Fuss-free speech recognition
£139.99 Developer Nuance, nuance.com
Requires OS X 10.9 or higher, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or better
Dictation is built into OS X and iOS, so why would you want to buy a third-party app on top? If you spend at least a little time each day dictating, the convenience of having almost complete vocal control over your Mac – not just dictation – makes Dragon well worth the money. It’s not simply a transcription device; it can launch and close apps, move the pointer, and interact with OS X itself. Just about anything you can do with your hands on the keyboard and mouse can be done just as easily by sitting back in your chair and talking.
Dragon is like a text expander on steroids, which adapts as you use it, so the longer you work with it, the more accurate it will get. It can also insert standard blocks of text with a single command, much like managers of old signed off dictation to their secretary with “yours etc etc”.
Tradition dictates that if you’re reviewing voice recognition software you ought to use it to write the review, which is exactly what we did. We wrote our review using Dragon, then made amendments by issuing spoken commands to tell Dragon how to go back and make changes.
Upgrading from version 4 is painless: the training you have given the previous version is reworked, so your additions to the dictionary are migrated. The installation process warns that this could take up to 20 minutes, but on our Mac mini it took just six. It also claimed that it would make the dictation process more responsive, and our tests certainly bear that out, with very little delay between saying a word and it appearing on the screen.
The interface has been rethought too, with a new Dragon menu bar item keeping the app close at hand. There’s also a less garish dictation window, which keeps the most common functions in view and dynamically switches to correction mode when you verbally select a word or range of words. Not that you’ll need to do that very often: so far, we’ve only corrected one word
Dragon 5 is like a text expander on steroids – the longer you work with it, the more accurate it will get
in this document despite dictating at close to regular talking speed.
As well as dictating live, you can use it to transcribe voice files. An iOS and Android app is to be imminently released in the UK (it is already out in the US and Canada), which will let you work on the move. This will sync with the Mac edition upon payment of a subscription.
Dragon is flexible and very fast to work with, but there’s no denying that at £139.99 it’s expensive. At that price it’s not an impulse purchase, but once you get used to talking to your Mac you really won’t want to go back; typing feels slow and, in our experience, dictation helps us stay focussed on the job at hand, so that investment repays itself fairly quickly.
(If you’re wondering, the final tally of errors we corrected while writing this was just two.) Nik Rawlinson Forget about controlling your Mac with Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard – Dragon is Magic Mic.
Easy, swift upgrade
Smooth, fast recognition
Retooled and improved interface
Justifies the high price
The muted interface is an improvement. Its contents change to reflect your selection.
It’s easy to switch between user profiles using Dragon’s new menu bar item.