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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.

However, it can cope only with a single speaker per file, and you need to create an audio profile for each speaker by recording at least a minute of speech and correcting any recognition errors by hand (making it less useful for meetings with other people).

I found recognition of recorded files significantly less accurate than the real-time recognition, even on the same device. However, Dragon can synchronize playing back the audio file as you edit your transcription in Word, which does make correcting less painful.

With this release, Dragon also promises to sync your voice profile and Auto-text shortcuts across multiple devices, so that if you use several computers, you should immediately get better recognition on the second machine you set up. In January, Nuance is also planning to release Dragon Anywhere, mobile voice recognition apps for iOS and Android that will share your voice profile and your custom phrases from the desktop software to get more accurate recognition on your phone.

Bottom line

This release of Dragon continues to improve the accuracy of the product and tweaks the interface to be less intrusive.

Its most interesting features are custom words and audio shortcuts (although the interface for these features is confusing), and synchronizing your voice profile and those custom shortcuts with the smartphone versions of the software, which are not yet available. Controlling Web apps is useful but doesn't work as consistently as does controlling desktop software.

I was particularly disappointed by the (small) number of occasions when I lost text whilst dictating. You will also need a reasonably powerful PC; I found the software would sometimes become unstable when system resources were low.

This version of Dragon shows that voice recognition software has become good enough to be really useful, although it still isn't completely reliable in every situation. Dictating text or controlling your computer with your voice can still be a little strange, even when it's very convenient. If you devote some time to creating your own shortcuts as custom commands rather than just using voice to control an operating system designed for keyboard and mouse, you can be very productive -- but Nuance needs to improve the interface for doing that, so that it's much clearer what you can do and how.

At a Glance

Dragon Professional Individual

Nuance

Price: $300 ($400 with Bluetooth headset)

Pros: Solid voice recognition; control desktop software, Windows Store apps and Web apps; add custom vocabulary and voice macros; sync your voice profile and custom words to other devices where you use Dragon

Cons: Recognition is accurate but not perfect; custom commands have a confusing interface with multiple names; controlling Dragon's own dialog boxes with voice commands didn't always work; on a number of occasions the dialog box lost recognized text; recognition can stop working if system resources are low

 

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