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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.

Even when I issued the command "Correct version 2," Dragon could not select the phrase directly preceding the cursor. In the end, I had to resort to typing to solve this problem. And this happens a lot with specific words: "to," "two," "too" and "2" are frequent adversaries, but there are others.

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A feature in Dragon Professional Individual for Windows that Dragon for Mac lacks: In response to the command "Correct two," the software identifies numerous possible words to correct in the vicinity of the cursor. All you have to do is announce the number of the one you want to correct and then choose the appropriate correction from a list.

An additional (and undesirable) outcome of this collection of correction-related issues is that, because I'm not successfully executing corrections at anything approaching the rate I did with previous versions of Dragon, I'm also not training Dragon 5 efficiently. In Dragon Dictate 4, corrections-based training was one of the best ways to build accuracy.

One thing you can do in Dragon 5 is correct a word by dictating a word to replace it. That works pretty well most of the time, assuming that Dragon knows the word already.

Speech recognition's fatal flaw: Email

Nuance needs to find a way to fully support switching back and forth between typing and dictation in email products, such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail.

Dragon supports that activity in Microsoft Word and Apple's TextEdit -- but most business people spend several hours a day working in email and messaging applications. The Dragon for Mac user experience is trying in that scenario. Accuracy drops precipitously and there is the constant need to issue and reissue Purge Cache and Cache Document commands -- or worse, the Cache Selection command. These commands reintroduce forgetful Dragon to the words already on the page. It's like the application is blindfolded.

Speech-directed navigation within a document is also clumsy and painfully slow. As a result, you wind up dictating into Word or TextEdit and then copying and pasting into your email package. It's not elegant.

To be fair, I don't think this is all Nuance's fault. The applications must bring something important to this interplay too if dictating email is going to be a pleasant and fruitful user experience.

Jeff Leiman, senior engineering project manager at Nuance, posted in his company's public forums about a third-party application's role in creating a good dictating environment. "In OS X, applications can't step into each other's spaces; they have to communicate with each other. In newer versions of OS X, these rules have become more strict," he explains.


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