I wrote this Dragon Dictate 3 review—without using a keyboard. I am dictating directly into a word processor on a Mac Air Book. To do this, I’m Dragon Dictate Mac 3 – a useful speech recognition program that allows me to dictate text and to correct it, delete it, even format it, just by speaking.
Update: Dragon Dictate has just been released in Australia!
Nuance has brought great voice recognition capabilities to Windows for years with their Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 software. And now, Nuance has brought most of Dragon Naturally Speaking’s features to the Apple Mac with Dragon Dictate 3.
This software allows me to accomplish other tasks on the Mac by just speaking. I can open and close programs and I can search Google (or Yahoo, Bing) and jump directly into Web pages using only voice commands. I can also easily compose and send emails. And I can even update my status on Facebook and Twitter.
The speech software that’s enabling this is called Dragon Dictate 3 Mac. Dragon’s developer, Nuance Communications has previously focused on the Windows platform. Dragon Dictate 3 has finally brought its Mac speech recognition to almost the same set of features as the PC version of Dragon 12.
Despite some feature differences, the two Dragons use basically the same improved speech recognition engine. I chose to test the Apple Mac version because it can finally do some things formerly limited to Windows, such as selecting a single word by voice for correction or deletion or formatting. Based on my tests, I can say that Dragon Dictate 3, and by extension Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12, is very accurate.
However, this is advanced software. By that I mean requires some effort and time to learn how to use effectively. It will also take some time to remember the specific wording of each of the many voice commands. For example, you need to say “File Open”, so that’s something you need to remember – not that difficult really, as it’s intuitive.
The software is a good choice for people who are injured and can’t type. Such as those with repetitive strain injuries and people who just can’t type well or fast – probably most of us right?
Dragon Dictate 3 uses a small window to show its status and often displays two larger windows, one with available commands and one with alternate spellings.
The Dragon Dictate software has many functions (the user manual is lengthy), but you can reduce to two: voice dictation and controlling your Mac. The latter means controlling menus and commands either common to the whole operating system or specific to a program you’re using. You can say “File New” to open a new document or “Jump to BBC” to open the Web browser and go to the news website.
The Mac version of Dragon still has smaller sets of application-specific commands than its Windows version. Also, the Windows version allows you to navigate from link to link on a Web page; while the Mac version lacks this feature.
Dragon comes with an over-the-head microphone but you will need a better quality headset microphone than the cheap one Nuance supply in the box for long-term usage – such as an Andrea NC181VMUSB. I was also able to get good results using a Dragon Microphone app on my iPhone .You can also use a wireless microphone – provided it’s of good quality.
Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac is now able to transcribe audio files recorded on a digital voice recorder or an iPhone voice-recording app. It worked well, but wasn’t as accurate as real-time dictation with a quality headset microphone. It’s a pretty handy feature though and with more practise I’m sure my dictations on a voice recorder will improve over time. I am using a very high quality professional digital voice recorder from Olympus though – not an eBay el-cheapo recorder.
For best accuracy, you need to train Dragon Dictate 3 before using it. Training doesn’t take very long – 10 minutes or so – and you begin by reading some stories. You can then teach the program about unusual words you use by allowing Dragon to analyse documents you have written previously. You can also manually add words or and teach the speech program punctuation.
Dragon Dictate relies on context to decide what you meant to say, even if the words sound similar. In a demo exercise suggested by Nuance, Dragon Dictate Mac 3 easily handled the sentence “you were right to write me right now.” Though it’s not as if you will ever use a sentence that is so complex and confusing. It’s heartening to know that Dragon Dictate can handle the complexities of speech.
I found it could recognise most names, product names, surnames, addresses and telephone numbers. It automatically formats phone numbers and street addresses. You can always add more of your own names to increase the accuracy of your own vocabulary. There’s a feature to do this.
Fortunately, if Dragon does make a mistake or misunderstands you, just say, “Scratch That,” and try again, or you can choose another word from a window that pops up. It’s really easy and fast to make corrections and it does improve the program over time.
Finally, on the Mac version, one of its best features is the ability to learn the names of your contacts – up to 300 people. The feature won’t work at all if your contact list is larger. Nuance has indicated that it plans to fix this 300 contact limit.
Overall, Dragon Dictate is a big step forward for Apple Mac users who need, or like, to use voice recognition to write documents, emails surf the web and much more and now it’s even easier to control a mac by voice.
Dragon Dictate 3 addresses most of the limitations of Dragon Dictate 2, adds some great new features and is considerably more accurate.