Dragon voice recognition software first debuted more than 13 years ago and has improved with age. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, www.nuance.com, can deliver recognition speed that is three times faster than typing with up to a 99% degree of accuracy right out of the box without any training. In addition to efficiently transcribing spoken words into text (including those spoken into an approved digital recorder), it also features Quick Voice formatting that follows one-step spoken commands such as delete, bold, underline, italicize, and copy passages. Other voice shortcuts consolidate what would be multiple mouse clicks and keystrokes to handle such dictates as send an e-mail to John Smith, schedule meeting with Robert Plank, search Google for solar water heaters into direct voice commands that get the task going.
A suggestions-oriented sidebar offers tips or commands likely to expedite productivity based on what the user is working on in the active window. For example, it provides common editing and formatting commands that would expedite operation of Word if working in that program. Users can correct text by keyboard or by voice, and Dragon "learns" from both types of corrections. Also, a Correction Menu suggests alternate recognitions by default and enables users to add phrases to their vocabulary lists.
And for fine tuning, Dragon has a "nothing but speech" filter that automatically eliminates um/ah utterances, so you don't even have to watch what you say that closely.
Multi-function printer and more
A multi-function all-in-one printer that can print, fax, copy and scan can be a very cost-effective and space-efficient solution for small contractor offices. The Epson WorkForce 635 inkjet printer, www.epsonstore.com, offers a good combination of speed, economy and quality printing, delivering up to 5760 x 1440 dpi printing and 2400 x 2400 dpi scanning, stand-alone color and black and white copying, and stand-alone faxing capability. It prints with instant drying ink and can do two-sided printing. The all-in-one, which includes OCR software that enables conversion of forms and documents into editable text, can reduce and enlarge copies (25% to 400%) and can instantly copy/scan and save directly into PDF format.
The model, which includes a 2.5" LCD screen for easy selection of copy, fax and other functions, features Wi-Fi in wireless technology, which delivers 2.5 times the performance of 802.11g and is compatible both with the latest routers on the market and 802.11b.g networks.
The WorkForce 635 printer driver offers several print modes: draft, for the fastest speed for text printing; text, the default for text-only documents; text and image; photo, for the best combination of speed and quality; and best photo. A fit-to-page feature enables adjustment of a variety of document and photo sizes to letter size. The integrated memory card slot lets users print photos directly from a digital camera memory card.
An automatic document feeder supports copying, faxing or scanning up to 30 letter-size pages of one or two-sided originals at a time. There's storage of 60 speed dial numbers, auto redial, auto answer, and delay send, and the unit can receive up to 180 pages in memory.
If you play a radio often in your office, if you have a broadband Internet connection, you may want to take advantage of Internet radio to expand your listening horizons far beyond local stations. Internet radio, much of which is free, offers crystal clear music, news, weather, commentary and sports without any limitations of geography. You can listen to radio stations broadcasting from London, Paris, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Tokyo — just about from any station anywhere that streams live online. And if you use a tabletop Internet radio, you won't even need to use your computer to do so. Internet tabletop radios connect to your network either wirelessly through a Wi-Fi connection or with a wired Ethernet connection.
Some Internet radios support streaming music from free services like Pandora, offering hundreds of genre stations selectable from 20 categories; AOL Radio, offering more than 350 stations; and Slacker, with more than 2 million songs organized into more than 100 professionally programmed stations, 10,000 artist stations and an unlimited number of personally created stations.
The most convenient table-top radios feature preset buttons for immediate access to favorite stations or playlists. Typically, there is an LCD screen that displays a series of drill-down menus to get to other stations quickly. The display may also provide text and sometimes video that delivers information about the artist and the track currently playing.
The Logitech Squeezebox Radio, www.mysqueezebox.com, for example, housed in a glossy, sleek black or red plastic case, connects to a wireless or wired home network, has a back-lit color LCD display, six Internet radio preset buttons, the ability to set multiple alarms, and the capability to access all the free online streaming music services mentioned above, as well as numerous for-fee services. The Squeezebox, which displays the time when the radio is off, can also play music from an iPod or tunes stored on your computer. There's even an outlet for headphones or external speakers, and an accessory pack with rechargeable battery pack and infrared remote is also available.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.