The boxed review set I received from Nuance came with DVD installation media, a Quick Reference Card and a wired microphone with single-sided ear cup. Dragon requires 3.2GB of storage space for the English version. As using the laptop's built-in microphone with Dragon was explicitly discouraged, so I used the bundled USB-based microphone for all the tasks in this review.
Installation was a relatively straightforward affair that entails popping in the DVD disc, keying in the serial number and letting the installation run its course. Once installation is completed, Dragon creates a user profile for you. This entails some reading exercises that allow the voice-recognition software to better adapt to your speech. More importantly, the user profile will allow the application to associate words unique to you, such as nicknames, jargons and capitalized phrases. Users who have used Dragon 10 or 11 will see an option to have their user profiles upgraded.
Configuration isn't a task that should be rushed or skipped. I spent slightly more than 10 minutes completing some reading passages, after which Dragon took a few more minutes to process the captured recording.
Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Professional
Instead of trying to identify each spoken word in isolation, Dragon improves accuracy by listening one sentence at a time in order to better guess the context of the spoken words. This may be somewhat disorientating to first-time users, though it does provide dramatically better results.
Some mistranslations do appear, such as the numeral "12" appearing as "trial." (It may be better to read it out as "one" and "two.") Overall, I found the speech recognition to be very good, with common mistranslations avoidable with some experience.
I was more interested in testing Dragon's Windows-level integration, which offers the promise of great productivity. On that front, I found it possible to get the hang of common commands relatively quickly.
For example, the "Switch to" and "Start" commands will switch to the appropriate running application and launch the specified application within the Start Menu, respectively; examples include "Switch to Excel" or "Start Word."
Commands are generally intuitive and include "Show Desktop," "Maximize Window," "Minimize Window" and "Close Window." Standard dialog boxes are also easily navigated with "Click OK" or "Click Cancel" commands.
On the other hand, the sheer number of commands to remember can make mastering Dragon nontrivial. That's why the Quick Reference card, which highlights common sample commands for working with Dragon, is especially useful. Another handy tool is the "Dragon Sidebar," which includes a comprehensive list of usable commands that can be referenced on screen.
Finally, there are tasks where using Dragon is actually slower or not usable. For example, while it is possible to use voice to move the mouse around the screen with the "Mouse Grid" command, it's probably much faster for able-bodied users to use a physical mouse. In addition, multi-monitor users will find it challenging to reposition their windows over more than one monitor.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.