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Speech recognition software is a computer program that types words as you speak them into a microphone. So you can use your voice to type emails, documents, and Facebook and blog posts. Think of it as replacing the keyboard with your speech.

Can speech recognition software do anything else besides typing?

Yes — speech recognition programs come pre-loaded with many commands that allow the user to open and close programs, change some settings, move the cursor and click on links. Some programs, like Microsoft Word or Outlook, have a lot of commands that work with them. Other programs are more limited. Some versions of the software also let you create your own custom commands. By careful use of the commands and typing features, you can use the computer without ever touching the keyboard or the mouse.

Can I use speech recognition software if I have ALS?

To use speech recognition software you need to have clear speech. Many people with ALS will notice that the disease affects their speech. If your speech has been impacted to a level that people often ask you to repeat yourself it is likely that the software will have difficulty understanding your speech. But if your speech is not affected, or only mildly affected, then you may be able to use speech recognition software very well.

Which speech recognition product should I buy?

There are several options on the market, but if you want to use the computer hands-free, or nearly hands-free, we think the best product is Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance. Computers come with built in speech recognition software. These programs are excellent for typing, and may work well if you can use a mouse but have trouble with the keyboard. However, they don’t have the added features of commands for moving around in programs or building custom commands. So if you need assistance past direct text input, you will want to look at the Dragon software.

Does it matter what microphone I use?

Yes — a bad microphone will give you bad recognition. A good microphone will give you good recognition. When shopping for a microphone, be sure to get one that is good for use with speech recognition software. That great microphone on sale at Best Buy may be great for Skype, but not for Dragon. The Nuance website has a list of microphones that are certified for use with their software.

Does it matter what computer I am using?

Yes — speech recognition software uses a large amount of computer resources. You need a computer with a lot of power to have it run well. If you try to use the software on a computer that does not have enough “umph” it will run slowly and will make many mistakes when typing your speech. You may find some amusing typos when you proof read. We recommend a computer with Windows 10, at least 2.6 GHz processing speed and at least 6 GB RAM.

What is a text macro?

A text macro is custom command. You program the software so that when you say one thing, the software will type something else. Learn about text macros and how to make them here.

What is a command macro?

A command macro is a custom command. You program the software so that when you say one thing, the software executes a series of steps and keystrokes. Learn about command macros and how to make them here.