Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 isn't perfect, but it's the best dictation software available. We don't find this upgrade necessary for the most basic dictation, although new features may benefit heavily-accented English speakers and those who rely heavily on voice commands.


8.0
CNET Rating
9.5
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Who wants to risk or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome at a keyboard? People who suffer repetitive stress injuries, type slowly, or dictate long documents for work are among the best candidates for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, which types as you talk. While not perfect, it's the best consumer tool available for digital dictation and can save time and headaches for the right user.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking's maker, Nuance, estimates that built-in speech-to-text capabilities in Windows Vista are about five years behind those of this application. You could get by with such features in Windows for occasional use, but Dragon is deeper and more accurate.

Version 10 is supposed to be 20 per cent more accurate than its predecessor, both of which supposedly offer greater than 99 per cent accuracy. However, that won't likely translate to your personal experience. We found success with about four out of five spoken words. Should we blame our lisping, soft-spoken ways, the software, or the hardware?

The updates to Dragon 10 include support for people with accented English, as well as voice-command shortcuts for supported applications and Web searches. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is supposed to translate spoken words to text twice as quickly as version 9. We couldn't measure that, but did notice a speed improvement.

Set-up and interface
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 runs only on Windows XP or 2000 SP4 or higher or on Vista, so Mac users are out of luck. (ViaVoice for the Mac, which uses Nuance's technology, is no longer updated.) It requires 512MB of RAM and 1GB of free hard-drive space. You'll also need a noise-cancelling headset microphone, a 16-bit or equivalent sound card, and a DVD drive.

If you only need a tool to type as you talk and don't want to dictate commands to software or for Web searches, then opt for the $149.95 Standard edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Preferred, for $299.95, includes software voice commands as well as support for mobile devices. Preferred Mobile adds a digital voice recorder.

We tested the $999.95 Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional 10, which adds support for forms, networking capabilities for an office, and the choice of a standard or Bluetooth headset. We wish a USB headset were an option; you'll have to buy a dongle to hook up the mic-in headset to a USB slot. The $1,590 Legal edition also helps you dictate briefs and court documents.

Make sure to uninstall an earlier version of Dragon if you have one. And if you already have the latest version on a PC, don't overwrite it with a lesser-featured version that may be bundled with a new, supported digital voice recorder.

Installing Dragon 10 on two Windows XP machines took around 20 minutes without incident. Unfortunately, Windows Vista installation was a nightmare. It took more than 10 minutes to install Visual C++ 8.0 Runtime, only to find out it hadn't fully installed. Or had it? We were caught in a catch-22 of circular commands after rebooting more than a dozen times. The issue was related to a known bug in Windows Vista. We spent what amounted to more than two hours with a polite, bright tech support representative who offered a workaround.

Once it's running, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 adds a small feature bar that sits atop other open applications on your desktop. The well-organised pull-down menus haven't changed from the past. The text will "type" pretty much wherever a cursor appears, including word processing pages, Web form fields, and the included DragonPad.

Dragon performs a microphone check during set-up. When our volume was too low on the Windows Vista laptop, we couldn't use the software. Somehow reading our frustrated mind, it typed "I hate you I" when we said, "Type. Type!" Saying "crazy" got spelled out as "greasy". Then "greasy", spoken, translated to "leafy", then "greens fee", then "Greenstein". In fact, the included headset didn't deliver adequate voice quality to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking at all. We reverted to the same headset packaged with Dragon 9, with better results.

Training is optional, but we recommend stepping through its paces to get Dragon up to speed with your speech patterns. The software can also scan the documents and emails on your computer to look for commonly used words.

Features
New to this update is support for accents which include, oddly enough, Teen English alongside American, Australian, Southern Asian, British, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish accents. And there's improved QuickVoice formatting. For instance, now you can utter the command, "Underline The Grapes of Wrath" to underline the book's title, which took two steps with previous versions.

In addition, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 introduces Voice Shortcuts that enable you to look things up online quickly in your default browser. Tell Dragon to "search YouTube for Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech'", and relevant results appear on YouTube. The same applies for Wikipedia, eBay, and Amazon. Dragon 10 is also built to search within Windows Vista folders and in Google Desktop.

This application supports commands in Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, and AOL. Using Dragon with the Google Docs online word processor was trickier in our tests than with Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007. People with disabilities can mostly drop the mouse and the keyboard, asking Dragon to do the work for them. But if you have the choice, we still prefer manual controls to the tedious attempts at using Dragon to cut and paste chunks of text within a long document.

The more you use Dragon, correcting its errors and adding your own lingo to its vocabulary, the better it gets. It already recognises everything from "a cappella" to "smiley-face" to "ZZ Top". Abbreviations and tech slang work, too; speaking "dot ASP" spells ".ASP" and saying "smiley-face" will spell out this character: :-) Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 has the intelligence to detect words within context. For example, it knows to type "eating a carrot" instead of "eating a karat".

You don't need to speak like a robot into the mic, although enunciating helps. If you tend to mumble, then act as if you're reading a book to a child or a teleprompter for a newscast when using Dragon. Out of the box, the application does very well with long, polysyllabic words. But we've found it difficult for Dragon versions 8, 9, and 10 to distinguish between short words with similar vowel sounds, such as "a", "the", and "of".

You can plug in a variety of voice recorders for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 to transcribe your own voice. The application supports MP3, WAV, and WMA audio files. You can create a profile of your voice for a mobile recording device, such as a Pocket PC handheld. After you record your thoughts on the go, you can feed Dragon that sound file later for transcription.

Unfortunately, the Dragon 10 licence is only good for one user. To the woe of journalists and college students, Dragon won't transcribe your recording of, say, an interview subject or a college professor.

Support
Step-by-step set-up help and tutorials are excellent. We found the searchable online knowledge-base to be well organised. Peer support is also available online.



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BrettC2 Facebook
8
Rating
 

"How did I live without it!"

BrettC2 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to use, easy to install.

The Bad:Took a long time to setup - had to read scripts (boring!)

Got my software from a Voice Recognition shop in Canberra - works a treat.
I've had a bad back since a bus accident 10 years ago and being able to sit back in my chair and write my articles is great. You need to spend a bit of time setting it up though - took me about 1.5 hours before I was at a happy level of accuracy.

smith08
10
Rating
 

smith08 posted a review   

The Good:Great software. Easy to learn. Make sure you use a NC181USB microphone though.

The Bad:Bundled mic is garbage

I totally agree with you. Its great software. That being said the included microphone is low quality. But once I got the new NC181USB mic from voicerecognition.com.au my accuracy improved hugely.

Eltze
10
Rating
 

Eltze posted a review   

The Good:Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 10 is noticeably faster, improved accuracy, compatible with more applications and has many more very useful features.

The Bad:Not cheap, but well worth it.

I used Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 10, and I have no problems with it on either of my computers (Vista & XP). The accuracy and has improved noticeably. I am a quadriplegic! I have been using Dragon for 5 years now for university studies in IT. I have found the current version of Dragon to be a huge improvement on the previous versions. It more compatible with Microsoft Office PowerPoint, whereas the previous versions were not as user-friendly, speed using Microsoft Office Excel noticeably quicker with entering data, desktop search, Web search, e-mail contacts by voice commands work brilliantly. Unless you have used Dragon for a number of years or totally depend on it to operate a computer without the use of your hands at all (mouse & keyboard) you really cannot understand how important it is to have such a dependable, reliable and user-friendly piece of software that enables you to use a PC completely by voice command.

voicedude
10
Rating
 

voicedude posted a review   

The Good:very accurate and easy to set up

The Bad:You need an approved headset like the andrea NC181USB to make it work accurately

Dragon 10 is really very good. Its best to train it a bit and you need to use an approved USB mic. I got mine from the authorised http://www.voicerecognition.com.au/dragon_preferred.htm After 5 years of previous version this is the one to jump on to. Fantastic




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User Reviews / Comments  Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred

  • BrettC2

    BrettC2

    Rating8

    "Got my software from a Voice Recognition shop in Canberra - works a treat.
    I've had a bad back since a bus accident 10 years ago and being able to sit back in my chair and write my articles i..."

  • smith08

    smith08

    Rating10

    "I totally agree with you. Its great software. That being said the included microphone is low quality. But once I got the new NC181USB mic from voicerecognition.com.au my accuracy improved hugely."

  • Eltze

    Eltze

    Rating10

    "I used Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 10, and I have no problems with it on either of my computers (Vista & XP). The accuracy and has improved noticeably. I am a quadriplegic! I have been u..."

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