Hello, Computer: Speak Your Text with Dragon Dictate 4.0 for the Mac
In the late ’90s, I developed wrist problems. I had something called tenosynovitis, which is kind of like carpal tunnel syndrome except that there’s no surgery to fix it.
My salvation was speech-recognition software. It was crude in those days—“You. Had. To. Separate. Your. Words. Like. This.”—but it was enough to keep my writing career going.
Today, when people complain about the accuracy of their cellphones’ voice transcriptions, I smack my forehead. Do you have any idea what a miracle it is that our cellphones can come even close to understanding our speech?
Anyway, here’s where speech recognition stands today. There’s what we get on our phones, which is impressive but could stand improvement.
Then there’s the built-in recognition software feature on Mac and Windows, which it seems like very few people use (or even know about).
And then there’s the pinnacle: the sold-separately software from Nuance, like Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC, and Dragon Dictate for the Mac. (I was astounded to learn that only 5 percent of Nuance’s revenue comes from these consumer products; the rest comes from supplying speech-recognition services to companies like Apple, for the iPhone’s dictation feature.)
Dragon NaturallySpeaking, for Windows, is almost freakishly fast and accurate. It’s so good that in the latest versions, 11 and 12, you don’t even have to train it. (That’s when you read a few minutes’ worth of prepared text, so that the software can learn how you speak.) You open the box and start dictating.
The Mac version, whose 4.0 version just came out, is also freakishly fast and accurate; I can dictate many pages without spotting a single transcription mistake.
You can control your Mac, too: opening and closing windows, switching programs, operating menus, “pressing keys” by voice, and so on. I love creating “voice macros”: You set these up so that you say one thing, and it types another. When you answer a lot of repetitive email, voice macros are a godsend.