As a long-time user of Dragon Dictate for Mac I eagerly await the regular upgrades. So, I was keen to give the recently-released version 4 a workout.
In my usual, unseemly haste to get started I failed to notice that I was offered the choice of creating a new voice profile (which I did) or of upgrading my current profile which Dragon has been patiently refining after every session over the last couple of years.
The new profile only took a couple of minutes and while it got a few things wrong I knew it would pick them up with a little more training. However, in the interests of science I decided I should upgrade my previous profile to compare the two. The upgrade took about 15 minutes but has turned out to be considerably more accurate than the new profile I had created. As I expected.
The first thing I noticed in V4 was the major increase in speed. The conversion to 64-bit technology certainly shows in rapid response time – the words appear on the screen almost instantaneously. Although hard to quantify at this stage, accuracy does seem to have improved significantly. I’m spending less time calling up alternatives from the Recognition Window options.
Initially, I used the new headset included with the software but the microphone arm was a little too short (or I have too much space between the ears!) to adjust to the recommended position, which is important for accuracy. Reverting to my original headset with a longer microphone arm improved accuracy quite dramatically, which confirms how critical microphone positioning actually is.
Because wearing a headset for a long period of time irritates me, I have never really used Dragon in Command Mode, in which I could use it to control virtually any function on my Mac. I just open a document in Pages or a new message in Mail, activate Dragon and chatter away until I’ve finished.
Even though I’m not really making full use of the software, the time it saves me from employing my minimal typing skills still makes it seriously worthwhile. I do have a relative with chronic fatigue syndrome and she uses the full range of commands. By letting Dragon do all the work she can now spend much longer periods at the Mac without a serious depletion of her energy levels.
Important lessons for newbies to learn and old hands to remind ourselves of:
- If you’re not going to use Dragon to control your Mac, still keep your hands to yourself. If you start mousing around, Dragon begins to get confused and starts playing up.
- You need to cultivate a more precise diction than normal conversational speech – the model of a TV or radio news presenter is recommended – and try to speak in complete sentences because Dragon needs context to make its vocabulary choices.
Transcription, which formerly required a separate program, is now included in Dictate 4. Transcription is not designed to recognise voices other than your own, but rather your voice in an environment different to that in which you created your voice profile. For example in a noisy office rather than in the quiet of your home.
You will need a recording of yourself in one of these alternate environments. A sixty-second sample is generally sufficient for Dragon to generate text which you can then amend, if necessary, to improve accuracy. I didn’t test this feature because I do most of my work from home in a relatively quiet environment. But say, for example, you’ve recorded some comments on a lecture you’ve just attended onto your iPhone. Transfer the file onto your Mac, create a transcription profile and then let Dragon do the typing for you.
However, if you do a lot of transcription of other people’s voices there is a workaround, of sorts. Open the audio file you want to transcribe and channel the audio through your headset headphones. Then, as the file plays use your own voice to dictate what you’re hearing into a word-processing document. I found this a bit awkward at first but I soon got used to it and it’s certainly quicker than typing.
If you’re new to this technology, then Dragon Dictate version 4, with its improved accuracy and speed is a great jumping-off point for you. If, like me, you’ve become totally dependent on hands-free typing you should find the speed and improved accuracy of the upgrade well worthwhile.
$199.95 for download or box set ( includes approved headset).
$99.95 for Student/Teacher edition.
$149.95 to upgrade V3 to V4.
Note: You’ll need OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.3) or OS X Mavericks (10.9)
PS. I’ve just downloaded Dictation, a free iOS app from the folk at Dragon, onto my iPad. Tap the Record button and start dictating. Tap the screen to stop and my words appear as if by magic. I rattled off a couple of paragraphs and it got them nearly 100%. I then copied and pasted into Pages for further editing. It all works beautifully. Impressive.