When I made an earlier post about Blade Runner one of the side-effects was that it got my mind thinking about the subject of voice recognition software such as that used by Deckard in the movie. In a moment of total madness I decided to buy a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software from Amazon. The software cost £30 (about $45) and I think it is the single best investment of this amount of money I have made in recent times.
Hurray for impulse buying!
I write at a speed which would probably provide shame to an arthritic snail. To be more specific, my typing speed does not exceed 20 words per minute. Despite efforts to improve I remain a confirmed three fingered typist. I’ve tried all the usual tools; Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and video games such as Type or Die to name but two. There seems to be a blockage between my brain and my fingers…
In times gone by my typing speed hasn’t been a problem. The reason for this was that when I am writing a short story I tend to consider the words and the context in which they are used to a reasonably high degree. It is probably fair to say that I try to do my first revision at the same time as I do my first draft. Combining the two activities slows me down considerably.
As I am now far more active in copywriting and producing websites the exact importance of the word has taken a secondary role when compared to the amount of writing produced and the overall message, or impression, it gives. Due to my slow typing speed producing 5000 words a day or so has been regularly taking me at least eight hours. Speech recognition software has totally revolutionised this.
On the Nuance website the company claims that using Dragon NaturallySpeaking is three times faster than typing. In my case this isn’t saying much! I am however happy to report that this claim is true. My daily production has doubled or maybe tripled and the ease of writing an article has increased along with it.
Another claim made on the site is that the software is 99% accurate. I have a relatively broad Liverpool accent and in my case I would guess that the software achieves about 98%. The errors the software makes are easily corrected and I can honestly say present me little problem at all. Everyone makes mistakes in typing and even at my snail’s pace of 20 words a minute I did too. Despite these errors in speech recognition accuracy my overall productivity has increased and I am really enjoying writing using the software. While my version of speech recognition software doesn’t quite have the science fiction accuracy of Deckard’s version, I don’t doubt that that they will one day come. When that day arrives sign me up for copy!
Getting back to the real world, Dragon NaturallySpeaking has proven itself to be a real boon. I now have a real choice between doubling or tripling my output, or gaining a couple of extra hour’s spare time every day. This is a great position to be in.
Another improvement that is worth mentioning is that the software has enabled me to change something about my writing process. I mentioned earlier that my style of writing fiction is to write slowly and consider each word carefully. Using voice recognition software has changed that activity for the better in one important regard. In the past when I’ve sat down to write a first draft of a story I have frequently struggled to keep the overall ideas in mind as I write. This problem was caused primarily by my slow typing speed allowing me too much time to think. Now when I sit down to write a first draft I find it far easier to go with an almost “stream of consciousness” style of writing. Probably for the first time in my writing career I can now sit down and write a full first draft of a short story in one sitting. Of course the writing still requires proofreading and correction of silly grammar or punctuation mistakes. I guess no software will get around this any time soon, but this is still a huge improvement.
My previous experiences with speech recognition software have been incredibly frustrating but I am happy to report that Dragon NaturallySpeaking has put a smile on my face. This blog post was written using the software in probably a third of the time it would have taken me to type it out.
For anyone that is used the voice recognition capabilities of Windows Vista and were unimpressed I have to say I share your opinion. There is no comparison though between Windows voice recognition and the program provided by Nuance. They really are light years apart.
The Standard Edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 10.1 comes with a DVD of the software are minimal manual and headset microphone necessary to import voice commands. This is a complete package as you really do not need a digital voice recorder. The software is a class leader in voice recognition and in my opinion is a bargain at around £30 ($45). If you’re a writer looking to increase your productivity you could do a lot worse than giving Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software a try.