Dragon software gives users more freedom

September 26th, 2006 Software, Tech, The West Australian

RRP: $749.95

Voice recognition is one of the great unsung technologies of our time. Few people realise how advanced it is, or we’d be at the stage now we often see in science fiction — of speaking to computers rather than clicking keyboards and mice.

And as more of our lives are shackled to the computer, it makes more sense to invest in voice recognition software now than it ever has.

Among the best known brands in the field, Dragon Naturally Speaking has delivered a quality solution for several years, and with an engine that responded surprisingly fast to a user’s voice, there seemed few improvements to make.

The mobile version 9 offers two outstanding new features. The first is a 21st century update — the traditional USB headphones and mike fixture can now be replaced with a Bluetooth-enbabled cordless model.

The second is that DSN9 unshackles you not just from the keyboard, but from the computer altogether — at least when it comes to compiling long, single documents.

The lynchpin of the Preferred Mobile version is the digital voice recorder that comes as part of the purchase price. Simply dictate your notes, letter, email or report into it, download it to your computer and DNS converts it to a Microsoft Word file in a few clicks.

As the transcribing part of the software recognises several formats, you can also download your recordings from several PDA and digital recorder models. Publisher Nuance claims it works natively with Palm Tungsten and PocketPC, but you’ll have to spend a bit of effort making sure your model is compatible — there doesn’t seem to be a definitive list anywhere.

Setting the program up is still an easy, half-hour process. Most of the action in the software takes place while you use it.

It’s very responsive and types almost as fast as you speak assuming your computer is in good shape with a decent processor and enough RAM. Moving around in a document is just as easy, and while there are a huge number of commands like ‘delete one word’, ‘backspace’ and ‘end of line, it takes less time to get used to them than you imagine as many of them are obvious.

Each work you speak trains DNS more to your voice, constantly building up the files in its engine and becoming more used to your voice and the words you use often. It makes noticeably fewer mistakes over the course of a mere few days of use.

Almost every Windows application together with the Windows OS itself is accessible, so you can use DNS9 to do almost everything you do with a mouse and keyboard. Transcribing text is only the beginning. There are commands to access all menu functions, switch between programs, navigate through the Start button menu, right click, click on links in a web browser and more.

The West found one application DNS9 didn’t work in, and there’s undoubtedly more. It has to do with the programming language that runs each program, but even though the transcribing software has limitations, Nuance has planned ahead and there are several ways around them problem. One is to simply speak your text into a word processor document and cut and paste it into the application DNS9 doesn’t recognise.

Just as simple is the Dictation feature. Speak a command and a box appears into which you dictate your text. Another command pastes it into any field, box or document regardless of the application even though it doesn’t directly speak to the DNS recognition engine.

With separate vocabularies for fields in medicine, law and science it has a broad scope and is likely to suit you no matter what your job. It also works over a network or Citrix thin-client set-up.

The standard edition is more than enough for a single user and after assessing the features of the Preferred version it might be enough for you to even in a business environment. Even being able to read out a long document instead of typing it is a huge time saver. Dragon Naturally Speaking does so much more besides, and does it well.

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