Dragon Professional Individual For Dummies
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Here are ten things you'll want to know when using Dragon Professional Individual. Sometimes the difference between doing well and just getting by is a well-placed piece of advice.

Using hotkeys in dialog boxes

Hotkeys really shine in dialog boxes. The varied features of dialog boxes, the radio buttons, check boxes, and so on, respond unevenly to voice commands. In some dialog boxes, you can say, "Click Never Ask Me This Question Again" and have a check mark show up in the Never Ask Me This Question Again check box. In other dialog boxes, it doesn't work. But saying, "Press Alt S" works every time.

Positioning the microphone the same way every time

Misplaced microphones are the number one cause of error. Dragon Professional Individual learns best when you sound the same way every time you say a word. And even if you actually say the word the same way every time, it sounds different if your microphone isn't in quite the same location.

Develop your own precise way of knowing that the microphone is in exactly the right place. Maybe you can just fit a finger between the microphone and the corner of your mouth. If all that is too much trouble, get in the habit of running the microphone check from the Audio menu whenever you put your microphone on: Choose Audio→Check Microphone from the Dragon Professional Individual menu bar.

Changing your mouse habits

Dragon Professional Individual has mouse commands. So you could keep all your same mouse habits and just use mouse voice commands instead of grabbing the physical object next to your keyboard. But that's not a great idea. The mouse commands (like "MouseGrid") are usable in a pinch, but they get tedious if you try to do everything with them.

Instead, learn to do the same actions with other commands. Use the web commands with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Firefox. Say, "Press Page Down" or "Press Page Up" instead of clicking the scroll bar. Use menu commands instead of toolbar buttons. Cut and paste with hotkeys instead of dragging and dropping. Use the "Move" and "Go" commands to put the cursor where you want. You can also try the "Scroll Down" commands to navigate. They work in applications like Microsoft Outlook.

Drinking with a straw

Dictating is thirsty work. You can maintain a clear, steady tone of voice and avoid doing damage to your throat if you keep something to drink nearby and sip it occasionally. But there is no way to raise a cup to your lips without moving the microphone.

The solution is to drink through a straw!

Turning off automatic spell checking in word processors

Dragon Professional Individual is incapable of making a spelling error (unless you introduce a misspelled word into its vocabulary through the vocabulary-building process). So spell-checking is a waste of your computer's resources (which Dragon Professional Individual may already be stretching). If Dragon Professional Individual seems a bit sluggish when you're using a word processor, turn off that word processor's spell checker.

In Word, from the File menu choose Options→Proofing. Make sure the Check Spelling As You Type check box isn't selected.

While you're there, you can save some RAM by making sure the Check Grammar As You Type check box is deselected as well. In WordPerfect, choose Tools→Proofread→Off.

Working on small pieces of large documents

This tip is another RAM-saver. Large documents take up a lot of your computer's memory, memory that could be better applied to improving the performance of Dragon Professional Individual. Don't make your computer keep your whole novel in memory if you only need to work on one scene. Put the scene in a separate file and work on that file instead.

Using dictation shortcuts

You can save a lot of time by teaching Dragon Professional Individual some shortcuts. Teach your Dragon Professional Individual assistant to type "the Honorable Judge James J. Wackelgoober" when you say, "The Boss," or to reproduce your full street address when you say, "My Address."

You can also use shortcuts to gain some privacy for yourself. If, for example, you have a pet name for your spouse that you would rather not have overheard in the next cubicle when you dictate email, substitute some dull-sounding shortcut.

Turning the microphone off when you stop dictating

Dragon Professional Individual and the microphone that comes with it are usually good enough that they don't pay attention to random noises. The microphone doesn't, however, know that you have just picked up the phone or are talking to the person who just came into your office. It's good to get in the habit of pressing the + key on the keyboard (or clicking the microphone icon off) when you are interrupted or otherwise done dictating.

Selecting or correcting longer phrases

When you dictate "a hippopotamus" and Dragon Professional Individual types "the hippopotamus," don't just say, "Correct The." Dragon Professional Individual may mishear it again, and there's bound to be a "the" in your document somewhere else that it will try to correct instead.

Speak the command, "Correct The Hippopotamus." Chances are good that only one occurrence of "the hippopotamus" is currently displayed and that Dragon Professional Individual will pick it out for you right away. Select an even longer phrase, if you can ("Correct Tickle The Hippopotamus," for example).

Using the physical mouse and keyboard

In theory, you can do just about anything with the Dragon Professional Individual voice commands. Voice commands like "MouseGrid" and "Click" give you a virtual mouse. The "Press" command gives you a virtual keyboard. So, you should be able to work without the physical mouse and keyboard — in theory.

Sometimes, however, doing something by voice is simply a pain. Give it up. If you know in your heart that you can do it in three clicks of a mouse's tail, do it. You'll have better days, and you can figure out how to handle the situation with voice commands then. Meanwhile, you stay productive.

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Stephanie Diamond is a thought leader, management marketing professional, and founder of Digital Media Works, Inc., an online marketing company that helps business owners discover the hidden profits in their businesses. She has worked with small business owners and multibillion-dollar corporations.

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