command TRANSFER, and he text will be moved to Open Office Writer (or whatever other word processor you might use).
    Word to the wise: Check the settings on DNS. Make sure the TRANSFER involves a COPY action and not a MOVE action. I lost a bit of writing when the transfer went to the wrong place in the document and could not be re-copied. Fortunately for me they weren't that many words.
  4. There are other voice recognition software also available. I tried the built-in version that came with Windows 7. Yip, it is there you just need to find it. Like DNS it can be used to control programs in Windows, open and close files, browsing the internet, etc.
    I tried using it for dictation as well. It is not as accurate as DNS, no matter how much time I had spent on "teaching" it. I would think that it was written for control of programs more than dictation. If you could live with about 65-70% accuracy, editing is still needed after all, then consider using this for a start.
    You can use it with Notepad or Wordpad and then transfer to your word processor of choice. It has its own COMMAND set that you need to learn (these COMMANDS are not standard for the different packages).
    While it might be okay to write with, I would not recommend it for editing.
  5. As mentioned you need to learn the DNS COMMAND set. Even if you have a standard (read not wide) screen, you can still keep the COMMAND set window open on the side until you a familiar with the commands to use.
    DNS has commands specifically for editing, and I have used that when I notice obvious errors in the text. I only "edit" with DNS while dictating my first drafts.
    Since I use DNS to relieve the stress on my hands, any editing I do after writing that first draft I use a keyboard, but you don't have to.
  6. The one thing that I really like about voice recognition is that it makes no spelling errors. I know its weird, but I have a thing about spelling mistakes while I am writing. DNS has a large vocabulary, but still there are words that you to spell. It will add those to its dictionary - very cool!
    Names are a huge problem though. Since I also write in the fantasy genre, the names of my characters are not the usual. I mean, Alu"Edr'Erinia you are not going to find in a baby name list very soon (at least I hope not!)
    In cases like these, I keep a list of notes in a separate file where I pick a common name for the character, like Alan, and then find and replace it afterwards with my character's real name. It might sound like extra work, and it is, but it is so much easier than trying to spell that one - or pronounce it the same way - every time. 
In the last part I will tell you a bit more on my experience with dictating fiction, and a few last tips on writing with voice recognition software.

If you have Windows 7 or 8 or your computer, why not try its voice recognition, and tell me about your experience is in using it.