Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking

As promised, although little later than planned, here is my review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I will be doing this review using only Dragon NaturallySpeaking, afterwords (afterwards) I will go in and edit it, putting corrections in red parenthesis to show where mistakes were made, if there are mistakes, that is.

As some of you might know I injured my hand the summer which made typing my book near impossible. I looked into Dragon NaturallySpeaking as a way to keep writing without using my injured hand. I’ve looked into the pros and cons, I’ve read lots of Goodreads (Dragon doesn't like the word "Goodreads" and kept changing it to "good read") posts about how only bad authors use Dragon, and I’ve seen good reviews and that (bad) reviews. Keep in mind that I haven’t spent a lifetime training Dragon to understand my voice and how I speak. I did the basic tutorial at the beginning which took about 10 minutes and then I just simply started using it.

Overall I’m very pleased, using Dragon is an (isn't- you have to empahsis your words especially when using contractions) easy but it is doable. It is very awkward to sit in a quiet room and speak to your computer. It’s not like talking on the telephone, it’s not like talking to a friend. I’ve been using Dragon to work on my work in progress Dusk, so far the only problem I’ve run into is with character names. I have a character named Abby, for the longest time Dragon insisted on naming her Happy. And as funny as it might be a vampire named Happy has no place in my current work in product (progress- see I was talking fast there and it messed up).

You have to constantly be aware of telling Dragon to insert punctuations, fixing something right away when you see it, or learning to use the GOPAC (go-back- again I didn't ennunciate) commands. You can’t speak too fast, too low, or slur your words (God forbid you might have a speech impediment that would be disastrous). To be honest, I didn’t take much time to learn all of the punctuation commands, the go back commands, or the hotkeys. I just wanted to dive in to my work, I just wanted to write. Dragon lets me do that. It may not be ideal, and some days it is surely a whopping pain in the butt, but it’s worth it given the few hundred words I can get now when I couldn’t type more than three words per minute with my injured hand.

I still peck away one finger at a time to use Facebook or Twitter, but for my writing I’ve been using Dragon pretty successfully. Would I want to use this software to speak an entire book? Not right now. Maybe when I understand the fluency of it better or when I trained it better to understand my speech then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad and it’s not bad right now. I use it for 20 minutes at a time here and there for getting information out of my head and onto the page, which is exactly what I intended to use it for. Is it good that a computer can write my words as fast as I could speak or thinks them? Yes, that is fantastic. But I do miss typing. It’s very hard to not use my hands to go back and fix errors, but this is one of those lessons that after repeated use it will be easier. And I have to say straight out-of-the-box Dragon is pretty easy to begin with.

As you can see there are errors that I will need to fix. I will go through this review before I post it and make note of the errors, but all in all, there are no more errors than when I type fast and am in a hurry. I still have to edit with my typing, everybody does. So it is no more work in the editing process then there is with regular typing. I’ve seen many people, especially on good reads (again, Goodreads), who have blasted anyone using voice to text software as being lazy and uneducated. There is this idea that speaking your words rather than typing them is somehow harming the literary world. Some of the people complaining about it have said that it is the equivalent to self-publishing a poorly written novel (you know by now that SPE takes that claim very seriously), that somehow by speaking it instead of typing it they have watered down and diluted the literary process. I saw one comment say that using voice to text software would only encourage people with poor grammar to write “crappy books that they would then self publish on Amazon and make everyone look bad”. Now I don’t know about anybody else, but having to take the time to remember to tell the software to use a comma or a period is not lazy and if you have to stop mid-sentence to remind a software to use punctuation then obviously you have some grasp on how punctuation should be used.

So if I had to give Dragon a rating, what would it be?
Usability straight out-of-the-box: A- (only because you do need to at least do the 10 minute tutorial at the beginning)
Learning Curve: B- (the learning curve starts high with Dragon but after a few sessions the learning gets easier, and easier.)
Would I recommend it: Yes (whether you are looking into it because you have an injury that requires you to not use your hands or simply want to try it and see if speaking rather than typing works out faster for you, yes either way I recommend it. I don’t see anything wrong with using whatever is available to help you accomplish your goal)

Side note: speaking this review took me about 20 minutes. I didn’t start with a script, I had no idea where I was going with this or what I wanted to say, so off the top of my head and having to go back and use very few verbal commands for correction I was able to write/speak a review totaling roughly about 950 words. 950 words isn’t too bad for 20 minutes.

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