Ever wanted to talk to your computer and have it understand you? Well that isn’t actually possible but with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 you can talk to your computer and it will convert what you say to text. Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 is the best speech to text recognition software on the market; well at least that is what their website says. I had to test the program out to be sure it is as good as they claim.
Installation was simple enough, straight forward and fast. After installation the program which claims there is no voice training or script reading required to use Dragon Naturally Speaking 9, first tells you that without voice training it might not function properly. So they need to change their website to say that it’s not required but it is suggested. After about 15 minutes of voice training I was then prompted with a request for the program to scan all of my Microsoft Word documents. This is used to help the program learn how you speak and dictate, but since a lot of my documents are full of slang and often full of mistakes I decided to skip this process.
Finally after 30 minutes I was able to speak my first sentence to the computer and I was shocked how well Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 responded. It was fast and very efficient, getting every word right and not missing anything. I have to admit I was speaking very mechanically, when I spoke naturally to the program it had a little more difficulty getting the words right.
When I speak in my natural tone, speed, and style the program gets a little confused and can get a few words wrong. Nearly any change in your voice can throw the program off, and the biggest problem is the software has very complex algorithms so it can guess the word that would most likely be used, this can cause issues. Here is a simple example of what I mean by the program guesses the best word, say you dictate “I went to the grocery store” and the program didn’t understand the word store. Well the program runs through a huge list of algorithms in a database and checks for the best fit and comes back with store. This is good if the program does guess the right word but from time to time it gets words wrong. Well if the program gets one word wrong this can change the entire meaning of the sentence and then the program is more likely to make another mistake.
I ran a lot of tests to see if this was a problem and it is. Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 creates more errors about 75% of the time after it makes the initial error. Once Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 makes a mistake it often causes a domino effect and more errors follow. The good news is the more you use the program and the more corrections you make while using the program the better the program gets, it learns as you use it and can later avoid similar errors.
I was glad to see in this version they have added a punctuation feature that allows for punctuation without having to dictate it by saying “period” or “comma”. Other key features are the Nothing but Speech tool which takes out all of the “Ums” and “Ahs”. This is a handy tool to have so you don’t have to do much editing after your dictation.
Other handy tools that are really cool are the ability to control your mouse by voice, you can simply tell the mouse where you want it on the screen, by saying “mouse move upper left” and it will do what it is told. I also like that they added Edit text by voice, which allows you to select an incorrect word and fix it without ever having to touch the keyboard.
All of these tools are really awesome but I have to tell you that they take time to learn to use and Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 has to learn to use them as well. Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 is not perfect when you first use it; you have to teach it much like a child learning to talk.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 impressed me with how well it can learn as it is used more and more. I have been using the program for a little over a month and it has increased its accuracy about 75% since I first used the program. The more you use Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 the better it will work for you.
There are several versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 to choose from, there is standard ($99), Professional ($899), Medical ($1,199) and Legal ($1,199). I have only tested the Professional version but the Medial and Legal include special vocabulary editions that include medical and legal terminology. You can get more info on each version here.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 has its flaws but overall the program works pretty well and will has the ability to do what you want it to with a little practice.