Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium review

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium review

Summary: There are features in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 that many people will never use, but its core dictation capability is excellent, while the context-sensitive sidebar help is a big improvement.

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TOPICS: Software, Apps, Reviews
13
  • Editors' rating:
    8.3
  • User rating:
    4.6
  • RRP:
    £124.99

Pros

  • Short training period
  • Highly accurate
  • Good sidebar help
  • Improved support for a range of applications

Cons

  • Pricing excludes casual users

We've been following Dragon NaturallySpeaking for many years. In its early days the speech recognition software tended to overwhelm the average computer, and regular pauses for the system to catch up with dictation made for a frustrating experience.

Things have moved on considerably, and when we reviewed version 11 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking (NS) two years ago we found it slick in operation, if somewhat lacking in the help and support department.

When Nuance launched Dragon NS 10, it claimed 99 percent accuracy. With version 11 the claim was a 15 percent improvement on that. Version 12 boasts a 20 percent 'out-of-the-box' accuracy improvement. How soon will the company be claiming 100 percent accuracy?

In producing this update, then, Nuance has a challenge on its hands. How do you enhance an application that performs its core task well, and what extra features might attract new buyers and tempt upgraders? Nuance says there are more than 100 new features, improvements and enhancements in version 12, so it has clearly found plenty to do.

There are two retail versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12: 12 Home costs £79.99 (inc. VAT; £66.66 ex. VAT), while 12 Premium costs £149.99 (inc. VAT; £124.99 ex. VAT). The more expensive option, reviewed here, includes support for Excel and PowerPoint, mobile dictation, multiple audio inputs for each user profile, wireless dictation over Bluetooth, and custom commands for text and graphics.

dragon-12-device
Nuance bundles a wired headset with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium, but you can use your own if you prefer.

The first hurdle is installation and training. The setup process is straightforward and will be familiar to anyone who has used previous versions of Dragon NS. You'll need to set up a user profile, which stores information about your speech patterns. Multiple users can share the software by creating their own profiles.

dns-12-setup
Setup involves testing your audio subsystem and building a profile of your speech patterns.

The process involves connecting your microphone or headset and running through some material from which the software can learn your speech patterns. This takes about ten minutes to complete, after which you can take a new interactive tutorial that guides you through best practice for dictating, editing and formatting texts. One of our longstanding criticisms of Dragon NS is that its myriad features can be difficult to access, so this introduction to some of the software's features at an early stage is a welcome development. Of course, you can skip the interactive tutorial and work through it later if you prefer.

We used a Plantronics USB wireless headset that we tested version 11 with, rather than Nuance's provided wired headset. Setup was straightforward, and we were soon dictating into Microsoft Word.

Version 12 extends support for the Dragon Remote Microphone app to include Android as well as iOS. This app turns a smartphone into a wireless microphone that works over Wi-Fi. Nuance provides a QR code within its help files, which gives the app the profile name, computer name and IP data it needs to function, making setup relatively straightforward. There is also increased support for wideband 16KHz Bluetooth wireless headsets — if you prefer a wired headset, the bundled one in Dragon NS Premium 12 is reasonably good.

Dragon NS 12 automatically does some formatting for you — putting dates and percentages in the correct format, for example. It also handles some key grammatical points like formatting numbers correctly. How many of us know the grammar rule that says the numbers 0 to 9 should be written out in words, while larger numbers should be expressed numerically? Dragon NS 12 does, and it also puts the commas into large numbers like 9,100,027 as you speak them.

dragon-12-sidebar
The Sidebar delivers context-sensitive help relating to the application you're dictating into.

When we reviewed version 11 we found the sidebar a good idea in theory, but it was lacking in context-sensitive assistance. Nuance has fixed this to a large extent by making the sidebar intelligent enough to know what application you have active. Open Word, for example, and it gives you a series of commands for use within that program. Switch to Firefox and the sidebar offers you a new set of commands. It's a real step forward.

dragon-12-correct
The Correction Menu offers a set of choices when you say "correct that".

Error correction has had a time-saving makeover too: now, when you say 'correct that', up pops the Correction Menu offering a range of options.

Among Dragon NS 12's many enhancements is the ability to learn your preferences as you use the software. Smart Format Rules note your formatting corrections, for example, so that dictated documents retain a personal touch. This is less about understanding your particular writing style, and more about allowing your formatting preferences to override Dragon's own rules. The example given in the help file centres on whether you prefer to have units of measurement abbreviated or spelled out in full (kg or kilograms, for example).

There is improved support for users of Gmail and other web-based services with IE 9, Firefox 12, Chrome 16 and higher all supported, for example. The text to speech engine has also been enhanced with fast forward, rewind, speed and volume controls integrated, along with a more natural-sounding voice.

We've waited two years for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 to graduate to version 12, albeit with an interim 11.5 release in between. Nuance has certainly done more than tinker at the edges, with the improved sidebar perhaps the star feature among an array of new and enhanced capabilities. There are features in Dragon NS 12 that many people will never use, but its core dictation capability is now well and truly under control.

Specifications

General
Manufacturer's specification http://www.nuance.co.uk/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-pc/premium-version/index.htm

Prices

Price
Price AUD 199.95
Price GBP 124.99
Price USD 199.99

Topics: Software, Apps, Reviews

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13 comments
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  • Do they still make pro?

    Years ago before Dragon was sold to Nuance I had DNS 6 pro from the state Voc Rehab. I believe they said cost like $650 but di ti ny cerebral Palsy didn't really work for me. Every day I had to retrain but when it did work it was awesome.
    Randalllind
  • Where did you learn math?

    4.0

    Please explain how you can have a 7% improvement -- as either an absolute or percentage change -- on 99% accuracy? (Hint: You can't have 106% accuracy.)

    You probably think that because Charmin Extra Strength is four times as strong, you can use four times less of it. (Believe it or not, that's what the commercial says.)
    GrizzledGeezer
    • Look at at it this way..

      '99% accurate' equals a 1% error rate. If you reduce the error rate by 7% you have .93% error rate and therefore 99.07 accuracy.
      Bowler_z
    • 7% improvement?

      I was a purchasing agent several years ago where multiple discounts was used to purchase hard good. It applies here. The 7% improvement is on the remained, after you do the 99%. Thus, you take the 7% improvement on the 1% that is left, which makes it 99.07% accurate. The next percent improvement would then be on .93%. You are correct, you will never get over 100%, even if you make another 50% improvement, it would be .93% *.50% *.0465% giving a total of 0.4650% to figure the next improvement. Figures not lie but liars figure.
      Norm_live
  • How long can it last?

    Seems like Windows 7 and IOS6 apps have much of this ability built in.

    I'd like to see a comparison of what you get for that extra $200. I've always wanted to get dragon, but always seen so many issues.

    Could be this is the time....
    RayInLV
  • What is the accuracy like?

    This is a great review, but what I'm really interested to know is how you found the accuracy of Naturally Speaking?

    I tried it about five years ago but found it so frustrating I gave up. Has the accuracy improved?
    NigeB
  • Accuracy can be great...just be patient

    8.0

    My father has been using Dragon since day one. He has difficulty using his hands and his voice can be very difficult to understand at times due to his disease. With the improvements Dragon has made over the years, he has been able to work the computer nearly flawlessly and what's more, Dragon understands him more than most of his collegues! It is the best voice dictation product on the market, and my dad has tried them all! Before retiring my father used Dragon at work, and he was an engineer. Now he uses it mostly at home with his finances, emails, and internet browsing. I really like the fact that the program learns the voice of the user. With some of the more recent editions, the option to create your own commands or upload previous commands used on older versions was more complicated and difficult. This is an extremely important feature as some of the "out of the box" commands were difficult for my dad to say. With the latest version, is custom commands still a viable feature? How will the program work with Quicken (another program older versions of dragon did not work well with)? Since developing carpel tunnel, I too have started using Dragon more, granted mostly for dictation. I plan to use more of the features of Dragon once starting Grad school, where I will be typing for work and school. I look forward to testing out 12 on Excel and Power Point.
    hiolowa
  • Total disappointment

    1.0

    Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 is a total disappointment. If you are not native American speaker, please stay away from this program. It simply doesn't do what it should do - it doesn't recognise my speech. I've trained it and updated accuracy for quite some time. I've tried to teach it recognising my pronunciation and my accent, but to no avail. Still, it doesn't recognise about 70-80% of the words in the sentence, in spite of the fact that I'm dictating the text with a normal pace. For example, instead of "further", it writes "the". there are many examples of the speech recognition that I can provide on request. I've reported these problems to the technical support, but in their reply, was advised to learn the basics of the dictation before using their software.
    vladp6
  • I don't care about the error rate, Dragon has much bigger problems.

    1.0

    Editor rating 8.3, user rating 4.3, quite a disparity, I think I know why.

    I upgraded to V12 because V11.5 simply did not work and Neuance told me the bugs were fixed in V12. Turns out they weren't fixed and there were brand new critical problems. So, after more than six months, hours of effort working with support to no avail, and $370 spent I have nothing.

    The biggest problem is the HOOKER error. As I understand from postings made by IT pros Dragon has to hook on to programs like Word in order for someone to be able to use voice commands. Dragon doesn't hook very gracefully especially when Adobe Flash and Shockwave are also trying to hook. As much as I would like to banish Flash and Shockwave from my computer it just isn't possible. So very often when using Dragon it will crash because of the HOOKER error. From posts I hear that this has been a major problem since V10 and Neuance doesn't care or can't figure it out. There are several postings from IT pros, on sites like this, pointing to the problems in the spirit of helping Neuance out, but Neuance just isn't responsive.

    So, a month after buying Dragon V11.5 they wanted me to buy the V12 upgrade for a "generous" $100 off. I told them about the ridiculousness of having to buy it twice and they made an offer to me. For another $50 off I could get V12 and a promise from them that I would not encounter the HOOKER problems. So I took the offer and that was the start of another problem that was far worse than the HOOKER problem.

    I can't install V12. When I put the V12 disk into my DVD the DVD goes crazy. At first I thought it was a bad DVD drive because the disk seemed to work on another computer. So after two replacement DVDs from HP I still couldn't install V12. I tried it again on the other computer and this time the DVD wouldn't read it at all. I found that if I tested further on the other computer I would have encountered problems.

    Nuance sent a new disk finally, but the new one behaves that same as the first. So I looked on the help and review sites again and found out from postings by IT pros that there are install problems related to V12. Apparently .NET Framework 4 has to be installed on your computer. I have this on both computers, but it still doesn't work.

    I also found out from posting made by IT pros again that the HOOKER error problem is alive and well in V12. When talking to Neuance support they said that they haven't receive an single call about HOOKER error from people using V12. I don't know why they would say this because there are several posting made by people who called Neuance about the HOOKER problem in V12 and couldn't get it fixed.

    The HOOKER error is insidious. You can call support on one day and they will tell you to disable Flash on start-up, and things will be fine for a day or two. Call them again and they will tell you to disable the Shockwave add-on, and it will work okay for another day or two and you have to call support again. This is how they string you along so you go beyond the 30 guaranteed refund period and the 90 day free support. It make me wonder if they wrote the program this way so that they could make money on pay per call support. You know, it's like buying a printer cheep only to find out the ink cartridges cost a fortune.

    The people in support don't seem to be knowledgeable about computers or the program either. It is obvious that they are working from guidebooks. They won't escalate problems and no one seems to have authority to do what it takes to get the problem solved. I asked them to let me download the program when the disk wouldn't work, but they refused because "that was a different sales department." I also hear that V12 works painfully slow (nonfunctional) when working in a Word document that has three pages or more.

    I remember that soon after buying Dragon 11.5 I received several call from people at Neuance trying to pressure me into buying suites of programs that would help me have a paperless office. This included things like PaperPort and Omni. I am so glad I told them I wanted to wait. As it happens I bought a suite of professional public accounting software on SaaS that is fully integrated and designed for paperless office anyway.

    I initially bought Dragon to be more efficient in my work, but the reality is that it cost me. Every hour I spend dealing with Nuance means I gave up $125 I could have billed a client. Or, it means that I gave up adding a new client that might have paid me $500 a year. Multiply that by 10 years and I've lost $5,000. So instead of serving clients in less time and billing them less and finding new clients to absorb the free time, I lost dearly.

    So I am hoping to get my $370 back. I am going back to using the free speech recognition built into Window 7. It worked very well and had no problems, but didn't have the voice command piece. I think the MS voice recognition software will work better if I invest in a quality USB microphone. Voice command was the reason for shelling out the money for Dragon in the first place. But the voice command feature in Dragon doesn't work most of the time and it is the cause of the HOOKER error. I found that voice commands aren't very useful anyway.

    This is speculation on my part but I think the good reviews are coming from people who have the more basic Dragon product that does not have voice command.

    I have to say that if you don't want headaches stay away from Dragon.
    EmergingME
    • It just doesn't work

      3.0

      I received the PRO version as a Christmas present. Things started out great. Recognition was nearly flawless. Dictation was so mush easier and more relaxing than typing (I was surprised how much tension was buildding in my shuolders from typing vs. just talking to my computer). About 3 weeks into my experience, things changed.

      I don't have specific knowledge of the HOOKER error that I have read about, but I can say that after working great for about 3 weeks, it hasn't worked right since. Suddenly, the program is ridiculously slow (several minutes to translate just a few sentences). The text won't type in the place that I set the cursor, and this is IF it doesn't freeze and crash immediately after start-up.

      I have reinstalled the disc twice to try and flush out whetever the problem was, but to no avail. I am so drawn to the potential of the program (based on my first 3 weeks of operation) that I keep hoping it will fix itself, so I foolishly start it up again and again. In the past 30+ activations it has failed 100% of the time.

      I am not too enthusiastic about calling technical support. First, I don't have the time (that's partially why I got the program in the first place). Second, if they are all reading from a manual, what's the point. It sounds like they have a major malfunction and they can't fix it, so they kick the can down the road with lame advise and delay tactics, until we go away. Well, they win. I'm going away. I've registered my version of the program and maybe someday they will issue some magical fix. In the meantime, I'll file this one under JATSJ..."Just another technology screw job".
      northstatesimpleton
  • Dragon 12 - Decent but you need a decent microphone

    8.0

    I'm not having errors like EmergingMe. I'm using windows 7 on a core i7 64bit with 8 gig ram and a usb digital noise cancelling microphone.

    It working very nicely for me and pretty fast. Have you tried re installing or calling Nuance? I bought my Naturally Speaking from the Australian distributor http://www.voicerecognition.com.au/ so was able to call them for support when I lost my CD Key and that was easy. Not sure what support Nuance provide for the rest of the world.

    I am using professional so have 100% of all voice commands so that's not the issue for me.

    That being said many dragon versions have had updates and incremental bug fixes so hang in there for a bit in can nuance do a service pack or something.

    Excellent review by the way.

    cheers
    Russell Bewsell
  • Declaration of interest

    I think it is dishonest of people to come onto these forums and not declare their interest.
    Russell Bewsell wouldn't happen to be the same Russell Bewsell who works for http://www.voicerecognition.com.au/ would he???
    If so, you should declare your interest.
    evets56
  • Brief video

    7.0

    Here is a brief video of Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nKKyizuxGA
    matt01943