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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 addition, he wrote, "Microsoft Word 2011, Microsoft Word 2016 and TextEdit allow you to mix talking and typing because those applications allow Dragon to see what you're doing [with the mouse and keyboard to change cursor position] so we can keep track of where things are on screen. Other applications don't tell Dragon about changes you make by hand and it can seem like Dragon is confused as to where the cursor is." Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail are among the "other applications" that don't communicate back to Dragon about cursor location.

The issue is made more complicated by email threads with long trails of quoted text. These emails can quickly become so long that speech recognition has trouble with the sheer size of them. Dragon doesn't need to remember all that quoted text, either. What if it could ignore quoted text? What if it could ignore text, say, below the point of the cursor position when the Cache Document command is spoken? I bet that if engineers from Microsoft, Apple and Nuance put their heads together they could sort this out. (Granted, that could be a big "if.")

How to get through a rough installation

Up top I said I would come back to what happened the first time I installed Dragon for Mac 5 and the steps I developed to foster a reliable, fast Dragon 5 installation.

Dragon has a reputation for not making it through upgrades very well on the Mac. The problem is compounded by the fact that people put a lot of time into building and customizing their Dragon user profiles. Frequently, it's those old user profiles that put the upgrade at risk. But because those cozy old profiles worked so well in the previous version of Dragon, people are loath to part with them when they upgrade to a major new release like Dragon 5.

Performing a clean install is definitely the right approach. I proved that to myself with my first installation attempt.

You see, I tried to take a shortcut. I went with the upgrade installation of Dragon Dictate 4 with the twist that I removed my DD4 profile in advance, creating a fresh user profile in Dragon 5. But the software debris left over from the Dragon Dictate 4 installation was more troublesome than I expected.

After that initial install, I faced a program that couldn't have much more wrong with it: heavily degraded dictation accuracy, frequent crashes, spontaneous and seemingly random cursor movements, unexpected eruptions of garbage text at the point of the cursor, cache forgetfulness even in Microsoft Word 2016, and the commands Cache Document and Purge Cache appeared to be utterly ineffective. Collectively, these and other lesser problems made the product totally unusable.


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