It seems that these days we here at DigitalReviews tend to review a lot of upgrades and new models of software and gadgets. That's great because we can mainly highlight the differences in the new package and refer to the background material in the previous reviews. (See here, for instance). Such is the case with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
We have done write-ups of DNS, more commonly known as Dragon, just about every year over the past four or five years and we have rated this speech recognition program very highly. I have always had a bit of a challenge with Dragon because of my somewhat Dutch accent and a just knew that a later version could make all the difference…. So how did we go this time around?
These are the claims that Nuance put forward for Dragon 11:
FASTER: Remarkable Speed and Accuracy
No argument here. Dragon 11 is significantly faster than any previous version. You can basically speak as fast as you want and it will keep up with you. The best thing is that you don't have to go back all the time to correct words and phrases that came out rather different from how you intended them as the new Dragon has greater accuracy and as a result fewer speech recognition errors. This is particularly the case with technical material and with words that are many syllables long. In fact, the only problems I strike sometimes are with small monosyllabic words such as hope, knew and the like. I know that my accent is to blame so what you do in a case like that is to train Dragon on these specific words. The beauty of training is also that these words become immediately available for the rest of your dictation. Talking about training: you can be up and running within 10 min of installing the software, without any training but I would still highly recommend you spend about 10-20 min in doing so as well is allowing Dragon to scan all your documents and e-mails for specific words or names that you use. I think the fact that we tend to use faster computing equipment over the years also helps to speed up the whole recognition process.
BETTER: A better user experience
That sounds a bit like a hollow slogan but you can't argue with the fact that, if it is faster and has fewer correction issues that alone will make for a much better user experience! However they have also tweaked the Dragon sidebar where you will find helpful tips and commands. The whole navigation structure is easier and apart from dictating just text it is also much easier to open applications and navigate within them, particularly so with Microsoft's Outlook and Office.
SIMPLY SMARTER: Extraordinarily smart
This too can be construed as a simple marketing catch cry. But if a piece of software as complicated as Dragon 11 can type and do what you mean, even if you don't always give it the right command as syntax goes, but tell it just in plain English, it gets my thumbs up! In other ways to it is smarter. For instance, it will detect your hardware resources like if you have a Bluetooth wireless headset plugged in it will go with that one. This review set by the way came with a Bluetooth headset but I had some trouble with the volume levels which I need to sort out later. It probably is the audio settings for some of the other programs that are playing foul. Standard all the Dragon editions come with a plug-in headset and they have improved the quality of these this time around. I always had trouble with these things breaking after a little while…
The professional edition comes with a voice recorder program which you can use on your smart phone. This program needs separate training as the voice quality when talking into your mobile phone will be quite different from talking into a separate microphone. As much as I like the new interface with the main program, the voice recorder for the mobile phone looks like this was made for Windows Mobile 2003. I'm a bit uncharitable here but it could do with a better user interface, bigger buttons and higher resolution icons. Other nice features: you can now create your own voice commands to automatically text or images that you frequently use. And there are now Dragon voice shortcuts to interact with social networks and the Help section of Dragon.
The full version of Dragon 11 Professional is $730 (with the obligatory five cents change). That's a lot of money but if you make your living writing or dictating there is a huge productivity gain to be had by use of this software. And if you have read my previous reviews you'll also know this is a tremendous boon for people suffering from arthritis or RSI. However, Home or Premium editions already start at a very reasonable $130 and $180, respectively. The main difference between Home and Premium is the ability to dictate into a handheld recorder for later transcription whereas the Professional edition adds the ability to combine commands to perform complex tasks on your PC and is fully network compatible for multiple users. It is probably superfluous to state that this whole article including corrections, has been entirely written without any keyboard entry, which is truly a testament to the power and capabilities of Dragon 11.
Check out their website at http://australia.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/