Nuance Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 review

With voice-control technology becoming ever more present in our devices, the idea of talking to our computers now seems perfectly natural. While companies like Apple, Google and Samsung all have their own versions of aurally aware digital assistants, Nuance has been the leading light in voice-recognition technology since the 1990s. Dragon Dictate 4 is the latest iteration of its successful voice control software, and includes some useful new features.

If you’ve never experienced Dragon Dictate before, then you may be surprised at just how accurate it is. You can create profiles and then train the software to understand your voice and use of language.

To begin with this only takes about 10 minutes, as the programme guides you through an interactive tutorial where you read aloud a preset text. Once this is completed you can begin to compose emails, letters, or even articles such as this.

As you continue to use the program you can correct any errors that it makes, ensuring that it will start to learn more about your speech style, and thus improve the results. There’s also the ability to add new words to Dragon’s vocabulary, such as names or particular terms you regularly use, which it will then recognize when you say them in future documents.

See also: Mavericks dictation versus Dragon Dictate

The software works well with a range of headset microphones, and we were successful simply using our webcam’s mic in a room next to a noisy road. There are also free apps available for both iOS and Android devices which turns the handsets into remote control wireless microphones for use with this desktop application.

One of the biggest innovations for this version is the Transcription mode. As the name suggests, this allows you to play pre-recorded files which Dragon then turns into text. In theory this is incredibly useful, as it can take the laborious trudge out of transcribing lectures, meetings, or interviews.

Transcription mode lets you convert recorded voices to text, with mixed results

In practice though it’s still limited in its functionality. Audio sources need to be single person speaking, perhaps understandable due to the complexity of deciphering multiple voices. The outputted text doesn’t contain any punctuation, as the software requires vocal cues to insert them.

For the most part though, the feature did a decent job of taking the heavy lifting out of the process. Like most automated services, you need to go through yourself and manually edit afterwards as there will inevitably be some mistakes. But the five-minute file with which we tested it returned around 80% accuracy, which is certainly respectable.

There are also plug-ins available for Safari and Firefox, which offer control over browsing, navigation and Google Gmail. Although some of these were useful we did find the execution a little random at times, and it definitely pays to spend the time to learn to correct wording of commands.

Nuance has added greater control over Gmail, so users can compose emails and edit them in an easy fashion. Of course you can also do this in Mail, which retains its voice control capabilities, as do many of the in-built OS X apps.

Pages 4.3 is said to be fully compatible, with new voice controls giving even greater control over all areas of the program. But due to changes in the way newer versions of Pages use AppleScript, the latest iteration, 5.1, has reduced control options.

This review was written using Google Docs and a standard Logitech webcam, with very few issues at all.

OUR VERDICT

Although the Mac comes complete with voice-command software embedded in OS X, Nuance Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 is a far more mature product. The speech recognition is excellent, making it usable on a daily basis, and the addition of the transcription feature could prove invaluable to students and those that need to write up speeches or presentations on a regular basis. There is an air of polish rather than progress in this upgrade, but that’s no bad thing, and Dragon Dictate remains the best in its class.

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