Sunday, April 15, 2012

Word Prediction Software

What is word prediction?

Word prediction software is a very important tool in regards to typing and communication.  It is seen with both computer access assistive technology as well as with communication devices.  

It is a software that predicts the words as the user is typing.  The goal is to decrease the amount of keystrokes of the user.  Depending on the user, this can can have a variety of benefits including increasing the typing speed of the user or decreasing spelling errors.

When using word prediction software, a word list is displayed on the screen.  The user will press the corresponding button in order to choose the appropriate word.  In some programs, the correct word can be chosen with the mouse as well.  This can be used with email, text based documents, social networking, or any program where text is inputted.  

How is this different from word completion software?

Word completion software works in the same way as prediction but it makes predicts the word as you type it.  When the user sees the word they are intending to type, they press the corresponding button.

With both word prediction or word completion software, there are varying modifiable features that different programs have.  This can include but are not limited to:

  • Method of prediction
    • Frequency of use
    • Alphabetically
  • Number of words on the list
    • This can slow the user down as they will require extra time to scan the list
  • Words can be programmed or added to the program dictionary
    • Such as the user name
    • Some programs will "learn" new words automatically
  • Font size of the words on the list
  • Spaces to be added after choosing the word off the list or at the end of a sentence
  • Text to speech options
    • If this is an option, the words will be spoken as they are chosen off the list
    • This can also include text speech of letter by letter or at the end of the sentence  
    • The voice (male or female)
    • Rate of speed of the speech
  • Phrase prediction
    • Some programs will not only predict words but phrases as well.  For example, if the user types the word "how", "how are you" can be part of the prediction as well as single words.

Why is word prediction or word completion software beneficial?

There tends to be differing thoughts as to if word prediction or word completion software really increases rate of speed with typing.  In of the some literature, it is explained that word prediction software will only increase rate of speed if the user types less than 15 words per minute.  Although this is a good standard to keep in the back of your mind when trying this software, there are many other benefits to its use, outside of possible increase in speed.  

Outside of rate of speed, this type of software can assist many types of individuals.

  • Fatigue
    • Individuals that fatigue quickly with typing can decrease the amount of keystrokes required for typing skills.  This can facilitate energy conservation and increase the amount of time tolerated for typing.
  • Pain
    • If the user experiences pain with extended typing, this software would decrease the amount of "button pressing" required.
  • Impaired spelling
    • Words predicted would be spelled correctly, decreasing errors and time spent correcting errors.
  • Word finding issues
    • If the user has difficulty with word finding or even mild aphasia, if they can type the first letter with word completion and prediction, the desired word would be on the list.  This could be difficult if the word is not initially prediction, requiring the user to type additional letters.  This would work best couple with text to speech features.
      • Can also assist folks with learning disabilities, adult and children
  • OnScreen Keyboard users:
    • Increases the efficiency of OnScreen Keyboard (OSK) users, especially for individuals using alternative access such as a head mouse.  The use of this software would increase efficiency and rate of speech when typing.  Many OSKs come with word prediction and completion software.  This includes the standard OSK in the accessibility options in Windows 7.

Word prediction or word completion software is a very important tool for individuals with disabilities or difficulty with access.  If you think that this software would be helpful for yourself or someone you know, remember that it is very important to trial different programs to see which features are right for you.

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