Dragon and Firefox 3

I know I’m late to this post, and you’ve probably already figured out the compatibility issues yourself, but I’ll post it anyway. A few weeks ago, I finally decided to download Firefox 3. I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised with the way it worked with Dragon 10, with the ever present mouseless browsing add-on. (Mr. Noe, you are a genius.) I still wouldn’t try to go without mouseless browsing altogether, because there are numerous actions that cannot be accomplished without it, such as getting into text fields or clicking checkboxes and radio buttons.

The ability to navigate toolbar menus by natural language is much improved for the most part; you can say both main and subheadings, and Dragon will move the mouse cursor to that option and click it. However, between versions 2 and 3, the settings menus under Tools — Options became inaccessible by natural language. [See the Vocola commands I posted to remedy this.]

The good news is that Firefox 3 is wonderfully configurable. Since all of the toolbars are accessible vocally, you can customize the toolbars to give you one word access to favorite websites or features. For example, when you mark a page to the bookmarks toolbar, try to name it a single key word. This does 2 things — allows you to include more bookmarks on the toolbar, and clearly delineates one bookmark from another so that when you say the word, Dragon will only click that bookmark.

Even the navigation toolbar is a boon. You may have read in the Dragon help file that some commands have become longer — e.g. “stop” became “stop loading page,” “reload” became “reload page,” etc. If you’re accustomed to the more terse commands, Firefox lets you keep them. Since the toolbar buttons are labeled “reload” and “stop” and “back” and “forward,” if you say those labels, Dragon will click them, allowing you to forgo the longer commands.

If you right-click the navigation toolbar and say “customize,” you have the option of dragging additional buttons into your toolbar space. Some are default, like Copy and Paste, and some may be associated with add-ons you have installed, e.g. Stylish. I moved Copy, Paste and Print into mine, giving me vocal shortcuts that Dragon hadn’t built in. Stylish allows you to find tweaks to webpages and Firefox itself, so I have that in my toolbar also. That way, if I see a page that’s driving me nuts visually or vocally, I can say “stylish,” then “find styles for this page.” Pretty cool. My favorite style is the one that allows you to permanently turn off Google search suggestions — that stupid drop-down will no longer interfere with your dictation.

Another Firefox extension allows you to choose additional toolbar buttons. I chose the “customize toolbar” button, which lets you bypass right clicking the toolbar, “profile,” which takes you to your userChrome.CSS folder faster than finding it in your documents so that you can paste in some useful snippets, and “about:config,” which takes you to Firefox’s registry editor without having to enter it in the address bar, as well as “Gmail.” There are also buttons for eBay and PayPal, among others.

For me, being a minimalist, one of the best options for customizing the toolbars was being able to show text-only, no icons. This accomplishes 2 things: it uses up less space than text and icons both, and allows me to remember exactly what I’ve called my bookmarks. However, as long as you know the labels associated with the different toolbar buttons, you can still access them vocally even if you choose icons only instead.

You might want to make some changes to the address bar. The new auto complete feature makes it a little bit hard to dictate into. If you want to turn the auto complete off altogether, enter about:config into the address bar (or click the toolbar button if you have it. That’s a colon in between, by the way, not a period.) Find the entry browser.url.maxrichresults and right-click it, or highlight it and say “press Shift-F10” (or “context”, if you have the command for it.) Set the integer to 0.

CSS tweaks are another useful idea. I have used them to shrink my address bar (after getting rid of the Google toolbar) to allow more space for toolbar shortcuts; to get rid of the star; to get rid of the RSS icon; and to get rid of the Edit and Help menus because there are voice commands or buttons for those. Here they are, corresponding to the order in which I’ve mentioned them.

#urlbar, #urlbar-container {min-width: 300px !important;max-width: 300px !important;}
#star-button {display: none !important;}
#feed-button[feeds] { display: none !important; }
#helpMenu, #edit-menu { display: none !important; }

If you need instructions on how to create your userChrome.CSS file:

1. Your userChrome folder (in Windows XP) is located in C:/Documents and Settings/your name/Application Data/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles.

2. Choose the default profile that comes up when you open that folder. Then open the Chrome folder. There should be a file called userchrome.example.CSS.

3. Open this file, and erase the example paragraph. Paste whatever snippet you want to use.

4.Go to File, then Save As. Name the document userChrome.CSS.
Anytime you want to make a change to how Firefox looks or acts, this will be the file in which you will paste the script.

Despite Nuance’s somewhat spotty built in support for Firefox, which frustrates me — if we can write commands in Vocola, why couldn’t Nuance program the same right into Dragon? — the configuration options available in Firefox 3 make up for it. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used IE, and I don’t see that changing.

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2 Responses to Dragon and Firefox 3

  1. deborah says:

    Your blog is fabulous. You seem to use computers a lot the way I do (I’m a NaturallySpeaking 10+ Firefox and Opera user, also (mostly) hands-free) and some of the things you have discovered are so useful. For example, I never put anything in my toolbars before because I can’t mouse to them, but I didn’t realize that I could dictate the names of things in my toolbars. So amazing! This is making up for a lot of the ways in which Firefox three broke with NaturallySpeaking. Thank you so much — I’m now addicted to your blog.

  2. hand2mouth says:

    You’re welcome — I’m glad it helps!

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