Taming the Dragon

Last week, I broke my right arm .... and let me definitely confirm that this slows down the family history research process.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  So I've turned this setback to good use.  

Awhile back I was researching various options to help me transcribe the mountains of handwritten documents I've accumulated over the years and came across Dragon Dictate voice dictation software, but dismissed it as being too expensive.  

A day or two of hunting and pecking with my left hand quickly justified the expense.  I also have to admit that the idea of commanding my computer with my voice, a la Captain Kirk, had a certain appeal.

Dragon for Mac was extremely easy to install and set up.  I read a few stories to my computer to train the software to recognize my voice, and that was it!  Within minutes I was reading a document out loud, and the words magically appeared on my screen.   Think about how time-consuming it is to type a transcription while you're trying to decipher the handwriting.  With voice dictation software, all you have to do is focus on what you're reading.  Your transcription accuracy also improves since your eyes don't have to switch back and forth from one document to the other, and you are less likely to lose your place.

One caveat--you probably won't produce a literal transcription of your historical document with all its strange spellings, because Dragon transcribes what it hears into modern standard English.  I think that if you study the editing commands you can have more control over the vagaries of your ancestors' spelling and punctuation, but I wanted to jump right in....perfection can wait! 

I also discovered a bonus use for Dragon--its a great tool for taking research notes!  I was looking for several families in the NY land indexes on FamilySearch yesterday and noticed that if I read the index entry (and full citation) out loud, I automatically produced a neat "to do" list for this class of records.  No more stopping and starting each time I find an entry of interest so I can write it down.  I freely admit to being dazzled by the so-called BSOs (bright shiny objects), so anything that keeps me focused on one thing at a time is a worthwhile investment!

The only thing that confuses me is why the Mac edition of Dragon Dictate is nearly twice as expensive as the PC version -- but once I got over that, I've been extremely pleased with the software.  

PS--with some editing, this blogpost was entirely produced using Dragon!  I will note, however, that it works better when you know exactly what you are going to say, and not quite as well when you are still thinking.  Reminds me of the Berlitz commercial...