Speech Recognition Notes and Additions
Additions to Apple's Speech Recognition System - More Speakable Items.
Apple's built in speech recognition system in Mac OS X is quite powerful and easy to use. It does not require any voice training and can be used immediately with the built in microphone available on most Apple computers including laptops (iBooks, MacBooks, PowerBooks, and MacBook Pros). The optional addition of a fairly cheap external microphone can make the experience even more fruitful.
Speech Recognition Setup
To enable speech recognition, open the System Preferences and click on the "Speech" icon. Under the "Speech Recognition" tab, click the radio button to turn "Speakable Items" on. The most fulfilling way to use speech recognition is hands free, but the constant audio processing puts a burden on the CPU, so speakable items should be disabled when not in use. This is a perfect opportunity to mention our very own Speech Toggle menu extra which provides a quick and easy way to toggle speech recognition on and off from the menu bar without having to go through System Preferences each time.
To enable hands free use, set the Listening Method to "Listen continuously with keyword" and then set "Keyword is optional before commands." Other than the aforementioned burden on the CPU, this also has a negative side-effect of requiring a very quiet operating environment to prevent erroneous input. In hands free mode, any extra noises such as trucks or planes going by, sneezing/coughing, television, or a dog barking will likely be recognized and execute random and wild commands on your computer! If you need to work in a noisy environment, try the "Listen only while key is pressed" mode, or the "Keyword is required before commands" option. The main drawback of keywords is the annoyance of saying "computer" before each command, and the strange looks you will receive from your friends, family, and coworkers.
Speakable Items comes with a nice base set of commands which can easily be added to or adjusted with AppleScript. Spoken control for all menus, menu items, and buttons is provided by default, even for nearly all non-Apple produced software. Supplementing your daily use of the keyboard, mouse/trackpad/tablet with a bit of speech recognition should help stave off the dreaded RSI injuries which are becoming more and more common in the modern computer world. Speakable items will also be useful to people with disabilities of the hands, wrists, and arms. A few useful additions to Speakable Items are included below in the download section.
If you don't want to mess with AppleScript, Apple also has a built in way of making keyboard commands speakable. Simply say "Define keyboard command" and it will prompt you to define a command for the current application or make it global for any application. This is a very easy feature to use; any time you encounter something you'd like to be speakable you can accomplish this within a few seconds.
Chimoo Timer recognizes a few speech commands without even turning on the global speech recognition system. You can start, stop, reset, and ask for a time readout while sitting across the room!
Our recently released menu extra, Speech Toggle allows you to toggle speakable items on and off from your menu bar rather than using System Preferences.
More Speakable Items (place in ~/Library/Speech/Speakable Items/ folder)
- Press up arrow
- Press down arrow
- Press right arrow
- Press left arrow
- Press tab
- Press shift tab
- Press command tab
- Press return
- Press escape
These scripts allow you to switch between iListen and Apple's Speech Recognition System simply by speaking one of the phrases below. To set up the iListen script, choose Commands from within iListen and add a global command called "Switch to apple speech recognition". Paste the script into this command and save. The "Switch to dictation mode" script is meant to go in your Speakable Items folder and will switch to iListen after turning off Apple's SR.
- Switch to apple speech recognition
- Switch to dictation mode
Other Speech Links & Info
To make your own scripts, the free utility called Full Key Codes (reviewed here) is very useful since it shows you the key code for any key you press. Also, take a look at Apple's UI Scripting Information.
For dictation software, try the new Dictate by MacSpeech. This newly released product uses the popular Dragon software as its basis and is hence quite good (and fast) at recognizing speech. It works fairly well for dictating and allows dictation directly into any application, even via the built in microphone on a MacBook Pro! Note however that Apple's built in system is still superior for navigating menus, dialogs, and buttons in the front most window.
If you have any other links or info, feel free to email although it may take a while to get back to you.