You will see from my review of ClaroRead below that I rely heavily on software to help me in my everyday work – particularly for emails. Recently, I have been experimenting with dictation software for longer emails and reports.
I decided the best way to test the usefulness of dictation software was to setup a dictation drag race between two leading contestants:
Contestant One: Apple Dictation (macOX Sierra v10.12.2) built-in tool – which is free.
[You can activate the Dictation tool from the Apple icon [top left] go to ‘System Preferences’, click on the ‘Keyboard’ icon and within this click on the ‘Dictation tab’ and, finally, tick ‘Dictation’ as ‘On’. To use in any text box press ‘fn’ [bottom left] key twice [this is configurable] and then press ‘fn’ key twice to hide].
Contestant Two: Nuance Dragon (Professional Individual for Mac v6.0.4), which is probably the best known dictation software you can buy.
So, the challenge was 400 words from a long email to a colleague. Starting with Nuance Dragon [“Contestant Dragon [David], on my first whistle“], I read out from a printed page … 4 minutes and 56 seconds later 400 words have been dictated into a document with only 5 mistakes – all of which were understandable and easy to correct. I used the ClaroRead to ‘Text to Speech’ function to quickly check through the document. Not a bad achievement and probably three or four times quicker than typing with ClaroRead.
Now for Apple Dictation using exactly the same email … 4 minutes and 59 seconds later 400 words have been dictated into a document but sadly this time with over 30 mistakes. Most of these were ‘normal’ words. I used Apple ‘Text to Speech’ [again free] tool to check through the document.
[You can activate the ‘Text to Speech’ tool from the Apple icon [top left] go to ‘System Preferences’, click on the ‘Accessibility’ icon, then ‘Speech’ and tick ‘Speak selected text when the key is pressed. You can configure ‘Current key’ by clicking ‘Change Key’].
I started to correct the document and quickly realised how time consuming this was. So, even though the drag race was fairly even with Nuance Dragon crossing the line only 3 seconds ahead of Apple Dictation, the time to do the corrections made Dragon the clear winner for longer documents for me.
However, since carrying out this very unscientific test, I have found Apple Dictation particularly helpful whilst doing short emails. It is so easy to press ‘fn’ twice in the middle of typing to help me complete a long sentence or to find a difficult word [I will come back to ‘difficult words’ in another blog]. So, not quite ‘honours are even’, but pretty close.
And finally, I do find that even though my version of Dragon is up-to-date, it regularly crashes. Not great for a drag racer! But, at least for me, not a huge problem only an inconvenience as I work in Word for Mac rather than DragonPad.
ClaroRead Software Review
For me, the single most useful dyslexia software tool is ClaroRead for Mac. I literally use it everyday and for every email, letter or report I write. It has more features than I need but the two most useful features for me are:
Reading out as I type each word and then reading out highlighted text. This is a must have feature and I can’t think of any improvements to this function.
Word prediction is a heavy weight tool which offers you a drop down list of words as you are typing. I’ve set my colour scheme (soft yellow on dark blue), for the list to be sorted by likelihood (rather than alphabetical) and to show ignored words and next word [Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Predict’ > ‘Window’].
I prefer to use the ClaroRead training feature rather than automatically adding correctly spelt words. The latter slows the application down to the point it interfers with my typing. Yes, I’m now really that fast! To be honest I’m still pretty slow but my correspondence are of a better quality. This means fewer spelling mistakes, homophones and bigger words (like correspondence!). The package comes with additional features I don’t use: ruler, capture and colour screen overlays.
The one improvement for me would be the option to have the prediction window track with the cursor (just to the right would be perfect). I’m sure I’ve seen this feature on Window-based software like – Penfriend and Read&Write – I see there is now a Mac version.
I have just bought an iPad Pro and downloaded the ClaroSpeak App. Give me a couple of months and I will write a review.
PS How could I not mention the power of MSWord (or other word processors) and built-in spelling and grammar checks. My adult life spans the Sinclair ZX Spectrum to the MacBook Pro – probably the real revolution at your finger tips for dyslexics.
My ClaroRead’s word reduction window: