Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 review
Speech recognition was once an exotic technology. It required time and effort to get it to work properly, and even then the results could be hit and miss. Nowadays it’s everywhere, powering smartphone web search, in-car navigation systems and automated phone lines. There’s still a place for speech recognition on the desktop for those who need it, however, and in this market Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been out on its own for some time.
It’s now into version 11.5 (a free upgrade for 11 users), and the new software brings several exciting features. The headliner is remote mic support. Coupled with a free iPhone app, Dragon NaturallySpeaking now lets you speak into your iPhone’s microphone and see the words appear on screen. It works over Wi-Fi – setup is a little fiddly – and with everything connected together it works perfectly.
Other additions include a host of new commands, including the ability to search Google Maps with a shortcut phrase, launch a quick email or even post directly to Facebook and Twitter. Just add your account details, say “post to Facebook”, and a small box immediately pops up ready for you to update your status.
Those additions are impressive, but they’re nothing next to the improvements Nuance has made to the accuracy and speed of the speech-recognition engine. After a mere five minutes of training, we found we were able to dictate large tranches of text with barely an error. In fact, this entire review was written using the software straight after training, with no tweaking. It’s all down to the extra data the company has been able to collect and analyse over the past year or so from Nuance’s free iPhone app, Dragon Dictate.
As with the previous version, editing and correcting errors is a little laborious, but features have been added to the basic package that improve overall usability. The Dragon Sidebar can now be resized, and there’s also specific support for more applications out of the box. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 now adds Internet Explorer 9, Windows Live Mail and Open Office to its roster of companions.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the price. The basic package will set you back £72 inc VAT, which doesn’t sound too bad – but this doesn’t include the iPhone remote microphone feature, and nor does it support transcription from an audio file. The Premium version, which includes those features, is a pricier £132.
That means Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 isn’t exactly what we’d call a casual purchase, but it does do its job expertly. It’s far more competent than Windows 7’s built-in speech-recognition engine, and it’s the best Dragon version to date. If you suffer from RSI, or can’t comfortably operate a keyboard for any reason, it’s well worth the money.
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