Voice to Text Software: Dragon Naturally Speaking Review

by Annie on December 18, 2010 · 7 comments

in Blogging & Off Topics,Product Reviews

Dragon Naturally Speaking

This post is a review of the voice to text software called Dragon Naturally Speaking.

I’m sure that my regular readers notice a decrease in my blogging frequency in the last couple of months.  One of the symptoms that I developed early on from my pregnancy is mild carpal tunnel on my right wrist.  Since I make my living from my day job, it was easier (though less satisfying) to reduce the amount of typing I do by decreasing the posting frequency on this blog.

Recently I purchase a copy of the voice to text software called Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking before (it was probably version 4.0 or something like that) years ago.  I was not impressed with the voice to text software then.  A few people had positive mentions of the new version of Dragon Naturally Speaking in a forum that I frequented, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to take this new version for a test drive.  I didn’t want to lose the growth momentum on my site since Google upgraded my site to a PR4 because I couldn’t type from an aching wrist.

What is Dragon Naturally Speaking?

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice to text software.  Basically I talk into a microphone headset and the software converts my voice to text on whatever program I want.  For blogging, I usually use Microsoft Word.  The voice to text software works on WordPad, Notepad, or even on a web browser (anywhere you can write text).

When the software is loaded, it adds a menu bar to your desktop screen (in my case, the menu bar is on the top of my screen).  Once the microphone headset is activated, I can tell the software to “open Microsoft Word.” Once Microsoft Word is loaded, then I just start talking.

The voice to text software converts my speech to text on the screen.  I just need to remember to tell Dragon Naturally Speaking to add punctuation marks in my sentences such as “add comma” or “add period” after a pause in my sentence.  If I do not pause, the Dragon software assumes the “add comma” phase is part of the text for my sentence and will actually type those two words.

I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking Home edition. Though it is not have all the fancy bells and whistles of the other editions, it is sufficient for my needs (i.e. blogging) and it is also the cheapest edition.

How accurate is the voice to text software at voice recognition?

The packaging claims that the Dragon software is 90% accurate out of the box.  When I tried using the voice to text software out of the box, it was not as accurate as it claims to be (probably about 60%).  However, after two training sessions with the Dragon software, the accuracy rate went up to about 80%.  You “train” Dragon Naturally Speaking by reading text in training mode so that the software can learn to recognize your voice and speech patterns.

In addition, as I use the Dragon software more often (my last few posts are written using Dragon Naturally Speaking), the voice recognition accuracy rate improves.  After writing three 1000 word postings and four training sessions, the software is close to giving me a 90% accuracy rate.

Factors that probably contributed to my initial low accuracy rate with the Dragon software are:

English is my second language.

Thought I do not have a noticeable accent, there are a few words that I have difficulty pronouncing.  In this situation, I use the “spell” command and spell out the word.  After a few attempts at spelling the same word, Dragon “magically” learns to recognize that is how I pronounce that particular problem word. And from then on, I usually do not have problems with the word.

I talk too fast.

When I slow down my speech pattern and pronounce each word concisely, the voice to text software has no problems.  But when I talk too fast, which I tend to do when excited, Dragon has some difficulty with figuring out when one word ends and the next word begins.  You need to be able to talk in a calm and normal voice in order to improve your voice recognition accuracy.

I am using the cheap microphone headset included with the software.

From what I could find on the Internet, higher quality microphone headsets are better at distinguishing speech and background noises. If I really want to improve the voice recognition accuracy, I could spend a little bit more money to purchase a higher quality microphone headset. However, the included cheap microphone headset is sufficient for my needs and I don’t want to spend any more money.

Who should buy Dragon Naturally Speaking?

Obviously, if you are someone like me with some carpal tunnel symptoms, you would find this voice to text software helpful with your writing.  The Dragon software is also beneficial if you are generating a lot of writing (ie. writer, blogger, etc).  I notice that I “write” faster since using the software.

However, if you do not spend a lot of time writing, Dragon Naturally Speaking might be something nice to have, but not something that significantly improve your productivity.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

Ready to buy Dragon Naturally Speaking?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Britney January 8, 2011 at 5:02 am

Sometimes I use DNS also but since I sometimes share a computer with my boyfriend and his profile is configured, I’ll just start talking randomly while not bothering to look at the screen for the first couple of minutes while I’m fumbling through papers….only to look up and there is a complete mess of gibberish! LOL

But that’s a testament of how specific DNS is with respect to “learning” either male or female and accented voices for greater precision.

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asithi January 8, 2011 at 11:55 am

Britney – Good thing I do not share Dragon Naturally Speaking with my husband. It do have to worry about making sure my profile is loaded first before I start talking. Thanks for the comment.

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Dave March 11, 2011 at 7:01 am

I purchased dragon yesterday for my wife who works all day and types her notes all night. I thought if this could cut her time in half she could spend more of it with our family. I bought version 11 premium, but, havnt opened it yet because now i’m wondering how well it will work with medical terms. If there is a word it doesnt know, will it learn it? I have added a medical dictionary to her microsoft word, but I’m not sure if thast matters.

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asithi March 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm

@Dave – I have the home version and it seems to recognize most common medical terms and even brand name drugs. The version you got allow you to use the Dragon software on more applications than the one I have. You can also add your own words to the dictionary and the Dragon software will learn the new words.

Just make sure to use a good headset with the voice to text software. The cheap headset that came with the Dragon software makes you think the software is a piece a junk because it will have a hard time recognizing your voice even when you are in a quiet room by yourself. You will spend more time correcting the text using that cheap headset. I purchased the Plantronics Audio 655 headset based on the recommendation on a forum and it made a huge difference in the Dragon software’s accuracy.

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Manav Sharma September 22, 2011 at 1:53 am

why don’t the commenters leave their vaild emails so that they can be contacted later on?

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asithi September 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Manav – Maybe not every one wants to be contacted later on.

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