Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Bit of MacSpeech Therapy

Well, it's taken about a month, but, I'm pleased to report that this posting on the Apple Harvest blog is being brought to you through the power of speech. In my last post, I wrote about the problems I had been having trying to get my copy of MacSpeech Dictate registered and licensed after purchasing it second-hand through eBay. Last night just as I was contemplating returning the software to its original owner and asking for a refund, I decided to have one final attempt at re-registering the software. As usual, the registration process itself failed. However, I had another look at my account on the MacSpeech website and lo and behold, there was an entry under my license details with a license key zip file to download.

I quickly downloaded the file, before anyone had a chance to change their mind, and booted up the MacSpeech Dictate program on my iMac. The program asked me to select a license key file, and that was that. A quick check in the About box showed that the software was now finally registered to me.

Of course, nothing can be that straightforward, and my first attempt to actually dictate something proved futile. Although I had set up a profile during the first four days of being able to use the software without a license, and although the program appeared to be accepting input through the headset, nothing was actually appearing on the screen. It was getting late in the day, and I did not fancy messing about trying to find the cause. Instead I decided to try to install the software on my MacBook Pro. Luckily the license agreement, which has caused me so much grief previously, allows me to install the software on multiple computers as long as it was only being used on one at a time. Given that I only have one headset, this was not a problem!

Installation only took a few minutes and I also had to create a new profile for the laptop, taking another few minutes. This time, when I tried to use the program there were no problems at all. However, in my rush to get the software operational, I had not thought carefully enough about the location of either the license key file or the profile. I decided to create a new folder under my existing documents folder, where I could store all the related MacSpeech Dictate files in one place. I proceeded to copy the relevant files into the new folder and restarted the program. I had the same problem as I'd had on the iMac; the headset appeared to be receiving correctly but nothing was appearing on the screen. Despite the fact that it was now dark (not to mention time for dinner), my curiosity was now aroused, and I had to investigate further.

I decided to reinstall the software having first deleted the original installation using AppZapper. Although MacSpeech Dictate needs 2 discs for installation, on this occasion I was not asked to load the second disc, so this installation was even quicker than before. When I launched the program following installation everything worked perfectly. It would appear that the program had merely lost sight of its configuration and reinstallation fixed the problem. I did the same thing on the iMac with similar success.

In this post I'm not going to write a full review of the software. I'll save that for a later date, when I have had more experience of using the package. But my first thoughts are very positive. I'm not sure that a novice will be able to achieve the creators estimates of 99% accuracy especially in a normal home environment. However, I would suggest that in the creation of this small entry I achieved a good 85% accuracy and this was boosted by having automatic spelling correction switched on in the target software, in this case MarsEdit. Because MacSpeech Dictate is more than just a dictation package - it also allows voice control of the computer - there are a lot of commands to learn and become familiar with. All the built-in commands are described in the comprehensive user manual which runs to over 150 pages. I did find a useful website which has a PDF file describing all the MacSpeech Dictate global commands. This runs to just 16 pages and is more accessible and easier to use, especially for the beginner. There are a lot more resources available here also.

I guess at the end of the day I'm just relieved to have the software successfully installed, registered, and working properly. My investment has not proved to be the white elephant it was looking like a few weeks ago. It would have useful if MacSpeech could have let me know that the problem with the license had finally been resolved - a Tweet or email doesn't take too much effort. Perhaps they consider that I'm not really a genuine customer as they have had no direct revenue from me, but there does seem to be a common theme about their less than stellar support on the user forums. And they are getting free publicity from me even if it's not all good. But the tide is changing in their favour...

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