Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 7

  • Editors' rating
    8.3 Excellent
  • $199.99

Pros

  • Extremely high recognition accuracy
  • easy to setup and use.

Cons

  • Natural Punctuation needs work
  • supplied headset a let-down.

Neatly dovetailing with its OCR portfolio, ScanSoft's latest speech recognition software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 7, continues the good work of its predecessors. Like previous editions, NaturallySpeaking 7 is available in several flavours -- the Preferred version tested here, as well as the £68 Standard version and the entry-level £40 Essentials. The top-end Professional Solutions version retails at £467 (ex. VAT).

Accuracy
NaturallySpeaking 6 was already, in the right hands, a pretty accurate tool, but the new version pushes the accuracy envelope still further. According to ScanSoft, NaturallySpeaking 7 is as much as 15 per cent more accurate than its predecessor. However, as version 6 was already capable of achieving recognition scores in the high nineties, this doesn’t make NaturallySpeaking 7 psychic. Undoubtedly, the new release is more accurate, and it rarely misrecognises a word if you take the trouble to enunciate it clearly. Therefore, the 15 per cent improvement most likely refers to a reduction in misrecognised words and not an increase in overall accuracy, which is now in the high nineties -- probably the best we’ve seen. As before, enrolment is still a key element in achieving high accuracies. Although enrolment has not been eliminated, this chore has been reduced to about 10 minutes for most readers. Further recognition gains are to be had from allowing NaturallySpeaking 7 to trawl through your documents looking for words that are not in its extensive vocabulary, although this can be a slow process. Similarly, timely correction of errors remains important to the maintenance of high accuracies, and this process remains basically the same as before, aided by the ever less Dalek-like text read-back capabilities of RealSpeak.

Performance
As well as recognition gains, the new program runs a little faster and it certainly loads a lot quicker, although some of this gain is down to preloading that’s done when the operating system boots. Speed is another claimed area of improvement: version 7 can load in as little as 10 seconds. However, this gain is achieved at the slight cost of slowing down OS boot times, as portions of the program are loaded then and remain in memory. Its recognition speed, however, still appears lumpy, sensibly waiting until it has a sentence-worth of context before committing the text to the page. Alongside OCR, speech recognition software is one of the few business applications that genuinely stresses modern processors, and NaturallySpeaking 7 definitely benefits from a fast CPU -- anything slower than 1GHz is not recommended.

Features
NaturallySpeaking 7 has a number of new features, some good, some not. In the latter category falls Natural Punctuation, which makes a fair stab at obviating the need to say ‘comma’ or ‘full-stop’ all the time. This was a little hit-and-miss and at the moment is probably not a productivity gain. New to this release is support for Pocket PC handhelds as dictation devices: when docked, your dictated notes are automatically transcribed and turned into Microsoft Word documents on the host PC. At present, ScanSoft has only certified the HP iPAQ 3800/3900 devices to use this feature. NaturallySpeaking 7 is also more network-friendly, allowing users to access their voice profiles from whatever workstation they’re using. You can also share things like macros and custom word lists.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Category office applications
Subcategory office applications - voice recognition
Distribution Media CD-ROM
Version 7
Software
Subcategory office applications - voice recognition
Category office applications
License Type box pack
Version 7
License Category shrinkwrap
System Requirements
Min RAM Size 128 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 300 MB
OS Required Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 SP6 or later, Microsoft Windows XP
OS Family Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM, sound card, speakers
Min Processor Speed 500 MHz
Min Processor Type Pentium III
Header
Brand Nuance
Product Line Dragon NaturallySpeaking
Model Preferred
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC

Top ZDNET Reviews