Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 Review- Voice recognition that finally works – With video!

In order to demonstrate the capabilities for this Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice to text review, I will be writing this entire review using Dragon without corrections. I will insert clarification in brackets where necessary.

What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11?

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Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11 is voice recognition (voice to text) software from a company called nuance. The software is sold both in Windows and Macintosh format, along with a microphone, that transforms voice into text on your computer screen.

Version 11 was released in the fall of 2010, and represents a fairly substantial leap in accuracy and speed from version 10.

Installation and Set up

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 comes with the installation CD, instruction booklets, and a relatively cheap headset microphone. On Windows, the installation was easy and uneventful.

After installation, the setup wizard runs as soon as you start the software, as it requires some level of training to accommodate itself to your specific dialect and idiosyncrasies.  The first step of the wizard is to test your microphone for volume and clarity.

This process takes a couple of minutes and involves reciting several paragraphs as the software analyzes your speech volume and quality. During the quality check, it is mainly analyzing the “noise floor”, which is the yellow part of the dynamic bar graphs that you see on the screen. You want the noise floor to be as low as possible.

, you will spend about 15 to 20 min. reading from preselected texts. As you read, the software will follow along and adjust its recognition to your dialect, especially on words that sound the same (are and our, for example).  For those with a strong regional accents, not only can the software just its recognition through listening, but it also has several predetermined baselines of recognition. As I have a fairly noticeable southern accent, I chose the “Southern United States” baseline.

Usage and Impressions

On Windows, the Dragon is ever present as a toolbar at the top of your screen, with a microphone icon that indicates what it is currently doing. The icon is green for ready, green with a voice icon for processing, yellow for standby, and red for off.

If you are in ready or standby mode, you can switch back and forth by saying “wake up” or “go to sleep”, which is handy if you don’t want to look for the keyboard often.

A quick note about settings, which I won’t go into deeply: The program is quite flexible regarding how it treats abbreviations, proper nouns, punctuation, and other style choices. Rest assured that you will find adjustments for most of your personal preferences within the configuration.

Apparently, Dragon is only “optimized” for certain types of windows. However, I haven’t actually figured out what functionality is lost by being outside of an optimized window. I am currently dictating into a Google Chrome text box on the WordPress publishing platform, and it is working flawlessly. I have also successfully used voice recognition in operating system Windows, Firefox and Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, Open office, various programming editors like text pad and Komodo edit, and Skype chat. If for some reason you have trouble dictating into software that you own, Dragon provides its own text editor that you can dictate into and then copy and paste into your preferred program.

As you can see by the obvious lack of errors in this review, Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s accuracy is phenomenal. Not only is it very good at recognizing what word you’re trying to say, I have also noticed that it uses context to figure out what word you really meant in the case of homonyms (one and [won]).  I have found that it is much better at large chunks of text rather than smaller pieces, and has the most trouble with single words at a time.

You should know that Dragon’s accuracy is greatly affected by the quality of the microphone you use. I started off using the included bundled microphone, but the accuracy isn’t all that great. I then switched to a Samson Q1 you [Q1U] , which is the cheapest high-quality microphone I could find. I used it for over a year, and I found the accuracy to be very good, however the audio level was always on the low side, and I had problems occasionally keeping my mouth close enough to the microphone. Literally, after about a foot away, the volume level drops substantially.

Just recently, I bought a Sennheiser ME 3-EW headset microphone, which has improved my accuracy noticeably. It’s a little on the pricey side, and it’s not wireless, but the accuracy has been almost flawless. Please note that most suppliers, including Amazon, sell a version of this microphone meant to plug into a wireless pack. If you purchase the one at the link above, you will need to purchase an additional adapter to convert its nonstandard plug to a standard 3.5 mm.

I’ll finish this section just by saying that if you purchase this software and use it regularly, you should definitely spring for a really nice microphone.

What is it useful for?

As I said before, this software works best in continuous dictation for large blocks of text. It’s great looking at the context of what you wrote and picking the right word. Therefore, it’s perfect for riders [writers] and also those who want to use it too [to] casually answer email.  I can blast through an inbox about three or four times faster using Dragon NaturallySpeaking then [than] I could back when I could type (I originally bought Dragon because I developed tendinitis in my forearms to the point that I could no longer type on a regular keyboard)

I have to admit that I haven’t use the navigation features. Although it sounds like a great idea to be able to open programs and navigate around with your voice, I’m still able to use a pen tablet which makes it quite easy to navigate around. Reading about the navigation features makes me feel like they’re a little clunky.

Unfortunately, you just can’t program with it at all. It’s got no awareness of programming syntax, even combined with an auto correcting editor. If you must, you could probably put it in spell mode and just say every character that you want to appear on the screen. Since programming is alternating between typing and thinking, you might be able to keep productivity to a respectable level, but I wouldn’t want to.

Conclusion

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11 voice to text software has very simply saved my livelihood. With repetitive stress injuries bad enough that I cannot use a regular keyboard, I was having trouble doing simple things like responding to emails. With Dragon, not only can I keep up, but in some cases I’m actually faster and more productive than those still using their “antiquated” keyboards.

After reading this Dragon naturallyspeaking review, are you confused about the differences between Home and Premium?  Check out the feature matrix here: http://www.nuance.com/ucmprod/groups/dragon/@web-enus/documents/collateral/nc_016429.pdf

Pros

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  • After years and years, the voice to text accuracy is finally ready for prime time
  • Adjusts to various accents and dialects very well
  • Integrates well with Windows and other software
  • The dictionary and style libraries are fully editable
  • In some cases, increases productivity over a regular keyboard

Cons

  • Requires a good microphone to achieve its best accuracy
  • Not good for programming or dictating single words at a time
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