I'm back!

Where have I been? Well, no sooner was I back at work and doing physical therapy for my foot surgery in July than I suddenly needed to have some urgent hand surgery. (Both foot and hand were on the right side, which being left-handed is a small blessing; but a friend suggested I somehow offended my right side at some point in the past and it's extracting vengeance.) The surgery was supposed to be fairly minor and (thank goodness) didn't indicate anything long-term to worry about; unfortunately, the surgery was a little more involved than expected, and it left my thumb and index finger very weak and with limited range of motion, preventing me from typing with that hand.

For over 15 years, I've touch typed using the Dvorak simplified keyboard, so typing one-handed on QWERTY (so I could see what I was doing) was agony, and coding (with the multiple-key chords, mostly remembered by finger memory, required for a programmer's editor's commands) was well-nigh impossible. So I've been taking a break from all typing I can avoid.

I purchased a copy of Dragon Dictate, which I'm using to "type" this post. I used Dragon for several months back in 1998 when I had very bad RSI, and I'm disappointed to report that very little progress has been made in 13 years. Back then, you had to "train" Dragon to your voice for about an hour by reading scripts it presented to you. Now, you only have to read a few paragraphs, and in 5 minutes it's ready to go. So that's a definite improvement.

But in every other way, Dragon Dictate in 2011 (at least for the Mac) is inferior to DragonDictate for Windows in 1998. It crashes frequently, it is not as good at controlling the computer (as opposed to just dictating text) via voice commands, and it has an extremely irritating habit of inputting commands as text.

For instance, you're supposed to say "scratch that" to undo the last thing you dictated. But about 20% of the time, instead, it actually inserts the words "scratch that" into the text you're dictating. "Move to end of document" is an especially difficult command for it, and that particularly sucks, as you typically use that command after you've edited some text earlier in the dictation and have whatever you wanted to correct selected. You say "move to end of document", and instead of complying, it deletes whatever is selected and replaces it with the words, "move to end of document". So annoying.

It really shocks me that the state-of-the-art for client-side dictation hasn't improved more in the past decade. (Google's cloud speech recognition, on Android and via the microphone button in Web search, however, is very good. If it could control a personal computer, it would be fantastic. I've been spending most e-mails the past few weeks via my Android phone.)

Even when Dragon works, it's much slower than touch typing because of the corrections you're required to make, and needing to remember to say punctuation marks out loud. (For instance, it took me exactly one hour to dictate and correct this post, three-quarters of it on corrections.) Dragon's fairly robust macro system helps, but it is far from a perfect solution.

I've been in occupational therapy to regain my typing ability; I've done 30 min. typing today and should be increasing that every day from now on. I'm looking forward to today, hopefully early next week, when I can say bye-bye to Dragon Dictate.

Thanks to all the folks who checked in on me to see how I was doing. I regret I won't be able to respond individually, at least not for a while, until I can type normally again!
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