I write a lot. I write for work. I write for school. As a result I spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard. Lately, my wrists had been giving me some problems. Ironically, most of my wrist problems don’t come from the keyboard but the mouse.
Regardless, I decided it was time to try something different. So I broke down and bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking, it’s pretty weird actually trying to get used to speaking instead of writing. It’s almost as if speaking engages a different part of my brain than writing does. Although the words come out faster, it takes me longer to think about exactly what I want to say. When I’m typing, it seems as though the words just naturally flow out of my fingertips.
I am pretty impressed with the accuracy of the speech recognition. After a short training session, NaturallySpeaking does a pretty good job of keeping up with my speech. It is a bit strange learning the command structure for corrections, but I’m sure that will come with time.
David Pogue was right about running NaturallySpeaking on the Mac. And yes, NaturallySpeaking actually got “David Pogue” right on the first try. Hmmm… I’d really like to get it running on my MacBook with Parallels. I installed NaturallySpeaking on my Windows partition, but was not able to get it working well with Parallels. So instead, I’m booting my machine into Windows with Boot Camp, and dictating in Windows applications natively. That really is not the way I would prefer to use the application, but since there is no Mac version I don’t really have a choice. Are you listening Nuance?
Another annoyance is the microphone comes with NaturallySpeaking. It’s pretty cheap. No, scratch that. It’s beyond cheap. In fact, when I first installed the application it kept telling me there were problems with the volume on my system and the sound quality. In the troubleshooting it suggested trying another microphone, which I did. The microphone I ended up using is a three dollar super cheapie I picked up at NewEgg for Skype when I was traveling. Seriously, it was $2.99. NaturallSpeaking didn’t have any problems with the three dollar, super cheap microphone, but continues to have accuracy issues with the microphone that was actually supplied by Nuance with the software. Again, are you listening, Nuance?
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the experience. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to, but I can see how it will be a productivity boost once l get used to speaking instead of typing and after I spend a little more time training the application better. But booting into Windows to use it on my Mac is going to suck. I may give iListen a try…
For now I’m giving it three out of five stars. Speech recognition is definitely more impressive than it used to be, but it’s still not the seamless experience it needs to be in order to really change the way that I work every day. And it should run on a Mac, too.