You will find speech recognition tools in Microsoft Office and Windows. But, if you're going to use speech recognition on a regular basis, you'll want a more powerful program.
Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the premiere speech recognition program. There are few other options for voice recognition software. So, let's take a look at the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Installing and Setting Up NaturallySpeaking 10
After the software was installed, I was given the option of scanning the documents on my machine. The software indicated that it would take between five and 30 minutes to complete. By analyzing the files, the software would be better customized to my vocabulary and manner of speaking.
I allowed the software to scan the files on my machine. This took much less time than the specified maximum 30 minutes. But, I store relatively few documents on my laptop, opting instead to store them on a removable drive that was not attached to the computer.
After Dragon NaturallySpeaking scanned my files, I was given the option of dictating a small snippet of text. Again, the purpose of this is to improve Dragon's accuracy. There were several different snippets of text from which to choose. Each was geared to a particular reading level. Training Dragon only took a few minutes. I recommend that anyone who uses Dragon take the time to go through the training process. However, you can run through the training process later, if you're unhappy with Dragon's accuracy.
In all, setup took about 20 minutes or so. And, there were no major problems, even on Vista.
Working With the NaturallySpeaking
NaturallySpeaking works with your word processor and a variety of other programs. You can use it to enter information in Web forms, create documents and other common tasks.
NaturallySpeaking does more than just allow you to dictate text in programs. You can also use it to control your computer. Or, spell out words if Dragon is struggling with them.
The DragonBar offers a variety of tools for working with the program. For example, you can transcribe recordings made with a number of popular digital recorders. This is great if you want to dictate on the go. You may be tempted to try to record a conversation and then transcribe it. Don't bother. NaturallySpeaking isn't set up to recognize two different voices in the same recording.
It is possible for multiple users to share Dragon. However, each user should set up their own profile. (You can switch between users from the DragonBar). However, you'll want to check the licensing agreement. You don't want to run afoul of it.
Nuance claims that NaturallySpeaking is more than 99% accurate. I tend to believe this claim. I had very little errors in dictated text. However, I quickly gave up on Command mode because I found myself yelling at the machine! This wasn't a major drawback. And, I'm sure most users care more about dictation than controlling a computer.
My one big complaint was with the included Bluetooth microphone. It felt flimsy and wouldn't stay in my ear. Its accuracy is excellent, though.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Requirements and Versions
The software requires 512MB of RAM and uses 1GB of hard drive space. You'll also need a 16-bit sound card and a noise-cancelling microphone. An optical drive is required to install the software.
There are several different versions of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking. For most, the Preferred version is the best choice, as it offers the best balance between features and price. You might opt for the Standard version if you have a noise-cancelling microphone and don't care about mobile dictation using a hand-held recorder.
There are also versions for legal and medical professionals. Obviously, if you are a doctor or an attorney, these versions will suit you better than other versions. A Professional version is also available.
I had very little trouble with NaturallySpeaking's accuracy. But, I appreciated the tools the software provides to improve accuracy. I found Command mode frustrating. However, I'm sure that, with a little more patience, I could overcome my annoyance.
Likewise, the included Plantronics headset left something to be desired. From a technical standpoint, the wireless headset worked like a charm. However, I found it uncomfortable. It seemed as if it would fall off of my ear at any minute.
For the price, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred is a great value. The software works as promised, and is sure to improve anyone's efficiency. It also provides a number of nice features that you might not expect. For example, mobile workers will love the ability to create a profile for digital recorders in certain versions of NaturallySpeaking. You can dictate on the go!
NaturallySpeaking is ideal for professionals. It is also ideal for anyone who types slowly or has difficulty using a computer keyboard. Just remember that it will not replace the keyboard entirely.