Help Yourself: Reading the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Command Browser

How do you increase the size of your document’s font using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC? For that matter, how do you know what commands to use no matter what you’re doing with Dragon? This post explores three ways to answer that question: the Dragon SideBar, the help topics, and the Command Browser.

Dragon contains tens of thousands of commands. The enormity and complexity of it all can leave some users feeling overwhelmed. But before you cry “Help Me!” like Sonny Boy Williamson II, know that if you can learn these three methods you’ll be helping yourself in no time.

SideBar and Help Topics

One option is to ask Dragon, simply, “What can I say?” This is a legacy Dragon command, but as of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 asking this question will display the Dragon SideBar:

Command categories include Control the Mic, Search the Web, Searching the Computer

Beginners might find the Dragon SideBar useful, but my favorite Dragon SideBar command is “Dragon SideBar close.” The SideBar is little more than a quick reference card. Worse, it changes the size of the other windows on my desktop when it is displayed.

Rather than summon the SideBar and passively browse through its lists and tabs, I prefer to direct my searches for information. In Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 and later, the quickest way to do so is to issue the command “Search Dragon help for [Anything].”

Topic searched: finding commands

Issuing this command will open Dragon’s help menu and perform a search for the words you spoke after “Search Dragon help for.” Results will be displayed as a list of relevant help topics. By and large, the help files included with Dragon NaturallySpeaking are not only useful but approachable and well-organized.

The most direct way to find the available commands in any situation is to use the Command Browser. The Command Browser is one of Dragon’s most complicated features, but also one of its most powerful. It is a complete compendium of the tens of thousands of commands that you can use to control your computer.

Reading the Command Browser

Open it by saying “Show Command Browser.”

Context: Global

After opening the Command Browser, the most important things to notice are the Task Pane and the Context Menu. The Task Pane allows you to perform functions related to the maintenance of commands, including training existing commands for better recognition, creating new commands, or importing and exporting your custom commands. The Task Pane is convenient, but most of its functions can be performed elsewhere, faster, in Dragon or Windows Explorer.

The Context Menu is the way Dragon organizes its tens of thousands of available commands. The default context is Global Commands. Global Commands are those that can be activated anywhere in Windows, regardless of which application or window is active. Global Commands do things like open applications, control the Windows operating system, or control Dragon itself.

In the screenshot above, commands like “listen to me,” “manage vocabularies,” and “microphone off” are in lowercase. Commands like “LOCK MY COMPUTER” and “MY SIGNATURE” are in ALL CAPS.  The commands built in to Dragon are always displayed in lowercase. The ALL CAPS commands are ones that I created myself. When creating a new command you can title it however you wish, but following this naming convention allows me to easily spot my commands whenever I’m using Dragon. Having a way to easily identify my commands allows for quicker troubleshooting during normal use, or quicker editing of commands when I’m trying to automate routine tasks.

The Context Menu changes based upon the active application. If you or Nuance have built commands to control the active application, those are the commands that will be displayed when you say “Show Command Browser.” But if you want to browse the different command contexts regardless of the active application, you can drop down the context menu using your voice, the mouse or the keyboard.

What’s the Word?

Let’s say you wanted to know the available commands in Microsoft Word. Open the Command Browser and set the context to Microsoft Word.

List of Microsoft Word commands

The highlighted entry reads: “(Accept | reject) [(the | this | that)] change”

By skimming this entry, hopefully you can intuit that it has something to do with accepting or rejecting changes. Accepting or rejecting changes is an advanced editing function of Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature.

Let’s break down the ways you can perform this function with your voice.

  • Words enclosed in a parenthesis “()”, separated by a vertical bar “|”: You must say one of these words
  • Words enclosed in brackets “[]”: saying these words is optional.
  • Words enclosed in brackets and parenthesis, separated by a vertical bar: If you choose to say the next part of this command, you must say one of these words.
  • Words not enclosed in punctuation: you must say these to make the command work.

Returning to our highlighted entry, we can know some of the possible permutations of the command “(Accept | reject) [(the | this | that)] change.” These include:

  • Accept change
  • Accept the change
  • Reject this change

List of all "accept change" commands

To see a full list of the possible permutations, select “Show All” from the Task Pane. Returning to our Word context menu, let’s try and read the read the command that begins Bullet  (( this |it| that ) | [ the ] selection |… )

Commands to deploy bullets in Microsoft Word

Valid “bullet” commands include:

  • Bullet it
  • Bullet that
  • Bullet selection
  • Bullet the selection

The ellipsis “…” indicates that there are more possible words if we choose to expand the command. To do so, select “ellipsis” from the task pane. Doing so will reveal possible permutations including “bullet page 19.” 

Keyword Filter

With the seemingly endless permutations on some commands, it helps to be able to narrow your search to those commands that only have something to do with the task at hand. For that, the Dragon Command Browser includes a Keyword Filter.

Let’s say you’re in Microsoft Word and you want to increase your font.

  1. Open the Command Browser
  2. Set Context to Microsoft Word
  3. Select the Keyword Filter
  4. Add “font” to the list of searchable words.
  5. Select “Done”

The resulting list looks like this:

Command Browser with Keyword Filter set to "Font"

That list contains some simple, complete commands such as “format that font Arial” and “format that font Garamond.” Blessedly, Comic Sans MS is not included.

That list also contains several commands that need to be expanded. Because the structure of words you must say and words beyond the ellipsis don’t give me any indication that any of these commands affect font size, I’ll return to the keyword filter and add “size” to my list of searchable words.

The available Microsoft Word commands filtered to find only those containing the words “font” and “size” looks like this:

Dragon commands containing the words "font" and "size"

By scanning this list we can see a couple dozen commands for changing the font size either directly or relatively, and by using phrases like “change the font size to,” “set font size…” and “increase by…”

Using the “Show All” command to display every permutation of the highlighted command reveals commands like “increase the font size by one in the selection.”

Commands that let you change font size directly and relatively by increments of one

My favorite way to know exactly what to say in any situation is to use the Command Browser and the Keyword Filter.  Mastering these tools will expose you to hundreds of powerful, time-saving commands. It can seem overwhelming, but it wouldn’t be Dragon NaturallySpeaking if there weren’t multiple ways to say what you mean.


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