Got Siri? Wish you did? Well, pard, did you realize that Windows 7 has voice-to-text BUILT RIGHT INTO THE OPERATING SYSTEM, and Microsoft has become so maladept at marketing that nobody knows?
I only found out myself by accident. I had become so fond of Siri and the iPad’s Siri-manquée that I started thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have this on my desktop?
So I knew about Dragon voice-text software, and vaguely knew that Apple might have licensed it for Siri's code base, under oath of silence. And I was just about to buy Dragon for my PC, when I took trouble to read the Amazon user reviews.
Someone commented that Windows’ built-in voice-text was far superior.
"Nah, can't be," thought your naive correspondent. "Gotta be just for navigation." But when I Googled "Windows 7 voice to text," I got full instructions on how to activate this feature. Rocket science it is not.
So I did what they said, plugged in the USB headset I use for Skype and...lo and behold.
It doesn't just work. Leaves Siri and Dragon in the dust. Faster, more accurate, with better navigation.
For hunt-and-peck people like me, it’s ike being told that you got a Porsche for Christmas several years ago and the keys have been in your pocket waiting to be noticed.
So go to your Windows 7 PC, click Start, Control Panel, Ease of Access and finally (pant, pant) SPEECH RECOGNITION. (Yes, Microsoft has buried this gem way out back in the reserved-for-disabled parking lot. Says a lot about why they're faltering right there, but that's a different article.)
Then plug in any microphone you happen to possess, or better still, treat yourself to a USB headset of the sort Amazon sells for under $30.
Try it. You're gonna love being a dictator.
GIVING DRAGON ITS DUE. Dragon users have complained loudly about my assertion that Windows 7 voice-to-text "leaves dragon in the dust." So loudly, in fact, that I ponied up for the boxed edition of Dragon 11.5, trained it and even invested in the sainted Sennheiser-ME3-supercardioid-headset-with-Andrea-USB-sound-adapter combo that Dragon Lords insist is necessary to make the software sing. I should add that my Windows machine has an Intel Sandybridge quad-core processor and a 600MB-per-second SATA 3 solid state drive -- and your mileage may vary, because Dragon has a Dragon-size appetite for CPU cycles.
And, well, I am humbled. I hereby admit that, if you pay the bucks and do the work, Dragon actually can outperform the built-in Windows voice-to-text engine quite handily. So much so that, well, I'm kind of getting addicted to it. For certain uses.
It's heaven sent for email and old-fashioned letters -- excellent for taking notes and summing up telephone calls.
But alas, when it comes to full-blast tasks like writing a decent article, it's back to the keyboard. My brain far prefers making words flow from my fingertips onto the screen, then back to my vocal centers for a silent enunciation of what I just wrote, then back to my fingers to make the sentence sound better, and so on until I like it.
Sound like hard work? Yes, it is. I wish could just open my mouth and let fluid phrases flow forth, fast and free as water from a tap.
But whenever I try, the sentences are, well, let's just say they're too watery.
All too often, one's mouth tends to outrun one's brain.