Windows

Review: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.1

Derek Schauland tries out a speech recognition program called NaturallySpeaking that allows you to dictate to your computer rather than type. How well does it work?

Derek Schauland tries out a speech recognition program called NaturallySpeaking that allows you to dictate to your computer rather than type. How well does it work?

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For those who like to think out loud rather than sit down in front of a blank screen and start writing, a dictation program might be one way to go. In preparing blog posts for TechRepublic, I have found dictation to be a very helpful tool because it can speed the time to prepare first drafts and allow me get my thoughts on "paper" much faster than if I were typing. I tried out the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software that translates your spoken words to text on your computer screen.

At first it seems very awkward. In fact, in writing this post, I've stumbled over myself several times, but the application seems to get better as you go along, making the process much faster than if I were typing.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Pentium4 or later or AMD Athlon 64 1 GHz minimum. We recommend 2.4 GHz (1.6 GHz dual core) or equivalent AMD processor. (Note: SSE2 instruction set required.)
  • RAM: minimum 512 MB (1 GB for Windows Vista, and 2 GB for Windows 7). Recommended: 1 GB (2 GB for Windows 7 32-bit, and 4 GB for Windows 7 64-bit)
  • Free hard disk space: 1 GB (2 GB for localized non-English versions)
  • L2 Cache: minimum 512 KB. Recommended: 1 MB.
  • Supported Operating Systems:
    • Windows Server 2000
    • Windows Server 2003
    • Windows 2000 SP4
    • Windows XP SP2 and SP3, 32-bit
    • Windows Vista SP1 and SP2, 32-bit and 64-bit
    • Windows 7, 32-bit and 64-bit
  • DVD-ROM drive required for installation
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or higher
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 or equivalent sound card supporting 16-bit recording
  • Nuance-approved noise-canceling headset microphone (included in purchase, except for upgrades). See details at support.nuance.com/compatibility/ (includes Bluetooth microphones, recorders, and Tablet PCs).

Requirements provided by http://nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/products/system-requirements.asp

Who's it for

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is for those who do a considerable bit of typing but want to detach themselves from the keyboard, especially if you're not a good typist. Getting a productivity boost from it depends on the amount of time you wish to put into the process of getting to know the program and initially training it to know your writing style and how you speak.

While preparing this post, I found several things that I thought were a little bit strange about the program, the first of which was trying to get it to take dictation on the name of the software itself. When I use the word NaturallySpeaking in some cases, the software selected its toolbar menu called NaturallySpeaking instead of entering the text. When trying to duplicate the problem for a screenshot the software entered the text "Naturally Speaking" with no problem.

What problem does it solve?

While there is an initial time commitment to getting acclimated to the program and customizing the dictionary, it can be a great timesaver for those that do a lot of documentation and other corporate writing.

Because the program can also import audio files from a portable recorder or even an app on the iPhone, being able to dictate in a car while driving home from work, on a train, or anywhere else that you don't have access to the computer can be a great convenience.

Standout features

Correction: As you type, not only does the software get better at understanding what you intend or mean, but it also allows you to go back and correct a word with the sound of your voice. As you'll see in the screenshot in Figure B, when I select a word for correction the context menu pops up allowing me to choose the word I need. Learning: The software is intelligent in that it tends to pick up on your mannerisms as long as you speak slowly and clearly. During the configuration process, when you train the software, it recommends that you speak as though you're reading the news - with a consistent delivery.

Figure A

The Naturally Speaking Toolbar

Figure B

Word correction with voice commands

What's wrong?

I supposed it is to be expected, but training the software can be a bit tedious, even though it does really get better the more you use it. However, if you're the impatient type or know that you don't tend to speak carefully and clearly, it may not be for you.

The price is also something to consider, as well. The cost of a single license for the preferred version was $199. In speaking with a representative from Nuance, I found the licensing to be somewhat flexible in that you can install it on up to five PCs that you own or that you use as long as you do not use the licenses simultaneously on multiple computers which brings the cost per machine down considerably.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Dragon NaturallySpeaking surely isn't for everyone, but in organizations that produce a lot of copy, the potential for time savings and convenience makes it a product to consider. Keep in mind that you will still have to do some keyboard editing along the way.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

20 comments
dhays
dhays

Having not used it, I wonder how it handles thing like see and sea, two, too, to, etc. Or do you need to proofread it and correct it to the correct word?

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

I've used a couple of different versions of DNS (Dragon NaturallySpeaking, not Domain Name Sever) over the years, and have been impressed with the improvements. One of the people in my agency is a terrible typist and speller, but DNS has noticeably improved the quality of his correspondence. The program actually was able to learn Redneck from Joe, but still hasn't figured out that "bob wahr" really means barbed wire. Another of my colleagues became disabled due to a degenerative muscular disease, but was able to control his PC by voice through DNS. The voice recognition software that is part of Windows 7 bears a strong resemblance to DNS, and works quite well.

oluwilly
oluwilly

it is great!!! keep it up. Nice day.

dianejw
dianejw

i have disabilities in both my hands...i'm still learning dns...but its helping me immensely...i'd like to get some training in its full capabilities...but currently can use it in word and emails...

caravanserai
caravanserai

Authoring books, the "Dragon" pays for itself many times over. It eases of transitioning from one complete thought to another, it learns odd place names and character names on the fly, it eliminates shaky spelling, it transposes words into print as quickly as they're spoken, and it automates many other, more subtle functions as well. Sure, the learning curve for both speech engine and user is steep, but only at the beginning. The program's speech recognition accuracy begins at (I estimate) 98% --- missing 2 words out of 100 --- and improves with each correction. The more one uses it, the faster the accuracy climbs to virtually 99.9% (again, my estimate). It can get confused --- as can humans --- by homonyms such as "I scream" and "ice cream" but often it selects the right choice based on context. After years of using the Dragon, I choose it for any text longer than a paragraph. Six stars out of five....

Dknopp
Dknopp

Maybe if you had an office, or worked from home. It would be kinda noisy from cubicles where the majority of us work from. We are still not there to where we can say "Computer, tea - hot - earl grey, and not get a hot tea shirt with a picture of earl grey on it ( minus the fantasy replicator of course). Now if we had a good neuron pickup and we just thought the words, we could just sit there like slugs in our cubes.

looker77
looker77

First off, Dragon Dictate was the first Voice Recognition program on the market, since the days of DOS. this program and program to be was created by Dragon Systems, long before Nuance. Somewhere in the mid to late nineties Dragon produced Dragon Naturally Speaking, "Why" you ask. Good question Dragon Dictate was considered Discreet Speech and Dragon was considered Continuous Speech, these programs were designed for persons with specials needs, but L&H bought both dragon versions and only marketed the Naturally speaking for retail sale, then another company bought the Dragon Versions out from L&H, then nuance came into the picture.the professional versions can only be purchased from nuance, but the standard edition and preferred Editions can be found in stores. Don't forget about USB Via Voice. Did you also know that there is voice recognition designed into windows? Microsoft was nice enough to include a generic versions in windows.

david.k.patterson
david.k.patterson

Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) is the leading speech recognition software and can be used by any organization. It allows you to increase productivity and can be used with most applications. I have found that it is easily to get up and running in a few moments by training it and then it learns as you use it. Tendious ? Hardly. DNS is used by people with various disabilities, giving them the ability to operate and control a computer all by voice. The Professional version allows you to create macros and extend its ability to be used with almost any application. An excellent product for most people. The DNS speech engine is used in wide range of products, including most cell phone.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that it ONLY runs on windows. a speech to text app would be so handy for so many different uses, if it ran on other operating systems. [ and I poked the makers of it, asking if they were including the windows disk since it doesn't run on other operating systems, and tools like wine would double the resource requirements to use it on other systems, so it's ruled out. ]

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

With the way business is moving in this economy, who has the time to sit there and 'train' the software? Plus can you just imagine the noise pollution with several people in a cube farm or several offices speaking all at once?

victor.gutzler
victor.gutzler

My experience with DNS shows that it accurately chooses the correct homonym based on the word's use (noun, verb, adjective) as long as you are within a paragraph's context. But if you are dictating a title or a bulleted list, it is very problematic and requires manual corrections.

david.k.patterson
david.k.patterson

Yes indeed Dragon NaturallySpeaking is one of the best products for speech recognition. It is also available for the Mac (MacSpeech Dictate), as well as for Windows. You are right that there is not much speech recognition for Linux. But you should look at Open Mind Speech. But what is available are all limited in comparison to those for the Windows environment unfortunately.

david.k.patterson
david.k.patterson

You need to install, setup and learn most applications. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is no different. It takes only a few moments to train the application to your voice, but it can be used if you don't want to do that. It may not be for every organization. But, it can be used in open areas becasue many organizations with who I have worked do use it just that way.

esq
esq

First of all: revolutionary? 10 to 12 years ago L&H had a product similar or even better. There's nothing revolutionary about it. And there's certainly nothing revolutionary about them being on top of things. I am a professional reviewer myself and asked them for a review unit for multiple European magazines several times; I'm still waiting for their reply.

bobfox321
bobfox321

Good News: Keep your eye on TigerDirect and they occasionally have DNS on sale with a microphone for $29 ! (regular price $99) Bad News: DNS only runs on M$ Word or WordPerfect.

dacentaur
dacentaur

This brings to mind the Matrix movie where guys get plugged in to the SYSTEM. I'm sure that's what would happen if we had neuron pickups. And of course, no one would know what anyone else was watching (unless they're system administrators). :D

Jaqui
Jaqui

there are options even for GNU/Linux I keep poking these companies that don't support GNU/Linux by telling them "They have told me they don't want my business, they don't support the operating systems I use. GNU/Linux, *BSD and Solaris." usually a real heads up to them that people WON'T spend money on their product if they don't support all operating systems.

jhnhth
jhnhth

It does not only run in Word and WP. I use it in Thunderbird email and other windows based programs. No steep learning curve for me, it worked right out of the box on day 1 and that absolutely amazed me. It can only get even better as I use it more.

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