Access Preferences with DragonDictate

DragonDictate for Mac

Every day I use an application called DragonDictate for Mac version 4, it’s the gold standard in voice recognition software on MacOS1 and without it my computing experience as a quadriplegic would be rubbish. Besides its recognition accuracy Dragon also has the ability to run AppleScripts, bash scripts, Keyboard shortcuts, input blocks of text and a few other useful things whenever you say a given command. There are lots of built-in commands that you can use but creating your own makes this a wonderful accessibility application because it’s infinitely expandable and can be made specific to your disability.

This tutorial is intended to be a very simple introduction into the concept of custom commands with a simple example, look out for more complex examples in the future. There will be lots of them!

A Word about Command Strategy

To distinguish regular speech dictation from commands DragonDictate waits for a little pause just before you say something to know whether you want to input text into a document or issue a command. This can get really confusing if you have lots of custom commands like I do so I came up with a fairly simple solution. I picked a word that hardly ever comes up in conversation and I use that word as a prefix word for all of my commands. The word I chose was “Xylophone”. So the voice command that opens up the preferences pane in the application I’m currently using is “Xylophone Preferences”.

That way you don’t accidentally say a command and start randomly sending emails by mistake, the prefix means that you can use regular wordsfor your commands and keep your voice commands nice and short. Obviously if you’re a xylophone player and you’re heavily involved in the xylophone scene I would recommend you pick a different prefix word.

The Problem

I need to access the preferences of a particular application I’m using but for whatever reason I can’t either click on the menu item or do the key combination necessary to open up the preferences pane I need.

The Solution

The solution is to create a custom command in DragonDictate that will open the application’s preferences pane for us.

Our First Command

To create a new command bring DragonDictate to the front and from the Tools menu select Command, or issue the keyboard shortcut Command K ( K) if you’re already able to issue keyboard commands. Which means holding down the Command key and then tapping the letter K in case you’ve never done that before.

This is what the Command window looks like when you first open it. The various sections you can see change depending on the type of command you’re creating, but you will always see a list of your commands in the middle pane. Don’t worry for now about the column on the left that lists different applications, that’s for when we start creating custom commands that only work in specific applications. That’s down the road aways yet.

Command Window

Luckily for us it seems like 99% of all applications on MacOS use the same keyboard shortcut to open up the preferences pane, that keyboard shortcut is Command Comma ( ,) which is very easy to do. We could do this using an AppleScript, a bash script, by accessing the menu item directly but in this case we are going to tell Dragon to issue a keyboard shortcut whenever we say the magic words.

So let’s get started.

Step 1

Let’s create our command by clicking on the plus sign in the bottom left-hand corner of the window is shown in this image:

plus sign

Then as shown in the image change the words in the first text field in the top right hand corner of the screen, it will probably be filled in with the words Command Name or similar. In this case you want to activate your Dragon microphone and say the words “Xylophone preferences” (without quotes) and then put your microphone to sleep. You can change the field directly below it as well to describe exactly what the command does, but I very rarely do this!

Step 2

Them to define the command follow this little list:

  1. Change the Type in the drop-down menu to Keystroke
  2. Click the + at the bottom of the Keystroke column
  3. Change the Key in the key text field from the letterA to a comma and press enter
  4. Cheque the tick box called Command
  5. Finally press Save
  6. and you can now close the window and use your command to your hearts content.

This image might make things a little clearer:

Define Command

Using Your Command

Now whenever you’re in and application and want to reach the preferences pane all you have to do is pause slightly and then say the words “Xylophone preferences” and the preferences pane will automatically open. Simples.

Keep an eye out for future Dragon commands as I’ve got hundreds of them and let me know if you need any help if you get stuck.

  1. I still can’t get used to it not being called OS X!