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A seemingly insignificant product cancellation is having a far-reaching impact on a particular community of Mac users.
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Reg reader (and contributor) Colin Hughes wrote in to inform us about how Developer Nuance's decision to drop the OS X port of its Dragon Professional for Mac has left some customers with disabilities out in the cold.
A very important niche
Pitched as a productivity tool, Nuance's Dragon software is aimed at everyone from journalists and home users to medical professionals as a way to accurately transcribe spoken words into printed text.
For some users, however, the software is much more than a convenience. Hughes explains that, for him and others whose conditions leave them unable to type with a keyboard, voice dictation software is a line to the outside world.
'I became wholly reliant on voice dictation software for corresponding, whether it is writing a business letter to the bank, a blog post, or a short text to friends and family,' he explains.
'I do not have a plan B for writing anything.'
That is why, when Nuance announced recently that it was cutting support for the Mac version of Dragon Professional for Mac, it left some users in a tough spot.
While the software will continue to function, there will be no future updates or support, meaning Colin and others who have come to depend on Dragon for everyday activities will have to find another way to get things done.
'I have followers on Twitter who are in employment and run businesses and they say this news will hit their productivity hard,' Hughes explains.
'Blind people, people with dyslexia are also likely to be affected adversely along with severely physically disabled people like myself.'
El Reg contacted Nuance for comment on the matter, but a spokesperson had only the PR boilerplate to offer.
'Nuance is constantly evaluating its product portfolio to see how we can best meet the needs of our customers and business. After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the Dragon Professional Individual for Mac line-up,' the statement reads.
'Customers may still receive telephone support for up to 90 days from date of activating the software in North America and up to 180 days from date of software activation in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific regions. Customers’ statutory rights are not affected.'
In other words, the clock is ticking for anyone who relies on Dragon for Mac to either find a new app or migrate to Windows. Which leads us to the next part of the story.
Other options don't really stack up
It would be one thing if the other options for Mac users could match Nuance's now-discontinued offering. Unfortunately, Hughes tells us, there isn't anything close to Dragon at the moment.
'Apple’s own voice dictation app.(found in accessibility) is inferior because it doesn’t learn from your mistakes, it can’t cope with work jargon, foreign names, you can’t train it to recognize words so it doesn’t repeat the same recognition mistake, you can’t add to its vocabulary,' said Hughes.
'So if there is an error in recognition when dictating people like me can’t take to the keyboard and simply carry on. So Apple’s own offering is far inferior to Dragon for Mac and is not at all productive for me to use.'
That leaves users with the unenviable choice of either making do with an inferior product or dropping their Macs in favor of Windows, where Nuance still supports Dragon Professional.
'I am a Mac user, I am steeped in the Mac ecosystem with MacBook Pro, iPhone, and Watch with all that seamless integration between devices,' Hughes said.
'It is not a simple decision to switch to a Windows machine and get Dragon for Windows.'
Apple to blame as well
It is no secret that Apple does not play well with others and the strict limits it places with its APIs have prevented developers from making full use of hardware the way they can on other platforms. Many an Android developer, for example, has had to cut features from the iOS version of their app due to Apple simply not granting access to specific components.
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Nuance, it seems, ran into some of the same problems when it made Dragon for Mac.
Back in a 2016 user group presentation, Nuance R&D program manager Jeff Leiman noted how Apple's API restrictions left Nuance unable to implement some of the features it was able to offer for the Windows version.
While wanting to keep control of what happens on their platform is perfectly understandable, Hughes argues that Apple should also take it upon themselves to pick up where Nuance left off and develop a better set of access and dictation tools for disabled users.
Hughes says that, eventually, he does believe someone, be it Apple or Google, will step up and offer better voice controls and dictation. Unfortunately, in the meantime he and other users are tied to the business decisions of the few companies, such as Nuance, who offer a usable product.
Perhaps most frustrating is that the technology to do voice control properly is already here. Apple and others have made a point of working it into their hardware demos, but the involvement ends there, and when it can't be used to showcase a new product, speech recognition seems to get tossed aside.
'For some strange reason Apple keeps pitching voice control in terms of gimmicky things like ordering your coffee from Starbucks while turning your thermostat down on your way out to work,' Hughes says.
'For people like me being able to control my Apple device by voice can make or break my day. Apple just doesn’t seem to get that and it isn’t listening.'
Here's hoping they do, sooner than later. ®
macOS Catalina introduces Voice Control, a new way to fully control your Mac entirely with your voice. Voice Control uses the Siri speech-recognition engine to improve on the Enhanced Dictation feature available in earlier versions of macOS.1
How to turn on Voice Control
After upgrading to macOS Catalina, follow these steps to turn on Voice Control:
- Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Accessibility.
- Click Voice Control in the sidebar.
- Select Enable Voice Control. When you turn on Voice Control for the first time, your Mac completes a one-time download from Apple.2
Voice Control preferences
When Voice Control is enabled, you see an onscreen microphone representing the mic selected in Voice Control preferences.
To pause Voice Control and stop it from from listening, say ”Go to sleep” or click Sleep. To resume Voice Control, say or click ”Wake up.”
How to use Voice Control
Get to know Voice Control by reviewing the list of voice commands available to you: Say “Show commands” or ”Show me what I can say.” The list varies based on context, and you may discover variations not listed. To make it easier to know whether Voice Control heard your phrase as a command, you can select ”Play sound when command is recognized” in Voice Control preferences.
Voice Control recognizes the names of many apps, labels, controls, and other onscreen items, so you can navigate by combining those names with certain commands. Here are some examples:
- Open Pages: ”Open Pages.” Then create a new document: ”Click New Document.” Then choose one of the letter templates: 'Click Letter. Click Classic Letter.” Then save your document: ”Save document.”
- Start a new message in Mail: ”Click New Message.” Then address it: ”John Appleseed.”
- Turn on Dark Mode: ”Open System Preferences. Click General. Click Dark.” Then quit System Preferences: ”Quit System Preferences” or ”Close window.”
- Restart your Mac: ”Click Apple menu. Click Restart” (or use the number overlay and say ”Click 8”).
You can also create your own voice commands.
Use number overlays to quickly interact with parts of the screen that Voice Control recognizes as clickable, such as menus, checkboxes, and buttons. To turn on number overlays, say ”Show numbers.” Then just say a number to click it.
Number overlays make it easy to interact with complex interfaces, such as web pages. For example, in your web browser you could say ”Search for Apple stores near me.” Then use the number overlay to choose one of the results: ”Show numbers. Click 64.” (If the name of the link is unique, you might also be able to click it without overlays by saying ”Click” and the name of the link.)
Voice Control automatically shows numbers in menus and wherever you need to distinguish between items that have the same name.
Force quit mac not working. 5) Activity Monitor methodYour app comes with a utility called Activity Monitor, and it’s really useful for monitoring hardware and resource usage on your machine.The app is also useful for quitting apps on your Mac. 4) Menu Bar icon methodAlthough we showed you how to quit apps from the Dock and Menu Bar menu, some apps don’t appear in the Dock at all, but instead show up as icons in the Menu Bar instead.These apps typically don’t give you the option to quit from the Menu Bar menu either because the name never appears there, so there’s a different process involved and we’ll touch on that very quickly for you. To use it, launch it from your Applications Utilities folder and then click on the app in the application list that you want to quit.Next, you’ll click on the quit button at the top left of the Activity Monitor window, and from the prompt that appears, you’ll click on the blue Quit button.
Use grid overlays to interact with parts of the screen that don't have a control, or that Voice Control doesn't recognize as clickable.
Say “Show grid” to show a numbered grid on your screen, or ”Show window grid” to limit the grid to the active window. Say a grid number to subdivide that area of the grid, and repeat as needed to continue refining your selection.
To click the item behind a grid number, say ”Click” and the number. Or say ”Zoom” and the number to zoom in on that area of the grid, then automatically hide the grid. You can also use grid numbers to drag a selected item from one area of the grid to another: ”Drag 3 to 14.”
To hide grid numbers, say ”Hide numbers.” To hide both numbers and grid, say ”Hide grid.”
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When the cursor is in a document, email message, text message, or other text field, you can dictate continuously. Dictation converts your spoken words into text.
- To enter a punctuation mark, symbol, or emoji, just speak its name, such as ”question mark” or ”percent sign” or ”happy emoji.” These may vary by language or dialect.
- To move around and select text, you can use commands like ”Move up two sentences” or ”Move forward one paragraph” or ”Select previous word” or ”Select next paragraph.”
- To format text, try ”Bold that” or ”Capitalize that,” for example. Say ”numeral” to format your next phrase as a number.
- To delete text, you can choose from many delete commands. For example, say “delete that” and Voice Control knows to delete what you just typed. Or say ”Delete all” to delete everything and start over.
Voice Control understands contextual cues, so you can seamlessly transition between text dictation and commands. For example, to dictate and then send a birthday greeting in Messages, you could say ”Happy Birthday. Click Send.” Or to replace a phrase, say ”Replace I’m almost there with I just arrived.”
You can also create your own vocabulary for use with dictation.
Create your own voice commands and vocabulary
Create your own voice commands
- Open Voice Control preferences, such as by saying ”Open Voice Control preferences.”
- Click Commands or say ”Click Commands.” The complete list of all commands opens.
- To add a new command, click the add button (+) or say ”Click add.” Then configure these options to define the command:
- When I say: Enter the word or phrase that you want to be able to speak to perform the action.
- While using: Choose whether your Mac performs the action only when you're using a particular app.
- Perform: Choose the action to perform. You can open a Finder item, open a URL, paste text, paste data from the clipboard, press a keyboard shortcut, select a menu item, or run an Automator workflow.
- Use the checkboxes to turn commands on or off. You can also select a command to find out whether other phrases work with that command. For example, “Undo that” works with several phrases, including “Undo this” and “Scratch that.”
To quickly add a new command, you can say ”Make this speakable.” Voice Control will help you configure the new command based on the context. For example, if you speak this command while a menu item is selected, Voice Control helps you make a command for choosing that menu item.
Best photo edit program for mac. Create your own dictation vocabulary
- Open Voice Control preferences, such as by saying ”Open Voice Control preferences.”
- Click Vocabulary, or say ”Click Vocabulary.”
- Click the add button (+) or say ”Click add.”
- Type a new word or phrase as you want it to be entered when spoken.
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- For the best performance when using Voice Control with a Mac notebook computer and an external display, keep your notebook lid open or use an external microphone.
- All audio processing for Voice Control happens on your device, so your personal data is always kept private.
- Use Voice Control on your iPhone or iPod touch.
- Learn more about accessibility features in Apple products.
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1. Voice Control uses the Siri speech-recognition engine for U.S. English only. Other languages and dialects use the speech-recognition engine previously available with Enhanced Dictation.
2. If you're on a business or school network that uses a proxy server, Voice Control might not be able to download. Have your network administrator refer to the network ports used by Apple software products.