It seems so convenient: just talk to your computer and it will do what you say. Much easier than use the keyboard and mouse, right? Perhaps you’re a bit older and never learned how to work with a computer.
Or perhaps you have serious physical issues preventing you to be able to use a mouse and keyboard?
So you never really learned how to work on a computer. Or your experience is limited to Way Back, when computers were still powered by steam engines…
I hear you! Here’s this thing called Dragon speech recognition that promises to enable you to use the computer practically handsfree. Great!
But unfortunately…no, if you don’t really know how to operate a modern computer, I’d advise against buying Dragon. At least until you know how to operate a computer.
If you’re not disabled, just do a computer course and become competent at using the computer. Then consider whether you’d want to use Dragon. Now mind you, it is not necessary to be a computer whizkid! But you do need ‘normal’ user experience.
If you are disabled, it gets more complicated. Then it is problematic to learn to operate the computer via regular mouse and keyboard. Read on: I’ll give you some tips.
Why you need computer experience
The reason is, that using a computer is fairly complicated. As an experienced computer user, you might not realise this. But you really are in a brainsphere of pretty deep knowledge and understanding when you, for example, create an e-mail.
You don’t think twice about returning to you message when a different window accidentally pops up in front of your mail. Perhaps your virus scanner has a new update, perhaps you clicked just outside your message, causing a background window to pop to the foreground. No problem, you just switch back to your message.
For someone who has no computer experience, this is a puzzle and most likely a problem. “Where did this window come from?!! Did I do something wrong??? Where is my e-mail?!! Can I safely close this window??”
When you start working with Dragon, you add an extra layer of complexity to working with a computer. You replace the keyboard and mouse with your voice. So first you need to know what you would have done with the mouse or keyboard to do an action on the computer. And on top of that, you need to know how to do this by voice.
When dictating, it is entirely possible that Dragon understands something that you never intended.
A program might suddenly start, or close, or minimise. Your dictation might end up in the wrong window. Or not show up at all!
If you do not understands how a computer is supposed to operate and you have no way to quickly use the mouse and keyboard to try to solve it, you can become totally stuck in absolutely no time.
The snake bites its own tail
How to solve the problem: no computer experience, due to physical limitations (which could be solved my using Dragon). But no Dragon, because of no computer experience. Argh!
If you’re in this catch-22 situation, let me give you some tips.
Do you really need a computer?
First of all, do you really need a computer? Maybe you can operate a tablet and do some limited typing there? In that case, an iPad may be a valid solution with Siri to help you dictate. In noisier situations you may need to use an external mic.
I am not familiar with the speech recognition quality of Android devices.
PC rather than Mac
If you are 100% hand impaired (or you – sadly – know this will be the case in the future) choose for a Windows PC rather than a Mac. Dragon for PC has many (!) more options for hands-free computing than Dragon for Mac. At least, at the time of writing this article.
Having the option to use the mouse on a computer unlocks the possibility to learn to use the computer. Using the Windows on-screen keyboard, you can type a bit. It is slow, but this is just for learning purposes, not to write your dissertation!
Alternatives to the mouse:
- Perhaps you can use a smartphone? Then there are apps that will enable your phone to be used as a remote mouse.
- If you are in an electric wheelchair, it may be possible to connect your steering knob to the computer mouse functionality.
- Perhaps you can use a headmouse or even eye tracking.
Find a buddy who’ll help you go through a computer course.
This is not forever
As soon as you feel independent and confident doing the computer things you want to do on your own, you can consider Dragon. Dragon can be an incredible asset if you are limited in what you can do by hand. But in my opinion you really have to have a basic understanding AND experience in using your computer before you start using Dragon.