iTunes & Safari CommandSets, by CommandSets.com
Posted: 18-Feb-2004

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: CommandSets.com Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Robert Hanno Class: UTLIITY

Overview
"Command Sets" are kits to extend your voice recognition software's command and control capabilities. There are versions for MacSpeech's iListen ,IBM's ViaVoice , and for Apple's PlainTalk.

Several sets are available, including BBEdit, iCal, iMovie, and more. The sets I am reviewing are Safari and iTunes, priced at $10 and $7.50, respectively.


To test drive some free Command Sets for TextEdit, go to the
CommandSets.com Free Downloads page.

Requirements

  • OS X 10.2
  • Safari
  • iTunes
  • Microphone


Review System

B&W G3, 350mHz, 896 MB of memory
Mac OS 10.2.8, Apple PlainTalk microphone, Safari 1.01 (v85.6), iTunes 4.2 (72)

Setup
The installer is contained in a disk image. The actual installer is a compiled AppleScript which copies the folder of speech recognition files to the user's Speakable Items folder. Since my user home folders reside on a place other than the system disk (they're aliased on another partition as the result of a number of re-installs), this installer failed since it was unable to follow the alias. Manual installation instructions are included. Rather than using the manual instructions, I was able to use the resulting error message ('Finder got an error: Can't get alias ":Users:robert:Library:Speech:Speakable Items:Application Speakable Items:".') to fix the problem. I navigated to the folder specified in the error message and dragged the Command Set folders to the desired location. I was surprised to find Finder, Internet Explorer and Mail folders (containing a few commands) already there.

The application must also be made speakable. This is accomplished by opening the Speech System Preferences and setting Apple Speakable Items ON in the Speech Recognition tab. You may elect to have the Speakable Items start up at log in which will allow all applications to be speakable assuming that they have speakable items. You may test your microphone and make other configuration changes under the Listening tab. Ensure that Specific application commands is checked under the Commands tab. Upon turning on Speakable Items, a small circular floating window hovers awaiting your command. It contains a menu with the default Apple-provided Speakable Items and Application Switching commands as well as the application Command Sets for the current application.

No registration was required for these Command Sets.

In Use
iTunes and Safari Command Sets worked remarkably well. Even with iTunes playing and the volume turned up reasonably loud, the microphone (at one foot distant) ignored the 4 speakers (three within 18 inches) and one woofer and picked up the commands and Command Sets operated as advertised. My daughter in the next room advised me to "use the mouse", so Command Sets being used amongst others might be an issue.

Most of the iTunes 55 commands worked, with only a couple that presented problems, and these may have been in contexts that the command was not designed for. 'Close this window' did not affect the Song Info or Preferences windows but would close the main window when invoked from that point. Once in a while the command needed to be repeated, but this is a factor of the Speakable Items application, microphone and the user's voice rather than Command Sets themselves.

The 78 Safari commands seemed slightly less reliable, but once again performed remarkably well. I spoke 'Open New Tab' which has no command (see below) and accessed 'Open Help Center'. The Safari 'Go Forward' was incorrect and invoked the 'Open File' dialog instead (also see below.)

One iTunes command that I was hoping to see was 'Sort by Date Added' since this column is often hidden and would be a handy addition for me. It does not have a keyboard equivalent and that seems to be the reason for its absence. A slightly more involved script would probably be required here.

The Safari command that I most wanted to have was 'New Tab'. I was able to create this using keycode '17' . This seems to have been an oversight (although I seem to remember that the early release of Safari did not have tabbed browsing, so perhaps these Command Sets have never been updated).

The Safari 'Open File' and 'Go Forward' commands produce the same action, as they both reference the same keycode: '31'. This appears to be a bug in the set.

The floating microphone window is a minor annoyance, moreso on a smaller monitor.

The use of an application like QuickKeys or a manual keyboard re-mapping may interfere with these Command Sets, as they rely on keycodes.

Summary
Command Sets are a serviceable method for controlling your Macintosh applications using voice commands. Those included are limited to the keyboard shortcuts provided by Apple. The omnipresent Speakable Items window is a minor annoyance. Usage in amongst other people may be problematic (if the other people prefer silence). Although I did not come to discover a need to control my computer by voice, for those in situations where keyboard access is limited (due to hands being required for other things, or handicap), voice control is a definite benefit, and pre-defined Command Sets makes the job easier. These Command Sets performed well, and for those with a need for voice commands, you may find these sets quite handy.

Pros

  • Solid voice control for keyboard shortcuts
  • Several pre-defined commands

Cons

  • Moderately expensive
  • Keyboard remapping will upset the actions


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice