Working on the computer all day long can lead to quite a few problems. While there is not much that can be done about tired eyes, the newest Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 can help with sore fingers, wrists and the possibilities of getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Moreover, creating documents with 3 to 4 times faster rate than typing them is another great advantage of Dragon Naturally Speaking. Voice recognition software is becoming more and more popular, and this is one of the best in the market. Before continuing with our Dragon Naturally Speaking Review, let’s talk a little bit about speech recognition software and what you should expect from such a program.
What you should expect from Speech Recognition Software
Understanding voice recognition software is all about having the right expectations. While they will eliminate the need to type, they will also have to be trained, and this can take some time. When we talk about “training” we mean to make the voice recognition software understand our voice better and convert our speech into written words with better accuracy. This means that if your speech is not clear enough or your annunciation is not good, the software will have a hard time to get the word right. There is some training that happens right out of the box, but the program will more than likely continue to make some mistakes. The more the program is used and that corrections are made, the more likely it is to get better. So keep in mind the training factor when using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, although the company touts a 99% accuracy for this particular product (which I believe is valid with the proper training).
First Impression from Dragon Naturally Speaking
Out of the box, Dragon Naturally Speaking is pretty easy to use. The installation goes relatively quickly and the setup does not take much time at all. The software works on all modern Windows versions (XP, Vista, Win 7). As far as hardware resources needed, the software comes with a microphone headset but requires a PC with 16-bit sound card and a DVD. Even the training process will go fairly quickly. You will need to create a user profile and train the program to recognize your voice. There are several sample text passages that you need to dictate in order for the software to get familiar with your enunciation. Pay particular attention when training to see how easy the program is actually picking up what you are saying, as this will give you a better idea of the speed at which you can talk when using the program for real.
Software Editions Available
The software’s pricing depends on which product edition best fits your needs. There are five major editions available: Dragon Home, Dragon Premium, Dragon Professional, Dragon Legal and Medical:
If you only need the tool just for its basic functionality (that is, to type words as you talk using the most popular word processors like MS Word, Open Office, Outlook etc), then go for the cheapest Dragon Home Edition. You can also create emails, search the web, update your Facebook page, speak commands for your computer and many more.
The Premium Edition includes all the features of the Home Edition plus many more. You can dictate text into all software applications that you use every day, no matter if it’s a custom program or your favorite instant messaging client. It supports also mobile devices among many other features.
Professional Edition is for office use with its networking and security capabilities, support for filling out forms and for custom commands etc. It is ideal for enterprise environments where you can deploy centrally managed voice profiles, custom vocabularies etc. It is also Section 508 Certified and can help organizations meet their disability management needs.
Dragon Legal and Medical Editions:
The Legal Edition and Medical Edition are for lawyers and doctors respectively, as they include extra preconfigured vocabularies with legal and medical specific terms.
I think the biggest drawback of Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the microphone headset that comes with the product. It is recommended that if you do not already have a good headset, get one. You can find a good noise-canceling microphone for under $20. The quality of the microphone will go a long way in making this software much more effective. The one that comes with the program is of low quality, but that is par for the course with these programs. Do not let the added cost of the microphone deter you from buying the product because it will be the same regardless of the program that is being used. I suggest you to try the included microphone first to see how it works for you, because some people found it ok.
Accuracy is pretty good, but you are going to have to take your time when speaking. They tout 99% accuracy, but this is going to take some time to achieve. Very few of us speak clear enough for the program to truly be able to recognize every word that we say. If you take your time and annunciate every word, after a few weeks the program will do a great job of picking up just about every word. It may not be so much a matter of training the software as it is retraining you on how to speak.
Overall, Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 is about as good as it gets. We consider the microphone inconsequential because every program out there that included one is of low quality. While this headset will serve its purpose, the software is much more effective with a high-quality headset. There is also the price to consider, but you do truly get what you pay for when it comes to voice recognition software. It will take some training, but the software offers the best alternative to typing. Once you become proficient in speaking to the software, 100-120 words a minute with few or no mistakes is very achievable. Actually, this article was created by dictating using Dragon. It made a couple of mistakes but overall I’m very satisfied with this software.