Microsoft

Review: Nuance Dragon Notes

Dragon Notes has potential, but with free editions of the same app available, it might be better to stick with the mobile version.

Dictation is a useful, and in some cases necessary tool, particularly if access to a keyboard is not possible (like when you're on the road and have your hands on the wheel). Others regard dictation as a way to easily have a brain dump without the pain of slow hunt-and-peck typing getting in the way of an otherwise important train of thought.

In any case, Nuance has been leading the way in voice-recognition software for a good while with their Dragon Naturally Speaking application. Compared to the built in speech recognition technology in Windows, Dragon Naturally Speaking always seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of accuracy and speed.

The record button in all of its minimalistic glory!

Product Information

  • Title: Dragon Notes
  • Author: Nuance Communications, Inc.
  • Supported operating systems: Windows 7 SP1 and 8
  • Price: $20, plus $10 for each additional language pack.

With Windows 8, Nuance decided to push out a new app to cater to the quick note taking crowd. Dragon Notes takes the stage, using the same voice-recognition technology as before, only this time keeping the interface extremely dead simple. When you start the app, you get a Dragon Notes logo at the center of your screen and you click on it to start and stop recording your voice. No more having to mess around with a word processor application. Just talk and go.

Testing

In my initial tests, I started talking straight into the program using my desktop studio condenser microphone as well into the microphone built into my laptop. Suffice it to say, despite some misinterpretation of some of the words I spoke, Dragon Notes is quite accurate, giving me correctly transcribed words about 95% of the time. Special words took a bit of extra care to work with, such as speaking a bit more slowly into the microphone in order to prevent misspellings. My Polish surname was probably the trickiest part of all, with Dragon Notes not getting it right ever and requiring me to key it in by hand.

Dragon Notes is fairly competent at handling simple sentences.

Dragon Notes does support several common languages aside from English, including popular European and Asian ones. To change languages, you need to provide language packs, which can be obtained as separate purchases for about $10 per additional pack. Not entirely ideal, but it's not entirely unexpected, since additional resources were expended on making these packs as accurate and useful as possible.

Now for how convenient Dragon Notes is, there are a few caveats that you should be aware of. First off, your voice recordings for transcription purposes are limited to 30 seconds a piece. This is not an app designed to cater to writing long and complex documents. Also, despite how the app seems to be designed for Windows 8 tablets, Dragon Notes is not designed for Windows RT, at least for the interim.

Finally, my biggest pet peeve has to relate to the price. Although the Windows app for Dragon Notes clocks in at $20, the iOS and Android versions of this exact same product are free as in beer. If you happen to have a smartphone or tablet powered by either of these OSes, I recommend Dragon Notes, but not if you are on a Windows PC.

Bottom line

Dragon Notes is in no way, shape or form a replacement to Dragon's standard NaturallySpeaking app, but rather a cut down basic product for limited transcribing needs. Would I be inclined to recommend Dragon Notes if this was offered for free or for a mere few dollars? It is possible. But at $20, and with accuracy that is not as good as the full professional suite, I'm not sure if I can entirely get onboard with this product. Since no trial version is available, you do need to pay to play. Luckily, Nuance does have a money-back guarantee if you aren't satisfied. At the end of the day, your mileage will vary.

Also read:

About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

3 comments
Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use voice commands on your devices? Do you use a voice-recognition application? What tools do you recommend?

GSG
GSG

We use Nuance Dragon Medical and I will say that it works, but it works directly proportional to the effort that you put into it. One of our doctors swears by it, and he never has issues, but he spent the time and effort to train it. Others hate it because they'v not trained it. I tried to use dragon last year when my dominant hand spent 5 months in a cast, but I found it easier to just type with one hand because I didn't make an effort to train it. I hate using voice commands on my phone, so I just don't use it.

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

Dragon Notes doesn't appear to have any learning or training mechanism in order to better improve transcription accuracy over time. Perhaps the software is good enough for basic note taking that the speech recognition training is superfluous.

Editor's Picks