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Dragon for Mac 5: Despite bugs, an upgrade worth making

Scot Finnie | Nov. 17, 2015
The state-of-the-art speech-recognition product for the Mac improves markedly, but there are also gaping holes where it needs improvement.

In fact, most of the functions are identical or similar to those of Dragon Dictate 4. It looks very different from that previous version, but feature for feature, it's functionally very similar. In use, it's a tad reminiscent of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows. I think it's smart for Nuance to nudge the Windows and Mac versions closer together.

One of the more significant changes to Dragon is that the product launches automatically when OS X launches, like a daemon) or service -- and it works well that way. I have no problem with the Dragon-as-OS-service paradigm. It's certainly convenient and reliable, though it didn't entice me to remove the Dragon icon from the Dock. (Sometimes I want to exit Dragon and re-launch it without restarting the Mac. If Nuance added a Restart Dragon menu item, I might be able to part with the Dock icon.)

Despite the apparent user interface differences, the most the important changes are under the hood, including an update to the speech-recognition engine. Dragon for Mac 5 is also pleasantly, noticeably fast. Commands are carried out effortlessly. The performance improvement goes a long way toward brightening your outlook toward the application. Its accuracy rate is appreciably improved out of the box.

On the other hand, the new corrections facility is great when it works but it doesn't operate reliably. The main way to improve accuracy in Dragon is by training it with your corrections. So if they can fix corrections, Dragon 5 could become even more accurate.

The trouble with Dragon 5 corrections

There are a lot of good things about Dragon for Mac 5. However, the new way it handles the implementation of corrections is not one of them. It's not the concept or design that is errant. It's just plagued by bugs. I consistently encounter the same set of functional errors, making it difficult to reliably make a correction.

Corrections are supposed to work like this: You're dictating along and you get a word that takes the wrong form, is misspelled or wasn't the word you were looking for. To remedy the problem, you tell Dragon "Correct that" or "Correct xyz" (naming the incorrect word or phrase). Dragon pops up a numbered list of suggested corrections. If the correct word is on the list, you issue the command "choose #" (# representing the corresponding number). Dragon then replaces the incorrect word or words with those you chose from the suggested list. Positive outcome.

That worked pretty well in Dragon Dictate 4 and earlier releases. Here are the issues I've run into with the correction process in Dragon for Mac 5:

Problem 1. Dragon has trouble displaying its suggested corrections. They appear in a new box called the Status Window. The window is supposed to expand automatically to accommodate the number of suggestions Dragon offers, but it frequently does not expand large enough (or expand at all), leaving several suggestions obscured from view.


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