SpeechStart+ Review

I recently came across PCByVoice SpeechStart+, a small but interesting extension to Dragon that adds some nice functionality that would be hard or impossible to implement with Dragonfly. It costs $40 (after a 15-day trial), so I will help you decide whether it is worth the money.

After using it for a couple weeks, I found there are three features I rely on:

  1. You can number clickable elements in nearly every Windows application. For example, this works with all the buttons and file icons in Explorer, everything in the taskbar and system tray, and the bookmark buttons in Chrome. It supports three different styles of overlays, although I prefer the circles. Note that in general I recommend avoiding applications that don’t have good keyboard shortcuts, but it’s inevitable you will have to use them occasionally.

  2. You can turn the microphone on and off using only your voice. Is much less sensitive to spurious awakenings than the sleep mode built into Dragon. You can even require a second confirmation when turning the microphone on, but I haven’t needed that.

  3. You can start (and restart) Dragon using only your voice. Paired with the above feature, you can start Dragon and turn on the microphone using only your voice even if Dragon is not configured as a startup program. Also, this feature seems to work well even when Dragon is hung. My only minor gripe is that it is apparently implemented by killing the Dragon process, which bypasses any prompts to save the user profile and perform maintenance. On the upside, this makes restarts very fast and I haven’t had any trouble with it leaving Dragon in a bad state.

There are a few other features that are also convenient, such as window placement and maximization commands that are a bit faster and more reliable than the Dragonfly counterparts I’ve worked with.

In general, this extension doesn’t try to do too much and “just works”. There are only two significant complaints I have: the commands cannot be remapped (fortunately I don’t have any conflicts), and I find that Dragon hangs when quitting unless I use the SpeechStart+ command to quit out of both SpeechStart+ and Dragon. For better or worse, this means I always use SpeechStart+ to quit and no longer regularly perform profile maintenance. I haven’t noticed any downsides to this, but presumably Dragon recommends this cleanup for a reason.

Overall, I highly recommend this extension if you are a power user of Dragon and want to eliminate that sense of defeat when you occasionally have to reach for the mouse. You can download the trial and purchase it from KnowBrainer if you are in the USA and PCByVoice if you are anywhere else.

As always, if you have experiences with SpeechStart+ or similar products, please share them in the comments!

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