Speech recognition is one of those rare categories of software where the Mac has been playing catch-up for many years. Mac wielding dictators rejoiced when MacSpeech Dictate began using the Dragon engine and made huge strides toward reliable speech recognition on the Mac. A few years later, Nuance, the parent company that owns the Dragon speech recognition engine acquired MacSpeech Dictate and things got even better. Since then, there have been a series of releases of Dragon Dictate for the Mac by Nuance. This product has been chasing the tail of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the more mature Windows PC dictation product. With each succeeding release of Dragon Dictate for Mac, the gap between the two narrows.
I am a frequent dictator and after using the latest release, Dragon Dictate 3 for the Mac for a week, I can report there is much to like about this newest release. The engine is more accurate and faster. This newest version can also transcribe dictation made with a recording device, like your iPhone. The tutorial is also better, helping new users get familiar with the idea of talking to their computers. One feature, that actually appeared in later updates to version 2, is the ability to use your iPhone with Dragon’s Microphone application as a wireless dictation microphone. The link is over WiFi (not Bluetooth) and the resulting dictation is very accurate. I’ve done many laps around my office talking into my iPhone this way.
I’m a busy guy and the ability to create text by simply speaking to my Mac is one of my secrets. This latest version is much closer to the PC version than its predecessor and I find it extraordinarily useful.
One area where Dragon Dictate still needs to catch up to its PC counterpart is application integration. I think the engineers at Nuance are still struggling to fully integrate speech recognition and control to the Mac operating system. I’ve seen some people make it dance but it is hardly intuitive and still needs work. My favorite workflow for this application is to simply open the Dragon Notepad from the application and start talking. Dictating straight into Dragon’s notepad puts the application in its element and gives you the best chance for the most accurate recognition. From there, I can copy and paste the text to Byword, Apple Mail, Scrivener, or whatever else suits my fancy.
In the past I have recommended Dragon Express, the $50 variant in the app store. Unfortunately, Nuance has yet to update that application for Mountain Lion. if you’re going to dictate in Mountain Lion, you’ll need this newest version of Dragon Dictate. I remember spending $200 on this software thinking about how much money that was. However, with a little discipline, you’ll find that you recover it very quickly with the increased productivity that comes from talking to your Mac.