NaturallySpeaking on PC; worth a try?
September 19, 2019 11:38 AM   Subscribe

After years of working on a keyboard I have a chronic shoulder problem and also wrist problems. Dragon no longer supports the Mac OS. Am considering getting a cheap PC laptop strictly for web research and dictation. Do you use NaturallySpeaking? Are you happy with it?

I am a professional business writer and editor. I also get very twitchy and unhappy when I need to do things in a new way. But my body is being broken down by physical typing. I have done lots of ergonomic interventions but my shoulder problem is not improving.

Did you make the translation to speech recognition for writing, editing, email, and/or other tasks? Are you happy or unhappy with the result? What might I expect? How long of a learning curve/adaptation process might be involved? Any tips for making the transition easier? Please share your experiences.

(Note: I have used PCs before. I have even used Dragon before but it was many years ago, and I did not have the patience to learn the shortcut commands that would have improved my work process significantly. I was less injured then; I feel pretty motivated these days courtesy of many visits to my physical therapist.)
posted by Bella Donna to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What model Macintosh do you have? The Mac currently has pretty good support for text-to-speech. In addition, the next version of MacOS will have new accessibility features designed for people who don't have use of their hands. This will include a new system for speech driven text editing and speech driven access to most of the graphic user interface. I don't have time to dig up a link at the moment -- I will check back later -- but the demonstration was impressive and the comments I've heard from people in the a11y community (accessibility) have been positive.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks, Winnie. I will stop thread-sitting after this but should have noted that my Mac is about to die and I just cannot afford to replace it when it does, which is why I am asking about the PC/Dragon combo for now. Would still love to see that link at your convenience.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:06 PM on September 19, 2019

I haven't used Dragon in a long time, but note that Google Docs has a dictation function that works pretty well. I don't use it for work, but I have a personal writing/editing project for which the dictation function has been very helpful.
posted by odin53 at 12:48 PM on September 19, 2019

As a side note, Google Docs features speech-to-text, and my impression is that it's been fairly well-trained as a result of Google Voice, Android, etc. Worth checking out, at least.
posted by WCityMike at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2019

We have tried and tried and tried to get that platform working on a PC for my father and failed. For YEARS. We even call it "the software that must not be named." Your mileage may vary.
posted by nkknkk at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2019

Yes and yes. Dragon Professional Individual v14. I had similar symptoms when I first started using it 20+ years ago. It was clunky then, much faster and more accurate now of course. I have never had any issues with it working on various PCs at home and on the network at work.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:42 PM on September 19, 2019

Tips? Nothing more than the documentation states really. Do the training suggested (10 mins?), speak clearly and consistently, in as complete and lengthy phrases and sentences as possible - don't dictate one word at a time. You can also use a recorder and to speech to text by downloading the files to the PC. Accept that if you have the flu, your accuracy will go down, I just train a new 'user' called Flu and that fixes that.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:49 PM on September 19, 2019

I used Dragon on a PC exclusively for all my computer needs a few years back when I was suffering from both a nerve problem and grad school. It is a tremendously powerful program with a very steep learning curve. Once you get over that it literally can do everything - never use a mouse again. Getting to that point is pretty frustrating though - you have to train it much more than you'd think. I imported my emails and papers so it could learn my writing patterns, I read the Mark Twain training module to it several times and the accuracy went way up. I gave it codenames for phrases and it would autofill long technical phrases when I gave it the codename (eg. I say "thingabob" and it writes "probability distribution of a binomial random blah blah blah"), a great timesaver. None of that is stuff a simple text to speech program can do. But if all you need is dictation, the time spent training Dragon up is probably not worth it.
posted by epanalepsis at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I will say also that using Dragon was totally worth it as part of a comprehensive strategy to heal my injury. (I also stopped riding a bike, tying shoelaces, knitting, wishing dishes by hand, etc - and so much physical therapy). I made a nearly full recovery and can use a mouse again. But Dragon was an essential part of my recovery plan.
posted by epanalepsis at 4:40 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a freelance translator, and while I don't use Dragon myself, I know a lot of my fellow translators do, and swear by it. I know one or two who use the built-in speech recognition in OSX, but most use Dragon as it's much more powerful.

If you do end up on Mac again, or if you keep your old Mac, there's always Bootcamp or Parallels as options for running Dragon.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:51 AM on September 20, 2019

Dragon has been really helpful to me dealing with RSI. I use it mostly as a mouse replacement rather than a keyboard replacement. It is easy to write with it though, although it is harder to make edits. I'd recommend checking out the forums at KnowBrainer. You can write macros for it with VBA-style coding, although that is more complicated. Once you do though, you can automate a lot of things.
posted by catquas at 11:55 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

This technology stack may be more than you need, but it's been vetted by a top voice recognition expert and should give a very high level of voice control on a PC and multiple programs.

Dragon Individual 15:

VoiceComputer Lite for InTags overlay (note, this feature may be built into KnowBrainer at some point in the near-ish future):

KnowBrainer Verbal Basic command utility:


Fairly powerful PC with Windows 10 Pro, at least 32 GB DDR4 RAM and SSD (in 2019)
Microphone -- critically important piece, use this one specifically:
Large, high resolution monitor

Some excellent forums:
VoiceComputer forum:

Apologies for the lack of formatted links. Pasting in what I have at hand since I was hoping to make a FPP about voice-controlled computing at some point.
posted by vers at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older University of Waterloo or McGill for MA in...   |   Can I plug a USB hub into a USB 3.0 port? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments