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Any Trekkie worth their salt has probably fantasized about a speech program for their computer. Up until recently that’s all it could be was a fantasy. Sure, there have been some speech – to – text programs in the past but most were primitive at best. The new program for Macintosh, MacSpeech 1.3, turns fantasy into reality.
This is my first article written almost entirely in MacSpeech. It’s also a review of the MacSpeech program. The setup is straightforward. You load the discs and follow the instructions. Upon initial installation you go through a five-minute learning process so the computer program can adjust to your voice. Depending on your diction and how clearly you speak, this process may take more or less time. For me it took four minutes. The only glitch on the initial setup was having to go into Apple’s midi set up program to select the supplied Plantronics headset microphone as my input device for the MacSpeech program to work properly. Before I did this this, the program crashed when I tried to run it.
If you’re a fast thinker or a fast talker it will take a while to slow down to MacSpeech’s preferred input speed. You can’t motor mouth and expect it to keep up with you. You also have to remember to add punctuation; otherwise all your sentences will run together. Of course you can go back into the document after you’ve dictated it and add punctuation later, but why do that if you can, with a bit of practice, do this while you’re dictating?
Because MacSpeech is so different from typing, it’s bound to have an effect on how you write. You have to slow down and spend more time thinking about how you are going to form your sentences. For some people this can be very good thing. Others may find dictation does not lend itself to the way they think or want to write. My speech patterns are pretty close to the way I write, but my wife Suzanne writes far more eloquently than she talks. Her reaction to MacSpeech is not as positive as mine.
Another disadvantage of MacSpeech is the need for quiet. If you work in a noisy or frenetic environment you’ll have to change your work habits. You can’t use MacSpeech while iTunes is blasting your favorite songs unless you want to incorporate the lyrics into your documents. If you can’t or won’t set up your computer where you can work in relative silence this program is not for you.
During my initial time with MacSpeech I had some problems getting it to delete and undo words. So far I haven’t figured out how to consistently make it go back or delete, but I can make it select all and copy. Of course I can just do that with my keyboard, but where’s the fun in that?
Besides writing chores MacSpeech can be used to open programs and give commands to these programs. I can give the command “Open iTunes” and iTunes will open. Of course if iTunes began to play it would be difficult to continue using MacSpeech. I can also sleepopen Safari by giving commands through MacSpeech. So far I haven’t gotten MacSpeech to give commands while in Safari, so if my hands were tied behind my back and I wanted to browse the web I’d be out of luck.
Whether MacSpeech becomes indispensable to you depends upon your ability to learn the program and work with the program’s idiosyncrasies. If I had any tendencies toward tendonitis from computer keyboard use I would certainly make an effort to learn MacSpeech and all its intricacies. In the meantime I can certainly see a place for MacSpeech for writing letters and rough drafts of articles. I’d say that’s not half bad for near science fiction.