Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium
Just how useful Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium will be for you depends on how much you use it, and what form of copy you need to dictate
- Comes with microphone headset, transcription from digital recording devices and support for Bluetooth
- Improvements since the last version are minimal
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium is, quite simply, the best speech-recognition software there is, limited only by the nature of this type of program. It's unlikely to be a compelling upgrade for version 10 users, but if you require dictation and navigation by speech, look no further.
Price$ 249.95 (AUD)
Not a lot, which may be no bad thing. Nuance claims that the latest iteration is 'faster, better, simply smarter'. Although we remain impressed with NaturallySpeaking, version 11 is more of a point upgrade than a major step forward. Visible changes help you to use NS more effectively, particularly in terms of navigating your PC, but the underlying engine is improved only marginally.
We tested the $250 Premium version - the starter flavour lacks the Excel and PowerPoint support Premium users enjoy. Other extra features found in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium are transcription from digital recording devices, support for Bluetooth, and the ability to create custom commands.
Nuance claims that Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium is up to 99 percent accurate out of the box. In our tests this was a little ambitious - but only a little. Off the blocks we achieved around 96 percent accuracy. After completing the initial training, we were able to get around 97 percent.
The training requires you to read from a set text as the software gets used to your dulcet tones. With a little more work we settled at around 98 percent. In practice this is impressive and useful, and the more you use Dragon, the better it gets.
Just how useful Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium will be for you depends on how much you use it, and what form of copy you need to dictate. Taking notes and composing informal emails by voice requires very little revision and saves time, formal letters and essays are less suited.
Making corrections is not difficult, but takes a modicum of getting used to. As with any program there are specific commands, and in this instance you need to speak them aloud. In terms of corrections, if you're a good typer you may find that the traditional method remains the best.
No matter, just as Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium needs to learn to understand you, you need to get to grips with the way the software works: and this is where the update shines.
Nuance has tweaked the interface, adding in the all-new Dragon Sidebar, which sits next to open windows, anticipating commands according to what you are doing. Think of it as a verbal MS Office ribbon (and try not too think badly of it as a consequence).
This makes it easier to access important Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium features and options. Indeed, with built-in support for Microsoft Word, OpenOffice Writer, Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer and Firefox, using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium to navigate your Windows PC is a cinch.
Opening and using apps, addressing and sending emails, surfing the web... all can be done vocally, easily: although no more so than Windows 7's native voice-recognition capabilities.
You require a microphone headset, which Nuance thoughtfully provides. It connects via 3.5mm mic and headphone sockets, and is of more than decent quality.
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