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February 16, 2008

Talking to your PC: KnowBrainer Command Set

KnowbrainerI'm continuing my exploration of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) 9 Medical speech recognition software by going back to the KnowBrainer forum where I remember picking up a lot of useful information in the past.

I was asking some questions I had about working through some things I needed to work out, and in the process I received some great tips from the folks there about how to use this software to its best advantage.

Knowbrainer2007box3d400 Based upon a strong recommendation for the KnowBrainer 2007 Command Set from a person on the forum, I decided to install it and see how it could improve my workflow.

It basically adds 10,000 commands to DNS, tweaks some of the settings, provides their own Command Browser for creating advanced-scripting commands, and a scripting language called VerbalBasic to create commands verbally.

When I first tried out Dragon's speech recognition software, the Pro version 9, the first thing that really amazed me was reading an article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and seeing how accurately it could transcribe a variety of words with very little training. Words like "kibbutz" for example, or even some proper names or acronyms.

I think when most people try out this software at a computer convention or any other demo, they judge it by what they try to dictate ex temporaneously, which doesn't work as well. When you read something, it produces a flow and cadence that works better with the software.

This makes you realize that you need to improve your dictation skills, both by pronouncing clearly and thinking far enough ahead so that you can speak a full sentence in a continuous flow, also including the punctuation where needed. So, while you're still getting the hang of dictation, you find yourself trying to remember commands to select, edit or correct your mistakes by moving the cursor and making it do what you want it to do. Now things slow up. This is where the Command Set begins to show its usefulness.


While DNS obviously comes with its own set of commands, some of which are available in the printed manual, all of which are searchable within the program, the list in the Command Set PDF manual gives you the full roster of the commands you can use. What I did was to print out the pages with the commands list, and just scan it for the commands that I've been needing, then trying them out. So far it's increased my speed in the using DNS.

The second amazing thing is realizing that you can navigate through various Windows programs with spoken commands.  It really improves on the tedious task of using the mouse and keyboard to pick through screen menus. And what's really impressive is opening documents without searching through the file folders. If you want to check something in the manual, you simply say "How do I," and the PDF opens. Supposedly it's also possible to search for any file on your PC using desktop search software which I'll be trying out next.

I think anything that saves you from peering at the screen to navigate is a wonder. I'm not particular in love with typing either.


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