I’m a moderate fan of Dragon Naturally Speaking — not a BIG fan, I don’t use it a lot, but I do use it. (I only have it on my home desktop machine — I would use it more if I installed it on my laptop.) I’m a very fast typist, so it’s slower than I am. But — I started using it when I was having repetitive stress problems, and it does help save one’s arms. And I find it particularly useful when I want to make detailed notes on something I’m reading, so I don’t have to go back and forth between reading and making notes. I should be able to have the reading open next to my keyboard, but, in practice, I find that it’s easier to sit back in my chair and read excerpts aloud and make comments.
The reviews for the new version 9 are enthusiastic, though NYTime’s Pogue says that, if you have 8, it’s not worth upgrading to 9 (thank goodness, since I just upgraded to 8 ). I was impressed when I started version 8 and it got “Foucault” right. But every dictation that I have done with it does require some error correction, slowing down the process. What I’ve found works best is to dictate a whole paragraph, then stop to review the paragraph and correct mistakes. (You don’t want to wait too long to correct mistakes, and you do want to do them within Dragon, not from the keyboard — Dragon learns as it goes along, so an uncorrected mistake will recur.)
Version 9, they say, doesn’t require that you train it — with older versions, you read a prepared text into it for a while. But no doubt it still uses — and benefits from — another kind of training: you have it scan a bunch of your documents, so it learns your vocabularly. Which is probably why version 8 knew “Foucault.”
It does make some hilarious mistakes…
An aside: Pogue has written about Dragon before, because he uses it, but I was surprised at the NPR review — how has Dragon managed to get all this publicity?