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Geek Chic: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 Preferred

Originally published online in a different form

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred Speech-recognition software has many uses, including dictation and transcription of recordings, and controlling user interfaces and applications for surfing the Web and editing e-mail. But if you think you'll communicate through voice with your computer with "Space Odyssey" fluidity, you may want to lower your expectations. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is powerful software, but it needs to be matched with powerful hardware.

NaturallySpeaking comes in various editions. I evaluated the Preferred version, which includes a headset. I found the software's translation algorithms excellent, but resource-intensive. The product's minimum specs of a 500-MHz processor and 256 MB of RAM just aren't realistic. Multiply each of those figures by four before even thinking about using this product.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

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The vendor claims a three-fold increase in speed, compared with keyboarding. However, in an informal dictation test, I could type about five times faster than the product was able to recognize my dictation--even including correction of typos. And NaturallySpeaking had significant problems when faced with unexpected input, such as coughing. But it's reasonable easy to "train" the software to your voice. It's about an hour-long process, and it's required for optimal performance. You'll need to continue this process as you use the product. Interviewees, obviously, can't be asked to train the product for their voices.

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