Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking

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MUCH better than ViaVoice

Oct 27, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:About as accurate as voice recognition gets, much easier to use than ViaVoice.

Cons:Often has trouble distinguishing between commands and regular dictation.

The Bottom Line: This is the best VR program currently out there. VR as a whole has a long way to go, but Dragon NaturallySpeaking is ahead of the others.


I did a review on IBM’s ViaVoice awhile back. At the time, I thought my experience with ViaVoice was pretty typical of all voice recognition programs. No matter how much time I invested in trying to train ViaVoice, I ended up with a document that was comical at best.

I’ve always loved the concept of voice recognition. My interest in voice recognition began a few years ago when I developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. After getting LASEK done and experiencing less than optimal results initially as well as a long recovery time, once again voice recognition interested me.

I did a little research online, comparing Dragon NaturallySpeaking with IBM ViaVoice and found at least one article that claimed that Dragon NaturallySpeaking was much more accurate than ViaVoice. For less than $60, I thought I would give Dragon a try.

One thing that you’ll learn if you do any research on voice recognition software is that no matter what the box says about minimum hardware requirements, you need more of everything. Voice recognition software functions best on a very fast machine with a lot of memory. While I’ve always had the recommended requirements, folks on on-line newsgroups and bulletin boards always told me that my lack of speed and memory were probably the reasons why ViaVoice did not work well for me. The other thing they always mentioned was that Hewlett-Packard was notorious for having bad sound cards. according to these advisers, my only hope at getting a voice recognition system to recognize what I say at least somewhat accurately was to get a completely new and faster computer.

Before I go further, let me tell you the specs of my system:

HP Pavilion 6630
Intel Celeron processor 500MHz
64 MB SDRAM shared
10.2 GB hard drive
9.33 GB free

Thinking that I would probably have no more success than I did with a ViaVoice, I took a risk and purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking Essentials. Essentials is a sort of middle of the road version that allows you to dictate into programs like Microsoft Word as well as dictate e-mail, surf the Internet, chat hands-free, and more.

On opening the box, right away I noticed improvements when compared with ViaVoice. The instruction booklet was much thinner, and the back flap consisted of a quick reference foldout that can be detached. There were also very helpful reference stickers that could be applied to your computer monitor. Dragon NaturallySpeaking came with a headset that also look to be better quality than the one that came with ViaVoice.

Installation was simple and easy, and I was surprised that all I had to do was dictate a very short story. With ViaVoice, I spent probably 45 minutes or more reading very long passages in order to “train it”. I was up and running in probably 15 minutes or less.

I noticed right away that Dragon NaturallySpeaking was MUCH more accurate than ViaVoice, and this was just with five minutes or so of training. When the software did misrecognize a word, all I had to say was “correct that”, and immediately a correction window would pop up with a list of similar phrases. All I would have to do is say “choose 2” (or whatever line number) to select the correct phrase. If the phrase I wanted was not in the list, then I could either dictate it or type it. The window would automatically close, and I would continue with whatever passage I was dictating. With ViaVoice, there were several more steps to this process, and it was always a clunky one. Dragon NaturallySpeaking also recognized more common words like eBay, carpal tunnel syndrome and more that ViaVoice had to be trained to recognize. Of course, it also came with the capability to add new words. Supposedly, the more you use the correction window, the more the software would understand your particular way of speaking.

Surfing the Internet was also easier than with ViaVoice, though it still could use some improvement. There is also an option to say “mousegrid”, which places a numbered grid over the screen, allowing you to dictate the numbers and click where you wish to. In this way, you can also surf the net without a mouse, though it can be a slow process.

The problems I’ve experienced with Dragon NaturallySpeaking mostly have to do with the program trying to type out things I’m saying as commands. The remedy to this is supposedly to hold down the control key as you dictate the command, but for some reason this has never worked for me. As of yet, I can see no way to train the program to fix this. This is also a problem with punctuation. For example, sometimes when I want to insert a space, I dictate “space bar” which, according to the instructions, should work, yet many times it will instead spell out the words. This happens even when I dictate correctly. Holding down the control key does absolutely nothing.

After my experience with ViaVoice, I am very pleased with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Recognition of my dictation would probably be even better with a faster system. Over time, recognition of my dictation should only improve. And yes, I did dictate this.


Recommend this product? Yes

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