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?


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.


  • 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 (includes Bluetooth microphones, recorders, and Tablet PCs).

Requirements provided by

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.