It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted to use voice dictation software, you had to talk to your computer like a Dalek on downers. But things have come a long way in the last few years and though we’re not quite yet into the realms of Captain Kirk conversing with a computer (with a sexy female voice), it is now possible to talk to your PC using your own natural speech patterns, whilst simultaneously seeing your words appear in front of you…without having to first drop a tab of acid…
It’s also possible to control your PC using voice commands. The big question is, do you want to? As Dragon themselves admit, some aspects of software functionality are best controlled with a mouse and keyboard. Added to which, some people’s creative flow is so inextricably linked with their fingers doing the walking, that letting their voice do the talking instead, may interfere with their creative process. For the most part though, voice entry makes perfect sense.
For starters, because the software is recognizing whole words, rather than individual letters, everything is automatically spelled correctly. Added to which there are no worries about Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)…though RVI (Repetitive Voice Injury) may become an issue… and unlike the keyboard which was actually designed to slow down data entry (because of the physical constraints of the typewriter way back when), voice input liberates you to rabbit on at up to 160 words per minute…in theory….though in practice, despite running this software on a high spec machine, there was a noticeable lag between speaking words and seeing them appear on the screen.
More impressive was the accuracy of the speech recognition. Although the Dragon didn’t get every word right, with just a few minutes training, it wasn’t that far off the 99% accuracy it claims (probably somewhere in the early to mid 90s and this is something that improves with continued use).
You also have the option to automatically scan your ‘My Docs’ and email folders, so that the Dragon can refine its powers of recognition still further, by familiarizing itself with your style of writing…not that this worked very well when I tried it, as my hard disk has multiple partitions and my folders are not located in their default locations, so it only recognised the existence of a handful of files. Fortunately it’s possible to carry out these scans manually, via the tools menu, which I did, in the process adding quite a lot of ‘colourful’ vocabulary to its standard dictionary…
There are a variety of ways in which you can use Naturally Speaking Professional including dictating into a hardware voice recorder and then downloading your files for subsequent conversion to text; dictating into Dragon’s built in dictation pad and then cutting and pasting the results; and dictating directly into your application of choice, which can pretty be much anything that recognizes text. This latter option is the most interesting of the three because guess what…not only does it work with common and garden programs like Microsoft Word and Outlook/Outlook express…it also works with specialist professional screenwriting software such as Movie Magic Screenwriter, etc. making it an almost perfect way to create natural dialogue within scripts.
So if you like me are a writer who loves the sound of your own voce and you think that talking to your computer would make a pleasant change to shouting at it, this software is well worth checking out…so long as you have a very powerful PC, with fast processor(s) and plenty of memory.
More info: www.nuance.co.uk
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