It was while first perusing the Tiger Direct website in October of 2010 that I became acquainted with the Dragon Naturally Speaking software by Nuance. It’s a voice recognition program that’s designed to help make everything from document creation to email to Facebook interaction easier. What drew my notice at the time was that the company was selling the Dragon Naturally Speaking program, complete with a set of headphones and a microphone, for $34.99. To sweeten the deal, there was a $30 rebate offered; this sent my mind into overdrive when I calculated that the headphones and microphone alone had to be worth at least $5 — I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. I am happy to report that after ordering the product, it was received in a timely manner, and after sending in the appropriate paperwork, I also got my rebate in the promised time period.

Once I received my copy of the software, I couldn’t wait to see how it would work on my computer. But before starting the install, I went to Nuance’s website to check for any available updates to the Dragon Naturally Speaking 10.0 software; I found that a newer version, 10.1, had been released (note: version 10.1 is actually the complete and full version of the software and not just a minor update). This brings up an important tip that I want to share with you. Before installing any software, always check the manufacturer’s website for any updates, patches, or fixes in order to avoid any of the ‘gotchas’ that you could otherwise experience when you install the latest and greatest software that the company has to offer.

Dragon Naturally SpeakingAfter Dragon Naturally Speaking completes its installation process, the software will then walk you through a few steps to correctly set up your microphone and volume for optimal performance. If it appears that you are having trouble getting your headphones or microphone to work, you may need to check and see that you have them both plugged into the correct connections. You can also test your microphone beforehand by using the built-in sound testing that comes with Windows 7 to confirm that your microphone is working correctly.

Next comes the fun part: You get to train the software. At this point, you may be getting excited about trying out your new software and find yourself tempted to skip the next part of the setup process. This would be a mistake since the whole purpose of the program — requiring you to read specific text — is to familiarize the software with your unique speech patterns. By completing this step, the software not only learns how you speak, but also how to convert your speech to text.

Given this setup information, you are now armed and ready to interact with the software. Before you do, let me offer you the following information that will enhance your overall experience:

  • If you think that Dragon Naturally speaking is going to work perfectly for you right out of the box, don’t even bother ordering the software.
  • The software needs to be trained, just like you would housebreak a new puppy. You need to be patient and keep on teaching the software to learn how you speak.
  • Do not speak like a robot in a monotone voice. Speak naturally and try not to mumble.
  • You will need to train yourself to include punctuation phrases, like period or comma where they are needed.
  • You need to experiment with and learn how to use the built-in tools effectively. I have set up a shortcut key [F-1] to turn the microphone on and off.
  • You need to be patient, patient, and patient again; eventually you will have the program working the way you desire.

Let me share an experience I had when I purchased the Dragon Naturally Speaking software program for our 12-year-old grandson, who was entering his first year of junior high school. I purchased this copy for his birthday in September 2011, thinking that it would be of tremendous help to him since I had seen him, in the past, attempt to keyboard his way through assignments. I know I was excited as we spent the time together installing it on his laptop computer (it uses the Windows XP OS with SP3). The installation went fine, but then it came time to train the software. At age 12, patience isn’t something our grandson is blessed with. So even though I had previously explained to him that he needed to be patient and practice using the software, he only lasted a mere 30 minutes. The next think I knew, he came into our living room playing with his iPod, not offering anything up about how the training session had gone. However, I didn’t even need to ask because I know that he is a part of the generation that expects instant gratification and if something doesn’t happen quickly — in the parlance of said generation — “forget it, dude.”

So with this in mind, I looked back on my own experiences and what I have learned about using the Dragon Naturally Speaking program. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that accuracy improves if you take the time to train the software properly. To give you another perspective, one reviewer on the Dragon Naturally Speaking website claimed that Dragon Naturally Speaking will deliver a 99% accuracy rate after being properly trained. I could not say with certainty that the accuracy rate is 99%, but like with any software, some days my results are near perfect and others less than perfect. The accuracy level seems to be dependent on the subject I am dealing with. If the subject matter involves a lot of technical jargon or geek speak where I use terms like gigabyte or Asus, I may have to check the spelling. On the other hand, the program has no problem with words like Microsoft or Apple. Despite this small inconvenience, however, I believe that the time difference is insignificant compared to having to type out an entire article for LockerGnome.

With this being said, I would highly recommend that you give Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance a try. Just remember what I have stated above and that you do have to train the software for it to work properly. If you choose not to completely train the software because patience isn’t one of your virtues, don’t blame the software. Blame yourself for failing to take the time to complete the process!

Just my two cents.

Comments welcome.

PS If you buy Dragon Naturally Speaking directly from Nuance, the company offers a 30-day money back guarantee.