iListen full review

This revised version of iListen is a subtle improvement on previous incarnations and, most notably, there’s now Universal binary support for Intel or PowerPC-based Macs. It’s easy to install and configure, but you’ll need to tweak your System Preferences in the Universal Access pane for it to work properly. Much of the hard work follows on from here, where the software calibrates your voice readings to create a unique Profile. A new Profile is subsequently created for each additional speaker.

iListen allows you to work quite happily with most applications. For example, it can deliver sentences directly into a Word document and format text as you go. The boxed version we tested came with a Plantronics USB headset and microphone. The software works with other makes too, but MacSpeech offers technical support on certain models only.

A new feature is the capacity to transcribe audio from WAV and AIFF files. Similarly useful are ScriptPaks and iListen comes armed with a chunky selection of these voice commands for Safari, Mail, iLife and iChat.

The Learn My Writing Style feature is quite clever, whereby iListen duly tailors vocabulary to match your own Profile. Similarly impressive are the shortcuts and dictation Macros for everyday chores, like printing a document. Command mode, meanwhile, offers control over commands on your Mac: such as navigating around the desktop, or sifting through folders. The Spelling command, for adding words that iListen doesn’t recognise, proves invaluable too. A neat Dock Menu means that you can instantly access the main functions.

MacSpeech also provides video training discs, which are available as an additional purchase, which help point you in the right direction if you’re completely new to the technology.

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