March 17, 2008

Talking > Typing: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9

Chances are
  • you talk faster than you type
  • you talk better than you spell
So you type too little and make too many mistakes. Unless you're using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 from Nuance, which I used to create this post (and mentioned in Gift Ideas For Your Business).

Speech recognition works extremely well for
  • summarizing client meetings and phone calls for Client Relationship Management (CRM)
  • creating drafts
  • transcribing numbers
  • reducing injuries from keyboard and mouse usage
You like the benefits but you're skeptical about accuracy, right? In this paragraph, I am dictating without making any corrections. I am speaking at a normal pace, pausing only to compose my thoughts (which sometimes takes a while ...). Now I can't think of anything to say. You scream ice cream we all scream for ice cream. Not perfect. The sentence is at least plausible.

So if you are expecting 100% accuracy, you will be disappointed. If, however, you are comfortable with proofreading you can dictate at a quick pace and then make corrections. I find it is most effective to dictate a section and then correct it, rather than drafting the entire document first. It's also helpful if you use your keyboard and mouse where appropriate. For example, to go back to the third line of the preceding paragraph. That's just common sense, but in the beginning there is a tendency to try to do everything with your voice. Go ahead but you'll find your productivity drops.

You improve the accuracy by correcting spelling mistakes with Dragon NaturallySpeaking since it learns from your mistakes. If you make corrections with your keyboard, you lose this advantage.

Dictation does not slow your computer down provided you have a reasonably fast computer with lots of memory. I am currently speaking as fast as I can without losing my train of thought. Even so, there been no mistakes created in this paragraph. But I'm out of breath.

Numbers: The "Free Prize"
Do you receive printouts with numbers you want to put into a spreadsheet? You look at the piece of paper, memorize the number, turn to your computer, look down at the keys as you type the number, look up at the screen to see what you typed and then compare it against the original number. How enjoyable ;)

That is much faster and more accurate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Here are examples:
  • 87,253,163 (spoken as "87 million two hundred fifty-three thousand one hundred and sixty-three" and commas inserted automatically)
  • 1-877-337-3711 (spoken as "one eight seven seven three three seven thirty-seven eleven" and converted to a phone number)
  • M9A 1Y7 (spoken as "postal code M9A 1Y7")
  • $87.12 ( spoken as "eighty-seven dollars and twelve cents")
This shows that you can speak naturally, and get the results you expect.

Not convinced? Here are other reviews
  • Like Having A Secretary In Your PC (New York Times)
    I opened a random page in a book and read a 1,000-word passage -- without doing any training. The software got 11 words wrong, which means it got 98.9 percent of the passage correct. Some of those errors were forgivable, like when it heard ''typology'' instead of ''topology.'' ... I trained the software by reading its ''Alice in Wonderland'' excerpt. This time, when I read the same 1,000 words from my book, only six errors popped up. That's 99.4 percent correct.

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (Globe and Mail)
    In many ways, Dragon is brilliantly constructed. It is intelligent about using context to determine word choice and punctuation. I didn't have to say "voice hyphen activated" for the opening paragraph; it just knew a hyphen was required. Complain that "Two plus two is too much to add," and Dragon nails all three spellings of the "too" sound.

  • Computing By Mouth (ars technica)
    I'm a reasonably decent touch typist, but still managed to generate twice as many errors by keyboard as by dictation. And despite its higher accuracy, the dictated version took only half the time.

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 9 (cnet )
    Dragon types faster than most fingers can, at up to 160 words per minute. During dictation, we were delighted with Dragon's performance with multisyllabic words. In a flash, it even spelled "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Dragon would probably perform better than most high schoolers in a spelling bee, except that it can confuse homophones. Dragon's intelligence often helps it to determine the context in which you are speaking, so that it won't type, say, "I like to eat chocolate, and I scream," when you mentioned "ice cream."
What You Need
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred ($200) or Professional ($900)
  • A powerful computer (or patience)
  • A high quality headset certified for voice recognition, ideally USB or Bluetooth. The boxed packages come with an entry-level headset. I upgraded to a wireless VXI BlueParrott TalkPro B150 GTX ($175 at
Results will vary. If you have trouble with speech recognition, the problem is likely your equipment, the way you use it (keep the microphone in the same spot every time) or the way you speak (give context with phrases and sentences instead of saying one ... word ... at ... a ... time).

If you want more information, feel free to ask.

1 comment:

  1. I upgraded to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred. It seems to work better.