Dragon Dictate 2.5, the latest version of Nuance’s speech recognition software for Macs – available as a free upgrade for existing users of version 2.0 – is designed to add several new features, the most significant of which is the ability to mix and match voice and mouse and keyboard commands when using Microsoft Word.
At a stroke, this removes one of the biggest impediments to lots of people adopting a product like this – that speech recognition on the whole is very good, but using your voice to navigate documents, make corrections, open and close files and so on, isn’t.
Dragon Dictate comes with a mic/headset combo and USB adapter. It’s very easy to set up and voice training takes around five minutes; after that you’re good to go – and although there’s the occasional hiccup, the success rate for dictation is very high.
Switching between Dictation and Command modes allows you to open and close programs and then find your way around documents using (reasonably) straightforward commands like ‘go to beginning’ and ‘new line’. After that you can dictate at normal, conversational speed and the program keeps up just fine.
Working with Word
As we said in our introduction, one of our main frustrations with earlier versions Dragon Dictate was the relative clunkiness of the Command mode, but with 2.5, it’s now possible for Word 2011 users to dictate text as fast as they like and tidy it up using the mouse and keyboard at the same time.
This is a huge step forward and will help all manner of users who like the idea of getting their thoughts down on paper quickly by speaking into a microphone, but who don’t necessarily fancy sitting there saying ‘File, Save’, ‘File New’ and so on.
That said, if you are comfortable using your voice to navigate as well as dictate then the new version also includes a selection of new commands for carrying out common tasks like inserting pictures, text boxes and hyperlinks, creating tables and formatting text, including specifying font sizes.
A bit like walking and chewing gum, dictating text whilst navigating using the mouse and keyboard takes a little getting used to, but once mastered, it’s surprisingly elegant and very quick to use.
Version 2.5 also allows you to highlight text and then say ‘Post that to Twitter’ or ‘Post that to Facebook’, and offers greater control over everyday things like dates, times, addresses, numbers, units, abbreviations and so on. Add these commands to an already rich set of navigational tools and it’s possible for a determined user to – almost – kiss the keyboard goodbye.
The latest version of Dragon Dictate also supports a new free iPhone app that allows youto use your phone as a mic, rather than having to wear the supplied headset (which is comfortable enough, but feels cheaper than the one shipped with earlier versions, which also had two earpieces for a start). Still, we like the idea of being able to use our iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad as a wireless microphone.
Upgrading to version 2.5 was not without its problems, though. Initially many of the fancy new Word-related features refused to work – indeed we couldn’t even get Word to recognise ordinary dictation. The culprit turned out to be a missing file (our version of Word 2011 is a minimum install); specifically, the Visual Basic for applications framework.
Once we’d added this to the relevant folder, things were quickly back on track. It is however, the kind of error that’s tricky to track down, and Nuance needs to flag up the solution either on its website or in a README file – or, better still, find a permanent solution to the problem.
That hiccup for existing users aside, this upgrade is recommended – especially if you use Microsoft Word a lot; Dragon Dictate’s core features are as impressive as ever and the new-found ability to control Word using a combination of speech, mouse and keyboard is very compelling. And, for existing users of version 2.0, free.
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Contact: Nuance on 0207 965 2000
- Controls Word with a combination of voice, mouse and keyboard.
- Requires a specific supporting Word file to be present that isn't necessarily required to run Word.
The latest version of Dragon Dictate for Mac takes remarkably accurate voice recognition and adds the ability to mix and match voice, mouse and keyboard commands with everyone's favourite word processor - Microsoft Word. Add new in-app and navigational commands (for example, "Post that to Twitter") and you've got a valuable free upgrade for existing users of version 2.0 - and a compelling reason for first-timers to buy.