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My Experience: Dragon Naturally Speaking Software

By - 2008

I make a living writing, so the Dragon Naturally Speaking Software sounded like a great idea to me. I could give my fingers a break and just talk to my computer. I bought it, and after using Dragon for a while, I got the following question in my email:

I just bought your book You Can Make Money Writing, and I was wondering if you have tried a voice recognition program like Dragon? It might be easier to talk than to write a book.

This Dragon Naturally Speaking Software review consists of my reply to that email:

I write thousand of pages annually for books, e-books and websites, so I would love a voice recognition program that works as advertised. I doubt I will see one in my lifetime. I own Dragon, and I find it very useful for taking notes when I am doing research. I read a lot, and it takes time to go back and forth from a book to the keyboard. Dragon makes it possible to sit at the computer with a book open and speak my notes into a text file.

It makes too many errors to use for writing articles or books. I found that I would spend as much time as ever once I went through to correct all the Dragon-glitches, and then there are strange errors where I couldn't quite recall what it was supposed to say. You also have to get used to dictation-style speech (saying "period" and "new paragraph"). I am sure some will argue that it works better than that for them, but after hours of trying I see no evidence that I will ever be able to use it to write without significant editing to correct the errors the program will make. I am happy I bought it for taking notes anyhow.

In the future I may try just recording myself and paying for transcribing. For now, I just spend a lot of time at the keyboard, and at least it has paid me well.

just for kicks, I turned on, Dragon, starting with this paragraph. So you can see how many errors there will be. It seems for some reason at the moment is supposed to be in the mode, which automatically inserts commas and periods of can never quite get it right. Obviously, my experiences that I never get even one complete paragraph without an error. And as you can see in that last sentence it even left out the word is after my experience, animated experiences rather than experience, in that sentence animated was certainly not the word I used I believe I said, "and it made it experiences." Earlier in the paragraph, the word obviously was supposed to be part of the previous sentence, not part of the sentence that Dragon included in. So you can see that even after having used this for hours. I still can't get it to a complete paragraph without numerous errors that I have to later correct. Although apart from the. Were the, should be in that last sentence did a pretty good job at the end here.

My actual spoken version:

Just for kicks I turned on Dragon, starting with this paragraph, so you can see how many errors there will be. It seems for some reason that at the moment it is supposed to be in the mode which automatically inserts commas and periods, but it can never quite get it right obviously. My experience is that I never get even one complete paragraph without an error. And as you can see in that last sentence it even left out the word is after "my experience," and it made it "experiences" rather than "experience," In that sentence "animated" was certainly not the word I used. I believe I said, "and it made it 'experiences'." Earlier in the paragraph, the word "obviously" was supposed to be part of the previous sentence, not part of the sentence that Dragon included it in. So you can see that even after having used this for hours, I still can't get it to do a complete paragraph without numerous errors that I have to later correct, although apart from the period where the comma should be in that last sentence, it did a pretty good job at the end here.

I counted 25 errors made by the software in the paragraph above. Now, people might argue about what constitutes an individual error (is the use of a period instead of a comma, followed by a word capitalized unnecessarily because of that period, one error or two?), but even if we call it ten errors it is too many for articles or books that I write. Having tried another voice recognition product years ago, I can tell you that this is a huge improvement - but that just suggests that the whole idea isn't too practical yet. Some get better results I am sure, and I probably don't use my Dragon software perfectly, but then it does use "naturally speaking" in it's name, so how much training of my speech should I need?

Do I recommend Dragon Naturally Speaking? Maybe - if you like playing with new technologies or you want to take notes fast and errors aren't important.

2011 update: Years ago it seemed like this program would work well for taking quick notes, and I only recognized what I was saying in the Dragon transcription because it was fresh enough in my mind then to figure it out despite the errors. Recently I pulled out some old notes I had taken using the software, and found that I often had no idea what I was saying. I had to throw away a ton of work (notes for articles from various sources).



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