Apr 18, 2014

10 Steps to Determine CAT Tool Compatibility with the Dragon

Guest post by Jim Wardell

The following steps can be used to investigate the degree to which a CAT tool is compatible with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
  1. In Dragon NaturallySpeaking, go to Tools>Options>Miscellaneous and check the box Use the Dictation Box for unsupported applications.
  2. Open a project in the CAT tool you are testing, place the cursor in the translation target cell and start dictating with Dragon. If the Dictation Box opens immediately in Dragon, that means that Dragon has determined that your cat tool is not fully compatible with Dragon and that you must first dictate your translation in the Dictation box that it has just opened.
    You can then transfer your dictated translation from the Dictation Box into the translation target cell of your CAT tool by typing Ctrl+T or by saying “Transfer”. This extra step does not reduce your productivity too much if your source segment contains little or no formatting, tags, auto translate items or placeables. But if your source text does have a lot of these sorts of things, you’re going to have to add the extra step of first copying all of the source text segment into the Translation Box. When you do this, though, you’re going to lose any tags and formatting. Once you’ve translated the raw text in the Dragon Translation Box and have transferred the contents of the Translation Box into your translation target cell, you’re still going to have to reformat, add tags, and generally mess about a bit, maybe a lot. I went through this process for many years when using CAT tools that were not fully compliant with Dragon and eventually realized that all of this extra work was completely wiping out the productivity and income boost I was getting from dictating. Plus, it was more fatiguing because I was making my workflow more complicated.
  3. The next thing to try if the Transfer Box comes up automatically is to go back to the above Dragon NaturallySpeaking setting and uncheck the Use the Dictation Box for unsupported applications setting.
  4. Now go back to a target translation cell and try to dictate a medium-length sentence. With Tools that are completely incompatible, nothing will happen and perhaps your system will hang. In most cases, though, you will be able to dictate something. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that your CAT tool is compliant with Dragon.
  5. Now, using Dragon, say:  “Select <a string of 2 or 3 words from the sentence you just dictated>. If those two or three words now get marked in your CAT tool, you at least have partial compatibility with Dragon.
  6. Now comes the acid test: Say “Correct that”. The Dragon Correction Menu should appear and give you a list of possible alternatives. If the Correction Menu does not appear, your CAT tool is not sufficiently compatible with Dragon and you should not do your translation work directly in your CAT tool target cell. Instead, you and will need to use the Dictation Box workaround if you really “must” use the CAT tool you are testing.
    I call this the “acid test” because if you can’t correct words that are not recognized correctly when you dictate, your incorrect dictations are probably being fed into your Dragon language profile. This will degrade the accuracy of speech recognition over time! It’s hard to know for sure what’s really going on in such cases, but the best that you can hope for is that incorrectly recognized words are simply being ignored by Dragon. However, anyone who uses Dragon a lot knows that the Correction process is one of the ways that Dragon becomes more and more accurate over time. Not correcting misrecognized speech is bad Dragon practice, and an application that doesn’t allow you to correct misrecognized speech should not be used or should at least always be used with the Dictation Box workaround. The most important reason to always use the Dictation Box with noncompliant software is that this permits the correction of speech recognition errors and hence ensures that Dragon will keep getting better and better at recognizing your speech and vocabulary.
    However, my recommendation to anyone who is serious about using Dragon to increase productivity and income is to use a CAT tool like memoQ or Déjà Vu that works flawlessly and seamlessly WITHIN the CAT tool target cell, i.e. with correction working properly directly in the CAT tool.
  7. If your CAT tool fails the acid test, then you might just as well stop here. But if it passes the acid test, then try a few other commonly used Dragon commands in your target cell. Use “Select …” to mark some other text strings. Then say “Capitalize that” or “Make that bold” or “Underline that”. Also try using various Dragon cut-and-paste commands. If all this works, then congratulations! Your CAT tool has a high level of Dragon compatibility!
  8. The next level of compatibility is achieved when you can also use Dragon in other functions in your CAT tool - ideally all functions. So now open a “comment” or “note” for a translation segment. Dictate something into the comment, repeating steps 4, 5, 6 and 7. If your CAT tool passes these tests, you can celebrate big-time because being able to dictate comments quickly and effectively can add significant value to your translation when it comes to working in translation teams and providing feedback to clients, or querying clients articulately about terminology questions.
  9. Being able to dictate using Dragon is also absolutely invaluable when it comes to quickly creating really good terminology base entries. So create or go to a terminology base entry and dictate something into one of the fields in which you are able to enter free-form text. In memoQ, for example, this might be the “Note” field or one of the “Definition” fields. Once again repeat steps 4, 5, 6 and 7.
  10. Now test your CAT tool’s ability to recognize dictated CAT commands. First, you will have to make sure that a configuration setting  in Dragon is set right. Go to Tools>Options>Miscellaneous and check Voice-enable menus, buttons, and other controls, excluding: … Then open the pull-down menu and make sure that your CAT tool is NOT checked.
    Now look to see what your CAT software calls the command that is used to confirm a segment and enter the segment content into translation memory. Place your cursor in a translation segment and try saying this command to see what happens. In memoQ, for example, I simply dictate “Confirm” and memoQ operates just as if I had pressed Ctrl+Enter. It is not essential to have this level of compatibility, but it is great to use when working in tight spaces on planes and car seats. In memoQ I can also dictate any of the names of the main menus and can then dictate submenu names as well and essentially “menu down” by voice commands. Again, this is not essential but it sometimes comes in handy.
If you work INTO more than one language, you’ll want to test whether you can work in the user interface of these target languages in your CAT tool and whether your CAT tool responds to voice commands from Dragon in the same target language.  This is really having your cake and eating it too! If you find this level of Dragon compatibility in your CAT tool, it means that the developer was really committed to getting maximum Dragon compatibility for working translators like you. Send them a nice thank-you note and publicize their commitment to working-stiff translators every chance you get!


Jim Wardell will be presenting optimized work methods for speech recognition once again at this year's memoQfest in Budapest, Hungary.


  1. Good advice, thanks Jim (and Kevin)! Has anyone else noticed that memoQ* has become less compatible with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, often inserting words in the wrong places and suchlike – a small annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.

    (*in my case 7.8.125 Translator Pro)

    1. I know there have been some issues recently, though I have experienced little difficulty myself other than simple crashes, which may be an issue with MS operating systems and my old DNS 12.5. Reports from others have made me very reluctant to upgrade, though version 15 does sound more promising than the two before it. My fingers are crossed, hoping that there may be a better, more compatible option soon.....


Notice to spammers: your locations are being traced and fed to the recreational target list for my new line of chemical weapon drones :-)