Get That Dictation Going: an introduction to DictationBridge

Meet DictationBridge

Welcome to DictationBridge, a screen reader extension that allows you to use your computer via dictation. With DictationBridge, a screen reader of your choice and a dictation software of your choice, you will discover how enjoyable it is to dictate emails, surf the web, keep in touch with friends, write professional documents in your job and other possibilities.

What is dictation?

Dictation allows you to “speak” to your computer. Simply put, dictation lets you write text, run programs, and perform tasks all by speaking to your computer.

So is dictation better than typing? It depends. There are people who prefer to type text on a keyboard, while some prefer to dictate via a microphone. One use case of dictation is if you need to rely on speaking to your computer because you cannot type well due to health issues.

So what do you need to dictate text? First, you need a microphone (a built-in or an external microphone), and a program that can understand what you are saying and perform tasks (called dictation software or a speech recognition program). For blind and visually impaired people, an additional program to read screen content, called a screen reader is essential. But how can all these – microphone, dictation software, and your screen reader – come together to help you speak to your computer? This is where DictationBridge comes in.

What is DictationBridge?

DictationBridge extends the capabilities of your screen reader by allowing it to read information from your dictation software. In some configurations, DictationBridge also allows you to command your screen reader using your Dictation software. Because DictationBridge is running as an add on, you won’t need to start a program each time you wish to use it. It will simply run in the background each time you launch your screen reader, and bridge the gap between your screen reader and dictation software.

Feature highlights

  • Echo back of dictated text in Dragon and Windows Speech Recognition (WSR).
  • Speech only support of the WSR correction box.
  • Support to control NVDA from Dragon and WSR. At this time, only Dragon commands have been written.
  • A verbal notification of the microphone status when using Dragon. WSR has this feature built-in therefore no support needs to be created.
  • Command NVDA by voice from Dragon.

And much more.

Note: DictationBridge does not control the quality of your dictation. If you are getting errors in the text you dictate, or your dictation software isn’t picking up your commands, you’ll need to look at factors like training your dictation software, and the placement and quality of your microphone. See the tips section for helpful tips when dictating text and performing other speech commands.

The people behind DictationBridg

DictationBridge was made possible thanks to the work of Lucy Greco, Pranav Lal, Matt Campbell, Chris Hofstader, Austin Hicks, Derek Riemer, San Francisco lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and countless supporters. See the contributions section for a full list of sponsors and people who made this project possible.

Copyright and license notice: DictationBridge is copyright 2016-2017 Three Mouse Technologies, inc and project contributors, released under GPL version 2. DictationBridge documentation is licensed under Creative Commons 3 license with attributions section included (see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/ for details). Microsoft Windows, Windows API and Windows Speech recognition are copyright Microsoft Corporation. Dragon Naturally Speaking suite is copyright Nuance Communications, inc. NonVisual desktop Access (NVDA) is copyright 2006-2017 NV Access Limited. JAWS for Windows is copyright 1995-2017 Freedom Scientific, LLC (part of VFO since 2016).

We want to hear from you

We at DictationBridge project believe that user feedback is essential when it comes to making the product better. If you have issues, or would like to suggest something for a future version of DictationBridge, you are more than welcome to send us feedback using methods outlined in contact information section at the end of this guide.

Note: due to different terms used for screen reader extensions, this guide will refer to both NVDA add-on and JAWS scripts as “scripts”.

The rest of this guide will explain how to get up and running with DictationBridge, how to use it, and some tips and tricks for maximizing the performance of the powerful software combination that is DictationBridge, your screen reader, and your Dictation software.

Install and get ready to dictate

Before you can dictate and perform commands with help from DictationBridge, you need to make sure your computer meets the requirements listed below, as well as install needed software such as screen readers, dictation software, and of course, DictationBridge.

What it takes to use DictationBridge

  • A computer running Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10, including server versions.
  • A microphone (built-in or external, including USB, Bluetooth and others).
  • A sound output device (such as speakers, wired or wireless headsets and so on).
  • A screen reader of your choice (at the time of this writing, DictationBridge supports NVDA 2016.3 and JAWS 17 or any later versions of these screen readers).
  • A dictation software (Windows Speech Recognition or a licensed version of Dragon Naturally Speaking suite version 15 or higher).

Installing screen readers

Installing DictationBridge

To download latest version of DictationBridge, visit DictationBridge website and select download link. Be sure to download the appropriate installer for your screen reader (JAWS or NVDA). After downloading the appropriate installer for your screen reader, follow the instructions for screen reader of your choice.

For JAWS for Windows:

  1. Navigate to where you have saved DictationBridge installer (a setup program) and press ENTER on the installer.
  2. Choose the installer language and press ENTER on OK button.
  3. Once the introductory screen opens, press ENTER on Next button.
  4. Choose the installation method. You can choose between “full” (scripts and documentation and can be uninstalled from Programs and Features), “just scripts”, and “custom”. After making a choice, press ENTER on the Next button.
  5. Select the JAWS version and language you are using, then select where you’d like DictationBridge to be installed (current user or for all users). For JAWS version/language, check the version you want to use by checking the checkbox. After making your choice, press ENTER on Next button.
  6. You are now asked to select the folder where DictationBridge should be installed. You can accept the default or specify a different location by typing the path or browsing to a folder. Once you make a choice, press ENTER on Next button.
  7. Review the choices made so far during installation, then press ENTER on the Install button.
  8. After a few moments, the installation will complete, at which point you can press ENTER on Finish button. Be sure to restart JAWS.

For NvDA installed on your computer:

  1. Navigate to where you have saved DictationBridge installer (an NVDA add-on with a .nvda-addon extension) and press ENTER on the installer.
  2. Say “yes” if NVDA asks if you would like to install the add-on.
  3. If you are upgrading from a prior version of DictationBridge, NVDA will ask if you would like to upgrade. Say “yes”.
  4. After a few moments NVDA will ask you to restart. Select “yes” to restart NVDA.

For a portable version of NVDA:

  1. Press NVDA+N to open NVDA menu. By default, the NVDA key is the numpad or extended insert key.
  2. Select Tools, then Manage Add-ons.
  3. From Add-ons Manager, select “install”, then navigate to the location where you have saved the DictationBridge add-on file and press ENTER.
  4. Say “yes” if NVDA asks if you would like to install the add-on,
  5. If upgrading from a prior version of the add-on, say “yes”.
  6. After a few moments, you’ll be returned to Add-ons Manager. Press Escape to close this window, then say “yes” if asked to restart NVDA.

Once installed, a new menu item under NVDA menu/Tools will be added that is used to copy files needed to perform NVDA commands via Dragon.

Installing and enabling dictation software

DictationBridge supports Windows Speech Recognition and Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Follow these steps to enable Windows Speech Recognition (WSR):

  1. Press Windows key to \open Start menu (Start screen in Windows 8 and 8.1).
  2. Enter “speech recognition”, and select “Windows Speech Recognition” and press ENTER. The setup window opens.
  3. Once in Setup Speech Recognition window, press ENTER on “Next” button.
  4. Select the type of the microphone you will use and select “Next”.
  5. After reviewing the instruction screen, select “next”.
  6. If you speak English, dictate the following phrase: “Peter dictates to his computer. He prefers it to typing, and particularly prefers it to pen and paper.” Note that you’ll be asked to dictate a different phrase for languages other than English.
  7. If everything is okay, Setup window will present the completion screen where you can exit the setup process or continue with training.
  8. To control microphone status and perform other WSR management functions, press Windows+B to go to notification area (also known as system tray), select Speech Recognition entry, press Applications key and select the item you want.

For Dragon Naturally Speaking:

  1. Purchase and download Dragon Naturally Speaking. A customized downloader for your serial number will be generated.
  2. Locate the downloader and press ENTER to begin the setup download.
  3. Once the download completes, you’ll be greeted with a setup screen. Press ENTER on Next button. In case you are using programs such as Microsoft Outlook, you’ll need to exit them before continuing.
  4. Review the license information and select “I accept” radio button and press ENTER on Next.
  5. Enter your user name, organization (optional), and enter the serial number and press ENTER on Next button.
  6. Select the region to be used for dictation and text-to-speech. If you speak English, choose the region you live in or “All English regions”. Also, if you want to choose installation folder and other options, check “Advanced” checkbox. After making a selection, press ENTER on Next button.
  7. If you did not check “Advanced” checkbox, you’re now asked to install Dragon, otherwise you are asked to select where Dragon should be installed. If so, choose the folder, then press ENTER on Next button, then press ENTER on Install button.
  8. After a few moments the completion screen will be displayed. Press ENTER on Finish button.

Preparing DictationBridge and dictation software to work together

Once the dictation software is installed, follow the below steps to let DictationBridge work with the dictation software.

For Windows Speech recognition: For best experience, set Windows Speech Recognition to sleep rather then turn off when you say, “stop listening” or “go to sleep”.

For Dragon Naturally Speaking: Go to Options and allow Dragon to be configured for screen reading use. Also, it is recommended that you configure a profile. Follow steps in feature overview chapter for details.

Congratulations! You are now ready to dictate to your computer using DictationBridge, your screen reader, and a dictation software. If you want to get going with it, be sure to read the quick start guide (the next section). If you want to learn more about some additional features, browse the “DictationBridge Overview” section later in this guide. If you need advanced functionality such as entering custom commands for Dragon, check out “Advanced Topics” section. Have questions about DictationBridge features discussed in this guide? Don’t forget to check out “Frequently Asked Questions” section. Let’s get going with dictation!

Tasting DictationBridge: a quick start guide

If you want to get a hands-on introduction to DictationBridge, or want a taste of what DictationBridge can do for you, don’t skip this section. We will help you get started with DictationBridge by going through some tasks with you, including how to start a program, write a simple document, correcting a spelling mistake and so on.

Some tips regarding dictation

  • Think of dictation software as a friend. Just as you can know about your friend by talking, dictation software wil understand you better if you use it more.
  • For improved accuracy, we recommend going through additional training sessions with the dictation software of your choosing.
  • Speak clearly.
  • If you are dictating text into documents, be sure to hear what the screen reader reads so you can catch mistakes and correct them.

Listen to me

To start dictating text or issuing commands via voice, you need to tell your dictation software to listen to you. This can be done by saying, “listen to me” or “start listening”. If you want the dictation software to stop listening to you, you can say, “go to sleep” or “stop listening”.

start a program

To start a program, say, “start program”. For example, to start Notepad, say, “start Notepad”.

Dictating text

If you want to dictate text, open a program such as Notepad and start dictating. For example, say, “start Notepad”, then once Notepad opens, say, “Testing comma, one comma, two comma, three”. The screen reader should say, “Testing, one, two, three”.

Entering punctuation and starting new lines

You may have noticed that the dictation text above includes the word “comma”. This is necessary so you can enter punctuations such as commas, full stops, parentheses and so on. For example, if you want to insert a period (.), say, “full stop” or “period”. When you want to start a new paragraph, say, “new line” or “new paragraph”, and the appropriate paragraph marker will be inserted into the document.

Correct that

For some of you, you may not get the exact text as shown above when dictating for the first time. If you do spot mistakes, move the cursor to the mistake, then say, “correct that”. A list of suggestions will appear, and listen to the suggestions carefully. Say the number that corresponds to the intended word, then confirm your selection (typically by saying, “OK”). The word will be corrected.

Click something

Still in Notepad, once you are happy with your dictated text, say, “click File”, then say, “Save”. The “Save as” dialog will be shown. Alternatively, you can say, “click File”, then say, “Exit”. If Notepad offers to save the file, either say “save” or “don’t save”.

Press keyboard keys

If you need to press a keyboard combination via voice, you can say, “press key combination” where key combination refers to the keys you want to press. For example, to open Run dialog, say, “press Windows R”.

Screen reader commands

You can perform certain screen reader commands with your chosen dictation software. See advanced topics section for details on steps for supported dictation software.

Once the dictation software is prepared, you can say phrases such as, “current time” or “open JAWS menu”. See screen reader voice commands section in overview section for commands for each screen reader.

This is just a taste of what DictationBridge, dictation software, and your screen reader can do. The next section will tell you all about features of DictationBridge, including dictating punctuation, performing tasks such as writing and replying to emails and browsing the web, and performing screen reader commands via voice.

Using DictationBridge

This section provides a deeper overview of DictationBridge features, as well as tips for dictating text such as dictating punctuation and so on.

Starting and stopping DictationBridge

Because DictationBridge is a script for your screen reader, it will start and stop when you run or quit screen readers, respectivley. For example, if you want to control your computer the moment you log onto the computer, go to settings area of your screen reader (Settings Center in JAWS, for example) and ask your screen reader to start when you log onto the computer. Also, you need to tell the dictation software to also come up when you log onto the computer. Once you follow these steps and next time you log on, your computer will be ready to listen to you.

For NVDA users: disabling DictationBridge for a while

If you are using recent versions of NVDA, you can temporarily stop DictationBridge from starting when NVDA starts. This can be done in two ways: via NVDA’s exit dialog and choosing “Restart with add-ons disabled” or disabling DictationBridge add-on altogether from Add-ons Manager (NVDA 2016.3 or later). If you used Add-ons Manager method, be sure to enable DictationBridge when you are ready to use it. Note that you’ll need to restart NVDA in order to enable or disable DictationBridge from Add-ons Manager.

Improving dictation accuracy

As noted from above, think of dictation software as your friend. The more you use it, the software will pick up your dictation better.

You can also use training dialogs provided by the dictation software to improve dictation accuracy:

  • Windows Speech Recognition: After you go through speech first setup steps, go to speech tutorial and go through additional training.
  • Dragon: you can use training dialogs in Dragon to practice dictating text and thus allow Dragon to become accustomed to your speaking style. This is done by training a voice profile so Dragon can understand you better. See the next section on how to do this.

For Dragon users: training a profile

Load Dragon and (unless you already have a profile established) you will be prompted to create a new user profile. Give your profile a name consisting of one word which will serve to remind you of exactly which profile it is in case you have more than one. Tab to and activate the Next button.

You will then go through a series of dialogs requesting information about you and your speech characteristics. Provide the information requested in each dialog, Tab to Next and press Enter.

Once all information has been provided a dialog will appear displaying all the information you have provided. If the information is correct activate the control to create your profile.

Once the profile is created a dialog will appear providing information about positioning the microphone. Once the microphone is properly positioned activate the Next button.

The next two dialogs require you to speak into the microphone. The first one checks the volume of your speech. Activate the Start Volume Check button and speak whatever you like. You can count to ten and that might be sufficient. If you count to ten and Dragon has not indicated that the volume is sufficient count to ten again and repeat until a ding is heard. If Dragon indicates you can go to the next step activate the Next button.

This will bring you to the quality check. In the quality check Dragon is listening for background noise in your environment. Again, you can say whatever you like during the quality check but leave small amounts of silence between whatever words you speak. If all goes well you will hear a ding and a dialog will appear indicating you can go to the next step in the training process. Do this by activating the Next button

Dictating commands and text

You can dictate commands and text. You can perform commands such as opening programs (“Start something”), click somewhere (“click someplace”), press a keyboard key (“press Windows key” or “press Alt+F4”), and if configured correctly, perform screen reader commands (“JAWS window” or “current focus”).

For text dictation in places such as word processors and alike, speak to your computer. For example, if you say the words, “this is a test”, whatever you say will be entered into a document. Be sure to listen to what the screen reader says and correct mistakes if any.

Hear what you said

When you dictate text, DictationBridge will ask the screen reader to echo back or read what you said as text is entered. For example, when you type the words, “this is a test”, JAWS and NVDA will say, “this is a test”. When you insert a new line or a new paragraph, JAWS and NVDA will say, “new line” or “new paragraph”, and the cursor will move as well.

Dictating punctuation

Suppose you want to type the words, “testing, one, two, three”. Unless you dictate punctuation, the dictation software will see that you tried to write “testing one two three”. In order to insert punctuation, you need to say, “testing comma one comma two comma three” so commas (,) can be entered. Use the screen reader’s settings to set how much punctuation your screen reader announces.

Following are common punctuation marks and their dictation equivalents:

  • Period (.): period or full stop
  • Comma (,): comma
  • Exclamation (!): Exclaim
  • Elipsis (…): elipsis
  • Opening and closeing parentheses: open paren, close paren
  • Quotation mark (“): quote or quotation
  • Colon (:): colon

See the manual for your dictation software for more information on entering punctuation.

Screen reader commands

You can perform various screen reader commands via DictationBridge and dictation software. Provided that you followed steps outlined below, you can use DictationBridge to perform screen reader commands such as reading title bar, web browsing and so on.

Windows Speech Recognition

To configure Windows Speech Recognition to accept screen reader commands, you need to install WSR Macros utility, prepare the custom macros, and start speaking commands.

First, install the WSR Macros utility by visiting this link, then follow the prompts to open or save, then install the utility. When the installation is finished, a new folder named Speech Macros” will be created in your documents folder. Copy a file named “dictationBridge.WSRMac” into this folder.

Next, you need to sign the newly copied macro file. Go to system tray, locate the macros utility icon, then open context menu, go to Security and select “Sign Speech Macros”. Select the macro file, and answer “yes” when asked to create a certificate if you did not create a certificate before. After a few prompts and answering “yes” at User Account Control (if enabled), the certificate will be created and the macro will be signed. You can then use Windows Speech Recognition to issue screen reader commands.)

Also, to add custom commands, open the macro file and enter the following as exactly as shown:

<listenFor>what you want the screen reader to do</listenFor>

Once you add custom commands, go through steps above and sign the macro file, this time choosing Sign option from Security menu from Macros utility context menu.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

To configure Dragon to accept screen reader commands, you need to allow Dragon to find the commands file. For NvDA users, this can be done by going to NVDA menu, Tools, then selecting “Install Dragon commands” item. When asked to confirm, say Yes, then if User Account Control appears, say Yes to continue. Note that you need to restart NVDA before issuing NvDA commands.

JAWS dictation commands

Following are JAWS commands available via DictationBridge:

Function Keyboard command Say this
Open JAWS window or interface JAWS Key+J JAWS window

NVDA dictation commands

Following are NVDA commands available via DictationBridge:

Function Keyboard command Say this
Open NVDA menu NvDA+N NVDA menu
Input help mode NvDA+1 Cycle keyboard help
Toggle speak typed characters NVDA+2 Cycle speak typed characters
Toggle speak typed words NVDA+3 Sycle speak typed words
Toggle speak command keys NVDA+4 Cycle speak command keys
Toggle report dynamic content changes NVDA+5 Cycle report dynamic changes
Current time NvDA+F12 What is the time
Current date NvDA+F12 twice quickly What is the date
Battery status NVDA+Shift+B Say battery status
Title NvDA+T Title
Status bar NVDA+End (NVDA+Shift+End on laptop layout) Report status line
Command passthrough NVDA+F2 Send keystroke to program
Application module information Control+NVDA+F1 Show application information
Toggle sleep mode \ NVDA+Shift+S Cycle sleep mode
Report focus NVDA+Tab Speak focus
Report current selection NVDA+Shift+Up arrow Report current selection

Microphone status

As you dictate text and issue commands via voice, it is helpful to be notified about whether your microphone is active or not. DictationBridge will alert you of microphone changes if appropriate. For Windows Speech Recognition, a set of sounds will indicate whether the computer is listening to you, not listening, or sleeping (waiting to listen to you), and microphone status will be shown on the system tray. This is not the case for Dragon, and for this, the screen reader will announce microphone status when it changes.

Frequently asked questions

This section provides answers to frequently asked questions about DictationBridge, dictation in general and other topics not covered in this guide.

Q. How much does DictationBridge cost?

Absolutely free.

Q. Is training dialog for Windows Speech Recognition accessible via speech and/or braille?

Yes, you can review the text to be dictated in the training dialog via speech.

Q. How can I check microphone status via Windows Speech Recognition?

Press Windows+B to go to notification area. If Windows Speech Recognition is active, one of the items will be Windows Speech Recognition along with its status (listening, sleeping, off).

Q. I don’t hear what I dictated.

This might be due to one of the following:

  • DictationBridge is not installed.
  • If using NVDA, DictationBridge add-on might be disabled.
  • Your microphone might be turned off or muted.
  • For some cases, text echo will not work, and developers are working toward a solution.

Q. How can I correct spelling mistakes?

To correct spelling mistakes, move the cursor to the misspelled word and say, “correct that”. A list of suggestions will appear. Choose the word you intended to say.

Q. How can I improve dictation accuracy?

You can use the training dialog provided by Windows Speech Recognition or Dragon to train the dictation software to listen to how you say phrases. Also, the longer you use dictation, the accuracy increases.

Q. I cannot seem to insert punctuations as I dictate.

You need to tell the dictation software to insert punctuation such as periods (full stop), commas and others by dictating the punctuation name. For example, to insert a period, end the dictating phrase with the words, “full stop” e.g. “hello full stop” to have the text “hello.” inserted into the document. See the section, “inserting punctuation” in the Overview section for a complete list of common punctuations and their dictation forms, or consult the documentation for WSR or Dragon for punctuations and equivalent dictation forms.

Q. How can I start a new paragraph?

Say, “new paragraph”. See the section, “dictating text instructions” in Overview section for details, or consult WSR or Dragon manuals for a complete list of phrases for inserting new paragraphs and such.

Q. I’m a user of Windows 10 and have enabled Cortana. Can Cortana help in dictating text?

Cortana is a personal digital assistant from Microsoft. At this time, Cortana cannot help you with lengthy dictations.

Q. Why is it that I cannot perform screen reader commands with Windows Speech Recognition?

Windows Speech Recognition does not have an easy to use way to add additional commands. This must be done by using what is called “WSR macros”, a text file containing WSR commands and actions. See preparing the dictation software section under screen reader commands section for details.

Q. What should I do to use screen reader commands via Dragon?

You will need to ask DictationBridge to do this for you, or you can do this manually. See the preparation steps listed in “Dragon and screen reader commands” for details.

Q. How can I contribute to ongoing development of DictationBridge?

There are numerous ways you can help with development of DictationBridge:

  • Reporting bugs and providing suggestions.
  • Financial donations.
  • Help with programming.
  • Improving documentation.
  • Translations.

Credits and contact information

How to contact the DictationBridge project

The DictationBridge project was made possible thanks to support from a community of users and organizations. If you have feedback regarding DictationBridge, or have suggestions to make it even better, please contact us using the below methods.

  • Email: (address to be provided)
  • Website: http://www.dictationbridge.com
  • Social media links: @DictationBridge on Twitter

The team behind DictationBridge

  • Project visionary: Lucia “Lucy” Greco (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Project champion and community relations: Chris Hofstader
  • DictationBridge core: Matthew Campbell (3 Mouse Technologies and SeroTech)
  • DictationBridge NVDA add-on: Pranav Lal, Derek Riemer
  • DictationBridge JAWS scripts: Austin Hicks
  • DictationBridge Window-Eyes app: Jeff Bishop)
  • Website coordinator: Amanda Rush
  • Documentation: Erin Lauridsen, Sue Martin, Joseph Lee

Sponsors

The DictationBridge project would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for sponsoring this project:

  • San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Leonie Watson
  • Abdulaziz Alshmasi
  • Patrick Kelly