Dragon Dictate review

If you were impressed by MacSpeech’s basic capabilities (reviewed in January), you’ll be floored by Dragon Dictate. Building on the same style and functionality, the Dragon 11 speech engine powers this update.

As with MacSpeech, there’s initial profile registration and voice training. But included in the bundle is an ultra-lightweight Plantronics USB microphone headset, which is both fairly unobtrusive to wear and easy to operate – there’s a Bluetooth option available (for an extra cost).

NotePad text is easily copied from one place to another via voice command

NotePad is still the word processor of choice, but Nuance’s claim that Dragon learns better than any previous version of Dictate proved true and we soon found ourselves opening TextEdit and Word to paste text and commands, quickly moving notes and ideas from station to station. The new text-to-speech Proofread command was also interesting, as transcribed copy is read back to you.

The headset made for more accurate recognition of speech and commands, but it also picked up more background noise, which it then tried to translate. But being able to ask the program to open Safari and search for bookmarks and links, move the mouse to different locations on the desktop, or call up the Dashboard made up for any hiccups.

With further recognition refinement gained by uploading your own written work – to help the program learn the user’s unique vocabulary and creative style – Dragon Dictate felt like the shape of things to come, not just with the written word, but with day-to-day planning, research, communication and more. This could become an invaluable office assistant with potential to communicate with remotely connected devices. If only it could make tea.

OUR VERDICT

This is a big leap forward for Dictate, and a taste of a hands-free voice-recognition program that will control all aspects of the Mac. There are still some teething troubles in integrating commands and securing accurate responses, but it comes very close to realising the digital dictation dream.

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