How does a one armed computer geek type and get work done on his computer? Using voice recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking) – My story of why I had to do this
Before I get into the portion where I cover Dragon Naturally Speaking, let me provide some background so you know why I ended up purchasing this software.
When I was younger, I played lots of different sports – gymnastics, basketball, racquetball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, softball, golf, flag football and even tackle football (no pads). Needless to say, I injured myself more times than I could count. I had hurt my right shoulder bad enough during college that I pretty much gave up playing tennis as I couldn’t serve or hit overhand. I also had to adjust my throwing in softball to be side hand as I couldn’t throw overhand. For volleyball, I also could no longer spike as that motion (same as tennis and throwing a softball) would cause great pain in my right shoulder.
Two years ago, my son and daughter started playing club volleyball. As a very competitive person, I couldn’t just let my son spike on me without some kind of retaliation on my part. Back in September of 2012, I went up to spike on my son and I felt a massive twinge in my right shoulder that pretty much laid me out and I couldn’t even bump a volleyball without pain. I really should have listened to my wife and seen an orthopedic doctor at that time (or even years earlier), but with my busy work schedule, I decided to suck up the pain and wait until December when I had some vacation time. I’m sure you’re guessing where this is going by now … my shoulder got worse and worse and by the time I saw the doctor, I couldn’t even raise my right arm to shoulder height, let alone carry anything of significant weight with my right arm.
The prognosis? Type 4 tear of the Labrum and it was so bad, the bicep muscle was also affected. Plus, I had frozen shoulder (limited range of motion). I ended up having surgery on Christmas Eve and the doctor repaired the Labrum, reattached the bicep muscle to the bone in my right shoulder and did some manipulation of the capsule to help with the frozen shoulder. Three days later, my physical therapy started and my regular torture sessions began and still continue.
I found out I would have to keep my right arm in a sling and totally immobilized for 6 weeks following surgery. I could not do a lot of things such as type with my right hand, drive, lift anything with my right hand (the list went on and on). Since I am a right hander, it became very difficult to do my work as typing was slow and arduous. I did turn on the voice recognition capabilities of Windows, but still found it to be very cumbersome. My manager ordered me to head out to the store and purchase a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance so that my life would be easier.
I had my son drive me to Office Max where I picked up the latest version (12) for $50. I installed it upon returning home and after about 15 minutes going through the tutorial and training session, I was fully functional and using the power of my voice to dictate emails, control Outlook and Word and all kinds of things. My productivity increased by 200 percent. Boy, my manager was right! (Don’t tell him I said that).
The software was able to scan through my documents and emails to “learn” my typing style and different words and acronyms that I used so that it could be more effective as I used it. It also does a great job learning and adapting as I continue to use the program. Dragon was able to recognize words and phrases such as IT Pro, MVP, MCSE, Hyper-V, VMware, etc. as I was speaking and spell them correctly with proper capitalization. Another nice tool that comes with Dragon is the Side Bar where it provides real time tips and advice on how to do things easier or for actions I may not have already performed and may not know how to do.
If you take a look at the screenshot here, you can see I can navigate within Windows by using voice commands or even control the mouse using voice commands. The sidebar is context sensitive so if I were doing work within Word, it would provide tips and guidance on specific actions that I can take in Word. This was a very useful toolbar as I was able to learn different voice commands to control the Mouse or perform keyboard tasks such as “Hit Enter”.
It has been 8 weeks since my surgery and I am now able to type using both hands, but I still find myself using Dragon Naturally Speaking as I can talk faster than I can type. I have also used Dragon to “take notes” during meetings by using the speakerphone during my Lync calls and have Dragon “dictate” right into Word for me. That is awesome!! I can listen to the conversations and participate knowing that Dragon is busy taking notes for me. I can’t imagine how horrible my work would have been without it as I would have been typing with my left hand and doing a pretty slow and poor job of it at that.
Switching topics back to the surgery, I’ve had people ask me if it was painful and what was involved. I thought I would go ahead and share that here at the end of the article so those who don’t care, can stop reading at this point.
The Labrum repair was performed arthroscopically. In order to attach the bicep muscle to my bone, the doctor had to do “regular” surgery and make an incision where he would attach the bicep muscle. He then drilled a hole in my bone and attached the bicep muscle using a piece of my own bone (and possibly some animal bone). The good thing about this process is I don’t have any metal screws in me, but the healing process did require me to be in a sling for at least 6 weeks. I had a total of 16 staples after surgery to ensure all my sutures stayed closed.
Following are two screenshots of the staples (look away now if you don’t want to see the staples).