Dragon - Speech Recognition SoftwareBelieve it or not, I wrote this post in about 20 minutes — from draft to final edit — using my newly installed voice recognition software program, Dragon NaturallySpeaking Standard 9. I must admit, I’m extremely impressed with how fast, intuitive, and accurate it is.

Initially, I balked at the idea of purchasing it. I’d read many reviews over the years about the immaturity of speech recognition technology, and I was certain Dragon 9 was like those $19.99 appliances that you purchase at three o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep: seemingly crucial, but in the end, cheap and utterly useless. But I reasoned that after a decade and nine iterations perhaps Nuance, the company behind Dragon 9, finally had something of utility. And it does. The product actually delivers on its sales propaganda.

As soon as you complete the painless installation process, you’re able to start dictating without much training at all. I spent about 15 minutes reading from selected texts so that the assistant computer could learn my voice inflection, cadence, and speed. After it “learns” your propensities, you’re pretty much ready to go.

By merely speaking your mind into the Dragon 9 headset microphone (included in the box), the software’s able to capture your thoughts via both mono- and poly-syllabic words at a very low rate of error. I’ve thrown some of the largest words that I could think up at it, and more than 75% of the time, Dragon 9 hit them right on. Its library contains a massive dictionary of polysyllabic words as part its vocabulary to ensure dictation accuracy.

You can use Dragon 9 to dictate into wordprocessors, e-mails, and numerous other Windows-based programs. And can even use it to control your web browser. You can also add words, shortcuts, and various other methods to customize the program based upon your unique needs.

The average person types about 40 words per minute, but speaks 3 times faster. So unless you’re capable of typing 120 words per minute, this thing will definitely help to automate your writing and transcription tasks. This post, for example, would have taken me 40 minutes to type using my hunt and peck technique. With Dragon 9, I’ve done it in about 20 minutes talking quite deliberately.

On the downside, if you want to call it that, it does take some time to teach Dragon 9 your language and style. To expedite this, you can employ a built-in language learning processor that reviews documents you’ve created. The processor extracts your style and any new words that don’t currently reside in its dictionary. Customizing the program to meet your specialized needs, however, will take some input effort. It’ll be worth it in the end, though, as you sit in your comfy office chair or roam around your house articulating your brilliant thoughts.

It also takes some time to get used to dictating, but in a way, the oral and aural process helps you work your way through your syntax, themes, punctuation, and point with a newfound deliberateness. I’m certainly going to continue using the program to dictate my articles, work products, creative writing, and personal correspondence.

I give Dragon 9 from Nuance my full endorsement and recommend that you try the Standard Edition. If you discover that you need more advanced capabilities than the Standard Edition, you can always upgrade to other the Preferred or Professional versions. (See features comparison.) By employing this ingenious program, you will efficiently respond to your written missives with greater ease and eloquence than ever before.

Image credit: Nuance

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