Thursday, February 21, 2008

Voice Dictation problem/error in Office XP Speech recognition: "Dictation paused" or "Dictating" balloons block normal operation.

Microsoft Speech/Voice Recognition really makes life easier for bloggers and anyone who will take the few minutes to start using it. You might already have it free on your computer and not know it: Microsoft Office XP and 2003 have it. Office 2007 does NOT have it, but it is built into the Windows Vista operating system, which many Office 2007 users have.

If you don't have it, I recommend getting it with Word 2002/XP. But don't buy Word 2002 alone: the Works 2002 Suite often costs less and includes Word 2002 and voice recognition in the suite of products. Here are three high-rated online vendors you can buy Works Suite 2002 from: $36.95 · $46.55 · $47.23. (The Works Suite 2002 includes tools for scheduling, finance management, picture editing and organizing, the Encarta encyclopedia and a mapping application.)

For Microsoft Office XP and 2003 users there are small annoyances to using voice recognition efficiently. As of early 2008, amazingly, there are no solutions to these issues anywhere on the web, other than the workarounds I'm going to share here.

First, make sure the program you want to dictate into has focus. Just click anywhere in it's window to give it focus. That solves some problems.

Have you ever noticed the bar sometimes gets stuck showing "Dictating" (or even "Listening") but nothing works? See Workaround #3 below to fix this one.


But the problem that bothers me the most mainly occurs when using keyboard shortcuts such as the Start+v (windows start button held down while pressing the "v" key) shortcut to toggle voice recognition off. I like to turn off the microphone from the keyboard so I can keep my hands where they're the most productive. The voice bar then sets to "Dictation Paused" before turning off the microphone. This can also happen if you use the "Alt+th" keyboard shortcut.

The least problems seem to occur for users that turn the microphone off and on using a switch on your hardware, or by using the mouse to click the language bar. However, Workaround #3 will fix the "Dictating" but nothing works problem that seems to crop up sometimes for almost everyone.

And if you at least turn dictation off without using a keyboard shortcut (Start+v or Alt+th) you'll have less problems. You can then turn the microphone on however you prefer.


Workaround #1: Use Start+vtt to turn on the microphone for dictation. (Hold down the Windows Start button and press the letters v, t, t) This turns the microphone on, and toggles to voice command mode and then back to dictation mode. Don't type the letters too fast or you might end up in voice command mode. Just type Start+t once if you accidentally ended up in voice command mode to get back into dictation mode.

You might sometimes still get stuck with the bar saying "Dictating," but nothing is happening. Use workaround #3 in this case: leave the microphone on, switch to (open if you need to) another document, switch back, and you should be working normally.

Workaround #2: Use the mouse to turn off the microphone for dictation. Then you CAN turn it on with the Start+v shortcut.

Workaround #3: AFTER turning the microphone on, switch to another document of the same type (such as Microsoft Word), and switch back. You'll need to always have another document open to switch to after opening your primary document if you want to use this workaround.

Using this method also stops the frustrating "Dictating" balloons from blocking normal operation.


Finally, let me point out that the existence of keyboard shortcuts means you (or your cat) can accidentally activate dictation or voice command mode. If typing ever appears on your screen "out of nowhere" check the language bar first! Even if you're not wearing your microphone it may be picking up and trying to interpret whatever sounds it picks up.

And if you've got a better workaround or a solution for these annoyances, let me know! Read this if you'd like more info on getting started with voice recognition.

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