Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium
Reviewed by Chris Gardner
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium is software from Nuance which will turn your personal computer into a personal assistant.
Once installed on a Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP computer Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium listens for your voice commands and, ghostlike, executes them. Spooky.
It's kind of like the Siri function on Apple's iPhone.
I installed it on a Microsoft Windows 8 machine and found Nuance's claim that it is 99 per cent accurate to be reliable, especially when dictating copy into Microsoft Word.
I still found I could type faster than I could dictate accurately, since you need to pause for thought every time you need to include punctuation.
The alternative is to dictate without punctuation and then spend time, on the keyboard afterwards, editing your work, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the costly software installed in the first place.
But if you're slow on the keyboard, or have some medical reason why you can't get to your keyboard, like occupational overuse syndrome or arthritis, then you'll fly with this product.
That said, it's not all hands free. First you need to install the software, and then you need to launch it and click the microphone icon for it to listen to your commands.
Training the software, by reading it a pre-set text, takes just a few minutes - an improvement on earlier versions which took hours to get ready.
If you want to do much more than dictate a Word document or an email, ie navigate to a web page, then you'll need to spend some time learning all the relevant voice commands.
Frankly, for me, it's quicker to reach for the mouse or use a keyboard shortcut.
Is it worth the $269 pricetag? If you can't use a computer without it most definitely, otherwise most probably.
Comparisons with Apple's Siri personal assistant are inevitable, but this is a much more effective piece of software where my Home Counties English accent is concerned. Siri hardly understands a word I say.
Now sure this sort of product is for you? Windows 7 has a rudimentary speech recognition application built in.
Open Speech Recognition by clicking the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, clicking Ease of Access, and then clicking Windows Speech Recognition.
Say "start listening" or click the microphone button to start the listening mode.