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I have been tasked with constructing a business PC for an individual who is not just computer illiterate, but unable to read and write very well in his native language.

What he currently has is a briefcase full of assorted officemax registers containing the details of his roofing business, which he is the sole proprietor and only employee (but that may change).

Dictation software is a must because spellchecking just doesn't cut it. But I think he'd get frustrated if he tried to use his voice to control everything. I'm thinking a tablet PC might work, but don't know if there is any dictation software available.

He also needs to be able to track clients and create invoices. Something like Excel that could be customized to a certain business model.

What would be hardware/software solution to help me help him accomplish this?

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If he is serious about succeeding in the business world, he NEEDS to obtain better literacy. But obviously that suggestion isn't going to help you much. :) –  Shinrai May 31 '11 at 16:45
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Well, I'll let him know. Hopefully he won't punch me in the face. –  Peter Turner May 31 '11 at 16:56
    
@Shinrai, in the suit and tie business world, yes literacy is important. But even if you work out of your truck, you've still got a lot of business issues. –  Peter Turner May 31 '11 at 17:10
    
It's simple. If you're the sort of person who needs to do things like 'track clients and create invoices', regardless of if you sit at a desk or wear a hard hat, you should be literate. :/ The argument is sort of academic, though, I don't think you can really fix THAT problem. –  Shinrai May 31 '11 at 17:23

3 Answers 3

There are so many issues with this user but let's focus on the pressing issue. This user seems to want an easy way to track and manage clients/projects for the purpose of sustaining a business.

I would avoid the most of the office suite for this user since there are so many features that it is easy to get lost. I would highly recommend http://www.freshbooks.com/ to the user. This is a one stop shop for invoicing and project tracking. This would handle most of the money related issues that this user would need to tackle. A big advantage is that since this is a subscription service, you get phone support from Freshbooks experts to handle any problems with the software.

Now for contact management, you basically need way to log client interactions. I was poking around and I ran across http://highrisehq.com/ . This is just what what you are looking for. It has a nice interface that allows you to log interactions and setup a to-do list. This has a free version for single users (250 clients or less) and the starting plan is $24 a month (5,000 contacts).

When dealing with user input, the voice/keyboard debate has raged since we started having voice dictation software. While voice control is an option, it can often be more trouble that it is worth. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a good product but it isn't perfect. I would sit down with your user and figure out what deficiencies he has. If he can't type, get him a training course for typing. If he doesn't know English, recommend English classes at the local community college. Sometimes, you have to invest in yourself to be successful.

As for the tablet/laptop debate, it's all about interface. If you feel that he has problems with mouse control and a touch interface is better, then by all means go with a tablet. he is still going to have to know how to type though. Handwriting recognition on tablets are spotty at best. You have to train yourself how to write in a way the tablet can read. This can be really frustrating to many users.

Hope this helps

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Good answer, I'll check out freshbooks. The contact manager will really be dependent on the platform we choose. –  Peter Turner May 31 '11 at 19:35
    
I just added a find for the contact manager. It looks really promising. highrisehq.com –  Doltknuckle May 31 '11 at 20:11

There are many Windows 7 tablets available (I can't recommend one, but a quick Google search will turn up a lot, and I was looking at some tablet information which may also be useful, though again, I know nothing about the ones on this page), which have all the same dictation software as a regular Windows computer. They can also run Excel, of course, but I don't know how well Excel would work with a tablet interface, especially for somebody with trouble reading.

I think this is worth looking into, but I seriously hope you get other answers, because this is by no means complete.

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Windows 7 tablets are horrifically slow. And despite being more touch friendly than previous versions, Win7 is still not meant to be used on a touch-only device. If they need portability and they need Windows 7, a laptop is really the best way to go, by a long shot. –  music2myear May 31 '11 at 17:03
    
@music2myear - There are plenty of very fast high end tablets. ThinkPad X220T anyone? –  Shinrai May 31 '11 at 17:24
    
I suppose it depends on your definition of "tablet". iPad-esque true tablets (I believe Dell and Acer each have win7 devices) are very slow. My wife has an HP tx2, which I suppose is indeed called a "table" as well, but it's really a laptop with a screen that flips. Do we call them Flaptops? LOL But yes, you are correct, there are devices called tablets that can run win7 fast. –  music2myear May 31 '11 at 20:04

For dictation use dragon naturally speaking (could depends on what language he needs), and something like this could do voice commands to the computer (just in case you want the option, could have same problem with language).

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