Woman sat at a desk using speech recognition software

The Best Speech Recognition Software for desktop computers – for people with RSI and other hand and wrist problems

As a person who has problems with his hands and wrists I can personally attest just how beneficial speech recognition software is for continued use of a desktop computer. In fact without speech recognition software I would not be able to use a computer. That makes speech recognition software, for a person who has problems with their hands and wrists, the most important tool out there. And in fact it is not just useful for people who have problems with their hands and wrists, it is useful for all people.

Good speech recognition software not only has the power to help people with hand and wrist problems continue to use a computer, it has the power to help people avoid getting hand and wrist problems in the first place, and it has the power to make using a computer a much more streamlined experience.

I am writing this using speech recognition software, or rather voice dictation software, and to say the least I can talk a lot faster than I ever could type, and I was a fast typer, that means for the initial writing phase I can write out a post a lot faster using speech recognition software than I ever could using a keyboard. This of course is an ultimate win-win, I can write the post faster while at the same time avoid having to use a keyboard meaning I’m avoiding putting any strain on my hands and wrists.

Also speech recognition software allows you to open and close things a lot faster, if you wish to open a Internet browser rather than having to use the mouse and click the link, all you have to say is open Internet browser and it will open, need to click on a link, all you have to do is say click on that link. This makes for not only a more streamlined experience, but again it helps to avoid a person having to put strain on their hands and wrists.

So yeah I’m a big advocate for speech recognition software, but before getting to the best speech recognition software out there, first things first, most people probably think of speech recognition software as voice dictation software, but it is not, voice dictation software is specifically software that translates speech into text, so it is software that allows you to write documents by speaking. Speech recognition software on the other hand is software that translates speech into commands, so speech recognition software is basically voice to command software, you speak it and the computer does it, so for example let’s say you wish to open Google Chrome, you could say open Google Chrome and it would open. That is speech recognition software.

The reason it is important to understand this difference is because not all voice dictation software includes speech recognition software, and not all speech recognition software includes voice dictation software. So if you purchase speech recognition software it does not necessarily mean that it has voice dictation software included and vice versa. Confusing I know, I certainly found it so.

To further complicate matters, voice recognition software is not what most people think it is i.e. it is not a type of speech recognition or voice dictation software. Voice recognition software is actually software that recognises a person’s voice. So voice recognition software for example would recognise my voice. That means voice recognition software recognises people’s voices, or to perhaps word it more appropriately it knows who’s talking.

And we’re not finished yet, there is also something called voice transcription software, what voice transcription software does is what YouTube’s subtitle system does, it takes pre-recorded voice recordings and translates them into text. So let’s say that you have recorded an interview using a voice recorder, you could then use voice transcription software to have that recording turned into text.

A little recap before moving on:

  • Speech recognition software: this is software that recognises the words being spoken, and its main purpose is to translate those words into commands allowing you to control your computer through voice.
  • Voice dictation software: this is software that translates spoken words into written text, so is the type of software that you use to write documents with.
  • Voice recognition software: this is software that recognises people’s voices, so it knows who is talking.
  • Voice transcription software: this is software that translates pre-recorded voice recordings into text.

Voice software is becoming increasingly important to everyone and is popping up here there and everywhere, for example, Apple’s Siri, Siri is a mixture of speech recognition software and voice dictation software, when you say hey Siri, that is speech recognition software, when you use Siri to write a text message, that is merging speech recognition software with voice dictation software. And all the best voice software merges speech recognition with voice dictation, Amazon’s Alexa is another example of speech recognition software merged with voice dictation software.

However, things like Alexa and Siri are not much use for those who want to use a computer but have limited or even zero use of their hands. Microsoft’s Cortina is also not of much use, though is arguably the best pre-installed software you will get on a desktop computer. This brings me to Talon and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the latter being the indisputable king of speech recognition software. Talon and Dragon NaturallySpeaking are the only real options I have found for controlling a computer fully using voice control and so will be the only two I talk about in this post.

Talon

Talon is a free open source software option which includes Python scripting, meaning it is completely and entirely customisable. That means if you wish to do computer programming using speech recognition software, then Talon is what you want, I have to say I don’t have a great deal of experience using Talon, I have downloaded it but as of yet I have not begun experimenting with it specifically because the one problem with Talon is due to its customisable nature, you really need to know what you’re doing computer programming wise to get the best out of it, but also you need to be using your hands and wrists to initially program it the way you really want it to be.

This is not a criticism just something to be aware of. And with this in mind I cannot really offer any feedback on just how good it is or not as of yet, all I can say is that I have found that the majority of those who program using speech recognition software, appear to all use Talon. But I wish to add that every piece of information I have found documenting people attempting to program using speech recognition software has highlighted just how difficult it is to do so, and that as of yet there is no really good solution for how to program using speech recognition software.

But at the same time, it is possible to do so, and from what I’ve read Talon is at present the best way to go about doing so. Once I get round to experimenting with it, I will let you know if I agree with this but for now I just wanted to highlight its existence and the fact that it is a really good and free customisable option.

This is the link to the software: Talon

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is without a doubt the King of the speech recognition and voice dictation world, I’m writing this using Dragon. And to say that you can do a lot more than just write text using Dragon would be an understatement, you can control the mouse using voice commands, you can control the keyboard using voice commands, if you want to click on a link all you have to do is say, click that link, to scroll up and down the page, all you have to do is say start scrolling up or start scrolling down. If you want to open a program, all you have to do is say open that program.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking logo

And the list goes on and on, pretty much anything that you can do with a mouse and keyboard you can do with Dragon. Some things will be slower and frustrating, for example, moving the mouse around using voice control is a lot more tedious than just using a standard mouse, but then voice dictation makes typing a lot easier and a lot faster (with a good microphone that is, see this link for the best microphones available for use with speech recognition software). Literally I can write a post in about a third of the time it used to take me when using the keyboard.

There is a downside of course, and that is that using punctuation with Dragon can be tedious and disruptive, the reason being the autopunctuation feature is just not really that good, meaning most of the time you will have to speak out the punctuation marks you wish to use, that means every time you want to add a comma you will have to say the word, comma, the same with full stops and all forms of punctuation.

But, all in all for a person that has limited or even no use of their hands Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a lifesaver, and even for a person who has full use of their hands Dragon has the power to make using a computer a much more streamlined experience. For example, let’s say you just wish to info dump some thoughts you are having for future reference, Dragon’s voice dictation software is perfect for this, the punctuation in this case is irrelevant so you can just unload your thoughts with autopunctuation switched on and that’s it, which means you could do it in about a quarter of the time it would have taken you to do it should you have used the keyboard.

Even for a report that requires good punctuation and grammar, the first draft you could write predominantly using Dragon getting it all out there, the second draft if you are able to use your hands you could go through and fix the grammar and punctuation using a keyboard. If you can’t use your hands much like me then it is still possible to edit it it will just take more time. But it is inescapable that good grammar and punctuation will become a challenge when using Dragon’s software, it can be overcome but do be aware of it.

An example of how it can be overcome is using the read text function, I have to say I’m a big fan of the read text function, basically what you do is highlight a selection of text and then say read that and Dragon’s software will translate that text into voice and it will be read to you, meaning you can hear what you have written verbalised. Something which is a big help.

But anyhow like said all in all Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not just a great tool for those who have already developed problems with their hands and wrists, it is a great tool for those hoping to avoid troubling conditions like RSI in the first place, as it will not only help greatly reduce the amount of time you spend using a keyboard, it will reduce the amount of time you spend at a computer period.

In fact it is amazing how much more streamlined the experience of using a computer is when you have Dragon NaturallySpeaking installed. The time saved opening programs and clicking links using voice rather than a mouse is ridiculous. My only regret is that I did not install the software much sooner.

One final point before moving on, the AI software used by Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15 is very impressive. Basically Dragon learns how you talk and the more it learns the better it gets at translating what you are saying into commands and text, which means the more you use Dragon the more useful Dragon becomes and the more streamlined the experience becomes. All in all like I say I’m very impressed with Dragon and highly recommend it.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home vs Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional

There are two versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, home and professional, in terms of which one to get, unless all you do is browse the Internet, personally I would highly recommend getting the professional version. But then if you can afford it even if all you do is browse the Internet I would still highly recommend the professional version.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home versus Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional

Yes it costs double that of the home version but it just provides so much more freedom, also it just makes for a much easier user experience specifically because, firstly, the professional version allows you to make custom commands, which can be used to make filling in forms a lot easier, but more importantly it allows you access to the Vocabulary Editor.

The Vocabulary Editor allows you to add words, and change pronunciations. So for example let’s say that no matter what every time you say the word “wow”, it produces the word “while”, which is something that happened with me. It drove me crazy, but because of the Vocabulary Editor I was able to edit the pronunciation, and now whenever I say the word “wow” I have no problems.

The home version simply does not provide this feature, but the professional does. Meaning if you get the home version every time something like this happens, you will have to manually fix the problem because it will keep happening which is just tedious and annoying as hell. Another reason for getting the professional version is that it allows you to use Microsoft Excel, which the home version is not compatible with.

So yes, if you can afford it I definitely recommend the professional version rather than the home, it just provides so much more freedom. But I take nothing away from the home version, it is a solid piece of software, it is just the professional version is vastly superior, or at least I think so.

Here are the links to purchase Dragon NaturallySpeaking:

Final words

Speech recognition software can be life changing for people who have problems with their hands and wrists, it can be life changing for people who don’t have problems with their hands and wrists. And that’s because it just makes using a computer a much much more streamlined experience, that is of course just in my opinion.

But the way I see it for anyone who is able, hand and wrist problems or not, speech recognition software is a must and the best out there is without a shadow of a doubt, Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

That’s all from me for today, stay safe!

PS see this link for the best microphones available for use with speech recognition software.

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