Tag Archives: text-to-speech

The Dragon Dictation App Saves You Time

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dragon Dictation. All opinions are 100% mine.

Dragon Dictation for the iPhone can make your life a whole lot easier. I was excited to find that I could quickly email or text some text after speaking it into the app. Of course, I can also tweet the text once it comes up or shoot it over to my Facebook wall. If the app does happen to make a mistake (which is honestly pretty rare), it’s easy to pull up the keyboard and make a correction.

There are any number of ways that you can use this app to help your productivity. Imagine sitting in your car, heading across town to a meeting. You obviously cannot write down your notes while you’re zooming around in traffic. Instead, just click on the Dragon Dictation app and speak your thoughts and notes right to your iPhone. Your hands will stay on the wheel, and your eyes will still be on the road.

Using the app is faster than typing. If you are anything like me, your brain races much faster than your poor fingers ever could. Why bother getting cramps trying to bang out the thoughts in your head on your keyboard? That’s a waste of time, and you might even forget some important detail. Just dictate everything as it comes into your mind. You can always email yourself the entire block of text when you finish. Save it to your computer from there, or even print it!

What other ways to put this app to good use can you think of? How could it help you save time?

Five Tips in Making a Visually Accessible Website

Geek!This is C.S. McClendon’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

We live in an ever changing world; a world that is becoming increasingly entangled in the web, and for the majority of the populous that is not such a bad development. In fact I would be willing to say that there is something good on the web for everyone so long as you know where and how to find it. For those people with certain visual disabilities however, the internet can be a very difficult place to navigate.

I have decided to put together this list of the top five things you as a web designer can do to make your site easier on those of your visitors who might otherwise have a difficult time. Please take the time to read this article and you might just find that with a few simple steps you can open your site up to whole new lanes of traffic.

  1. Contrary to popular belief, size is important. Now I’m not talking about the amount of content you include in your site; rather text size and the like. For instance, with a few clicks of your mouse or extra key strokes you can make the text size of your website larger; therefore much more easily read by the elderly and otherwise visually impaired. I recommend that you don’t stop there with only the text elements of your site; with the right program and a little digital manipulation you can also enlarge such things as pictures and diagrams.
  2. Roam the wide open spaces. Now I know this goes against convention, but you might want to give more than just a passing thought to double spacing your pages. You remember those – pages like your professors used to insist on for your research papers and such in high school and college? Take it from someone with more than a little experience in this particular area – a little space goes a long way toward making a crowded page a lot easier to read.
  3. Think contrary in contrast. Remember art class in school where you got to play with the color wheel? See if you can find one still hiding in a drawer somewhere – if not you can use the one at http://www.northlite.net/ps/images/color_wheel.gif. Now that you have a working color wheel, take a close look at it. See how those colors closest together tend to blend into one another? Now, if we were talking about painting your house that might be a good thing – but when your trying to make your web page easier to read for those in need, you will want to steer yourself closer to the opposite ends of the wheel. Remember the old adage; good fences make good neighbors.

  4. In the world of style, options are kings. Modern browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer use a nifty feature called style sheets. They also allow the enterprising designer to create multiple style sheets for a single page. These style sheets can be used to change the color scheme, the text size, and even the layout of the pages; giving the visitor the opportunity to choose the options that work best for them. The more options you as the designer provide, the more likely there is to be one that suits the visually challenged user.
  5. KISS. Keep it simpleā€¦ sir (after all there is no reason to be impolite). The bells and whistles of modern technology may indeed make for a more visually stimulating site, but this creates a problem for those with visual difficulties, effectively making your site difficult to navigate. Coding your site for copyright protection may keep the disreputable from stealing your content and making it their own, but it will also make it impossible for most screen readers and other text-to-speech programs to work in favor of your viewers, as a good many of such programs rely on the ability to copy and paste the text that needs to be read.

If you are feeling ambitious, there is certainly a lot you can do to code your site so it can be accessible to those who are visually impaired. You can create the ability for it to read itself to your viewer, provide vocal cues for every link, event, or menu. There are several software options such as MASH (Microsoft Agent Scripting Helper) that will help you do such things – but the things I mention here are some of the simplest and often quickest options that will make your site as easy as possible for the visually impaired viewer – who could stumble into or come looking for the content that you have to offer.

Yes, I wrote this article and offered this advice with those like myself in mind; but hopefully in doing so I will have helped more than a few of you – on both sides of the page.

Speech Recognition

http://live.pirillo.com/ – Is Windows Vista speech recognition any good? Chris has used almost every speech recognition package, and he has yet to be impressed.

The speed recognition software built into Windows Vista isn't that bad. Of course, it isn't that great either. It does a fair job as long as you have a quality microphone and you speak clearly – no thick New York accents here.

The problems, of course, show up when you try to pronounce acronyms or companies such as "Ustream." You need to train the software to understand what you're saying, so it ends up being more of an annoyance than being anything practical.

If you're serious about using voice recognition (or you must use it because of a disability), then really consider getting Dragon Naturally Speaking, a much more powerful software package than what Microsoft includes with Windows Vista.

Want to embed our Speech Recognition video in your blog? Use this code:

Formats available: MPEG4 Video (.mp4), Flash Video (.flv), MP3 Audio (.mp3), Microsoft Video (.avi)

Text to Speech Software

Someone sent me a link to Natural Voices the other day. Ken White warned me about this “free” piece of software:

These guys are crap. They promote their product as being free with natural voices, but they basically lie. Their product is the same old free trial stuff with the same old bad microsoft voices, you have to buy it to get good voices, just like with our stuff. But, they piss off lots of people with the somewhat false advertising, hooking people in thinking they are getting something free, just to get the upsell to get the voices. We probably get 10 people a week coming to us complaining about them, or asking us for help with products they bought from them that don’t work and they can’t get support.

I’ve known Ken a lot longer than I’ve known of Naturalreaders.com. Indeed, his TextAloud is probably one of the more popular Text To Speech tools on the planet.