Thursday, January 21, 2010


What we do matters

This is a great time to be working in technology. Instead of being the geek that works quietly on who-knows-what in the cubicle at the end of egghead row [yes, that's where my office was years ago :)], what we do on a daily basis helps connect people to disaster relief, enabling us to send donations--instantly--via text message, making collaboration possible on climate change, and much, much more.

I heard something on NPR this morning that shined a light on the importance of something very simple--like spell check. You can visit the NPR site for the full article, but this idea elicited a "wow" from me on my predawn drive taking my son to school:Lives at risk because of a misspelling? That's what it sounds like. Thank goodness the plan was thwarted and people are now looking at the situation from all possible angles. It has become a teachable moment: a big one. But it does underscore the importance of the work we do on a daily basis and shows that even those tiny, seemingly unimportant details can make a much larger impact than we may know at the time. (The Word equivalent to a butterfly flapping it's wings in China, I guess.) Something to think about, at any rate. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Telling Word 2010 what to do

Okay, this is really cool. A few years ago Word promised speech recognition (I can't remember which release that was now...maybe Office XP) and, as those of us who tried it soon realized, we spent more time teaching Word how to recognize our voices than we actually spent accomplishing anything. Not too surprisingly, speech recognition as a feature within Word faded away with a subsequent release as "a good idea, but..."

Yesterday as I was working on a new chapter in the upcoming Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out, I tried using Windows Speech Recognition in Windows 7. After a little tutorial and a couple of how-tos (a total of about 10 minutes), I was dictating content directly into my chapter. Very cool, and almost completely pain free. I won't dictate text as a matter of course (as a piano player, I like to type), but it was exciting to see the feature working so well. It's also a nice backup in case I wipe out on my cross-country skis sometime this winter and need to give a banged up wrist a little rest. :)

If you haven't yet tried speech recognition in Windows 7, give it a try. All you need is a suitable microphone, and Windows 7 does the rest. There's still some training involved, and every once in a while the thing won't know what to do with your words (the software still translates "as you can see" as "as you can C"), but the feature is worlds better than it was a couple of years ago. It just may save you a little time and trouble--and perhaps breathe some freshness and fun into that Word content you create day in and day out. :)

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