Unnaturally Speaking...
January 3, 2013 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Possible Dragon Naturally Speaking/Dictate purchase. I recently entered the world of OSX by buying my wife a Macbook Air. Specifically, I bought it so she could dictate some of her thoughts for a book. Now I'm thinking of buying the Dragon software, but have some questions...

Everything that I have read online thus far completely craps on the Dragon Dictate for OSX, yet trumpets the value of the PC version (Naturally Speaking). I haven't quite figured out why yet, other than the Naturally Speaking was from another company that Dragon bought because they were scared of the competition.

I'm trying to figure out a few things:

1. Why is the OSX version so bad? What are the problems? Online reviews don't seem to be very specific (as far as I've read). Will it work for someone who is doing simple dictation of "thoughts," not letters, formatting, etc.?

2. Is the latest version for OSX that much of a step up from the previous version?

3. Her Macbook Air is only 128GB. Is it worth it for me to learn about/install Parallels so I can run the PC version? She isn't all that computer-savvy in the first place, and I'm trying to avoid the unnecessary step of running Parallels/VMware/etc.

4. Will Dragon software transcribe from an audio file, or only "live?"

Thanks to those who are in the know.
posted by kuanes to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Mountain lion has voice dictation built in.
posted by empath at 3:49 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Caveat: I am aware that Mountain Lion has dictation built in, but it requires an internet connection, which we won't always have. I'd also like to have some more features, other than, *hit Fn twice*/talk/*Click Done*
posted by kuanes at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2013

Best answer: I used to work for Nuance, although not in the Dragon division, so I can give you some info.

ScanSoft bought the company Dragon and then bought the company Nuance and rebranded. Dragon originally only made a PC version. A few years ago, Nuance bought MacSpeech and renamed it Dragon. I think that at this point the Mac Dragon uses the same recognition engine as PC Dragon but does not have as much integration into the OS for doing non-dictation things (like various command and control type activities: starting programs, controlling the mouse, etc). Additionally, last I knew, the ability to correct dictation text by voice on the Mac was extremely limited.

I haven't used a modern version of Dragon for the Mac. I'm extremely impresse with Dragon for Windows. It's pretty amazing. As for whether you should get parallels and install Windows on your Mac, I think there are a number of limitations you'll face when trying to use Dragon for Windows that will make it quite frustrating.

You might try contacting this group for more information: http://www.bostonvoiceusers.org/
posted by reddot at 5:07 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Caveat: I use a PC.

Dragon will certainly transcribe from an audio file, just be careful that the recorder is of an adequate quality - Dragon places fairly high demands on recording equipment, and poor quality equipment will result in lots of transcription errors. If you were planning on using a phone, for example, you need to do some testing.

Your item 3 does not compute for me. Without checking, I would expect that the memory requirements for both PC and Mac would be similar. If you need more memory, can you run an external HDD? In any event, make sure you have as much on-board memory as you can, as that will speed things up no end.

Try some googling, I used to have some bookmarks but they have been lost in the mists of time. There are sites out there that will give you advice on microphone choice, recorders, and (I presume) the pros and cons of Mac versus PC.

FWIW, dictated with Dragon 11.5 pro.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:10 PM on January 3, 2013

Best answer: I depend on VR. Which is why I can't type out a lot more now (it is broken). But I know where you can go to ask.

The authoritative forum with users with years experience and even development engineers is at knowbrainer.com
posted by chinabound at 6:02 PM on January 3, 2013

Best answer: my mum uses Dragon on a mac, and is pretty happy with it, if you're collecting data points. She had to train it up to recognise her voice, and she would sometimes have to help it along, but it was easier to dictate to the computer than type the whole thing (a lengthy interview to transcribe) out.
posted by titanium_geek at 6:54 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I went through this decision several months ago for my dad who's on a Mac. Here's what I found out:

- Mountain Lion's dictation is pretty useless for voice transcription. It's limited to 30 seconds, it's not in real time, and you still have to interact with the keyboard both to start and stop the process. Here's a link describing the differences between Mountain Lion Dictation versus Dragon Dictate.

- Dragon on the Mac works pretty well. There's a real learning curve, and if you really want to get a lot out of it, you need to commit to understanding how it works. The manual is 213 pages of PDF, and my dad found that a bit intimidating. Here's a bit of text from it:
Dragon Dictate can send signals to an application. But Dragon Dictate can’t actually “see” what’s going on. It doesn’t know what the current document window looks like, or what you do there. Dragon Dictate knows only what it has done there. As it works with text, Dragon Dictate memorizes its own actions: the text it types, the navigation it performs. This memory is called the cache. The cache is how Dragon Dictate keeps track of what text is in the window and where the selection or insertion point is located within that text.
To answer your questions:

1. I read the bad reviews as well. All I can say is it has not been a problem in the way I saw described (e.g., doesn't crash or stop responding).

2. I haven't found anything particularly compelling in 10.8 but I think it only cost $20 for the upgrade.

3. I considered the Parallels / Boot Camp options for my dad and came to the conclusion that I'd only go that route if the Mac version didn't work out since it came with a 30 day refund option. Happy to say we didn't have to go that route. You're basically trading one set of problems for another and I think it would be a bit soul crushing to finally escape Windows and then run it virtually.

4. I haven't found anything in their manual which indicates they'll do anything but live transcription.
posted by funkiwan at 8:11 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A Windows 7 installation can easily use upwards of 30GB of drive space, which is a huge commitment on a 128GB Air. You might be able to get away with using CrossOver, but I agree that it'd just be trading one set of problems for another.
posted by neckro23 at 9:33 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're just dictating prose, I think Dragon for Mac should be ok. The only caveat is that I seem to recall it being hard to correct transcription errors by voice, especially when it didn't have my word in its dictionary.

You might want to give the voice recognition that's built into Windows Vista/7 (and presumably 8?) a try, if you still have a Windows box around.
posted by vasi at 11:33 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The bad reviews overstate the problems, IMHO. It works just fine about 90% of the time, and has really helped me with my writing (and with reducing wrist strain).
posted by ravioli at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2013

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