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Review: Nuance Dragon for Windows offers strong voice recognition

Mary Branscombe | Jan. 6, 2016
The latest version of the pricey but powerful voice recognition software for Windows continues to improve.

But far too often, the same process didn't work with OneNote. Clicking the Transfer button in the Dictation Box dialog with the mouse correctly transferred the text into my OneNote document every time. But saying "Click Transfer" to do the same thing -- without going back to using mouse and keyboard to control the PC -- would often lose the text I had dictated. On one occasion I found the text in a different OneNote window that was open in the background, but other times it vanished completely. Having a voice command not only fail, but fail and delete dictated text, is less than impressive.

As mentioned before, Dragon works with most common browsers (but not Edge); you'll be prompted to install the Dragon extensions for Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer the first time you open the browser after installing Dragon. (I was surprised when Dragon repeatedly mis-recognized Bing as "being.")

While you can open a browser and navigate the interface with voice commands, you can also tell Dragon directly to search the Web for specific keywords. You can also use spoken searches for news, maps, photos, video or even specific sites such as eBay, MSN, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. That opens a dialog box where you can check that it recognized the key words correctly (to avoid potentially embarrassing results), but again I found that I sometimes had to manually click using the mouse rather than say "Select" in the dialog box to get the search going.

You can also control Web apps like WordPress or Facebook Messenger -- although I had variable success with these. Outlook.com was particularly difficult to drive with voice commands; I could dictate an email message, including the subject, and select the recipient from the address book, but no matter how many times I said "New" on the Outlook home screen I couldn't actually create a new email with voice commands. I could sometimes delete email messages, but other times -- as with trying to create a new email -- Dragon would show numbers overlaid on the Web page corresponding to possible commands, but no matter how many times I spoke the number corresponding to the Delete command, I couldn't get Dragon to actually send the command.

Controlling the Outlook desktop app was considerably more successful; I was able to reply to messages and even accept meeting requests using voice commands, although I could not switch to different folders. I was also able to navigate around Windows, including opening the Start menu and choosing applications to launch, although oddly the Start menu sometimes remained open even after the application launched.

Controlling Excel or Word with voice commands worked well when using the Ribbon (I could easily insert smart art or a chart -- in fact, I occasionally did it by accident), and there are handy voice shortcuts to insert the total of a group of numbers into a table or file a message in a folder. Confusingly, though, you need to use a completely different voice command to trigger the File menu ("open File tab" rather than "open Layout") using speech in the Office applications.

 

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