How Using Windows Voice Recognition Software Increases Productivity

Most of us know that we can use speech recognition on our mobile phones to control various functions. Many of these functions were developed to allow hands free operation while driving. Recently I spent a couple of hours using speech recognition with my PC to control functions and I thought that I would share my thoughts with you.

First of all I’m using Microsoft Windows 8.1 with the “Classic Shell” to simulate the Microsoft Windows 7 experience. I have a simple earbud and integrated MIC setup with the MIC roughly 3” below my mouth. At the outset, I would say that I would get better results if I had a more suitable headset.

The first step is to get the speech recognition setup and enabled. Microsoft has many useful tutorials that I would encourage our readers to look into if they want to pursue this, for the sake of getting started just go to:

start menu>control panel>speech recognition

windows-speech-recognition

From there you and the computer will need to get acquainted. It will learn how you speak. It gets better at “translating” your commands and words as you use it but there are other opportunities offered for it to learn your voice as well by reading a script.

voice-training

Using your voice to interact with your computer supplements the use of the keyboard and mouse in these ways:

  • Give basic commands such as; “Open [Program]”, “Switch to [Program]”, “Close Window”, “Show Desktop”, etc.
  • Navigate on a screen or between screens. E.g. moving through fields on a form, opening and closing tabs in a browser, scrolling up and down documents and web pages, etc.
  • Dictate in text input fields. So, if you have a blinking cursor in a text field you can use your voice to type. This works in Skype, browser address bar, Word, Excel spreadsheets, etc.
  • Find commands that are buried in ribbons with a single phrase.

Probably the biggest benefit I see in using voice commands is when I can replace multiple keyboard or mouse clicks with a brief command. For instance, in order to switch between applications many of us use the alt+tab function to cycle through running applications. With speech recognition you just have to say “Switch to [Program Name]”. After that functionality within a given program depends on the program itself. From what I’ve seen Windows programs are going to have the most functionality.

A fundamental command that allows you to navigate on the screen is to say “Show numbers”. A translucent overlay will appear with numbers that you can use to control various functions or commands within the application. If you don’t say anything right away the overlay will blink on and off until you tell it something. Once you say a number, the number will be replaced with an “OK” and you have to say “OK” to click. You can also say, “Cancel” to get out of the overlay. So, in Google Chrome when I give the command my tabs, bookmarks bar, settings button, all have numbers on them, so I have only to say the number for the function I want, then OK to click.

One way to navigate without using the “Show Numbers” command is by saying a supported action such as; “Close window”, “Open Google Chrome”, and “Show desktop” (which minimizes everything and goes straight to the desktop… really useful if you have several windows open on top of each other).

Another benefit would be for those who spend a lot of time typing, but who speak well and could input a lot of text in a shorter time. Personally I type better than I speak, so this hasn’t been a useful function for me, but I could see how someone would be served here if they worked at it.

Using Speech Recognition in MiTek

What about working in MiTek Sapphire? This was really intriguing to me because this is a complex program with A LOT of commands. There are times when you’re trying to find a button in the ribbon and you get lost, brain freezes up, and a couple of minutes later you realize you’re drooling on the keyboard and still haven’t found the button. OK, so that’s me, not you, but I’m sure you know what I mean!

I was able to switch between “Tabs” on the ribbon. I was also impressed with the ability to “say” a command and get accurate results. Whether “Input Wall” or “Quickline” or “Tape Measure”. I was able to say it and the correct tool opened up.

While I utilize keyboard shortcuts already, the ability to speak and have the correct tool open is worth further testing to see if productivity increases. One benefit is that in order to learn the commands you really have to know what the name of the tool is which would provide greater comprehension of the software.

It probably won’t be as useful in an office environment or in your home office isn’t closed to whatever commotion might be occurring at the time, but that may not be true if you have a superior headset.

All in all it was a fun exercise and it assisted me in understanding the logic of how programs I use on a daily basis work. I will most likely continue to use the Speech Recognition to a limited capacity, but I don’t see it becoming the mainstay of how I input commands without further testing.

What about you? Have you tried Speech Recognition to increase your productivity? What about 3rd party applications? Comment below and share your thoughts!

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.