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Utilities software Reviews
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Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium review

£149

Manufacturer: Nuance

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Dragon NaturallySpeaking remains the number one speech-recognition software tool for dictation. But version 12 brings relatively little new to the party. Here's our Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium review.

NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium continues Dragon's reign as the king of all voice-recognition software. But it remains a premium product with a premium price. Whether this means that users of NaturallySpeaking 10 or 11 will be prepared to shell out to make the upgrade remains to be seen, but speech-recognition virgins need look no further. See all Software reviews.

Of course, speech-recognition is not for everyone, but with training, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium translates accurately at great speed. That training is required, but once undertaken NaturallySpeaking is a world beyond cheaper and free speech-recognition apps. Indeed, if you've never used Dragon this tool will feel like science fiction. And for those who find typing difficult for any reason, this can be a boon. You also get a microphone headset in the boxed edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium.

New features in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium

For those who are tempted by the upgrade, there are a couple of new features to consider, in addition to the always claimed improvements in speed and accuracy (we'll get on to both below, in the section entitled 'Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium'). We're not sure either are showstoppers, though: unless you are required to use voice commands to navigate your PC. You can now use Dragon to fully navigate Outlook.com and Gmail, with Dragon icons built into their interfaces.

Geographical addresses format correctly on the fly, too.

Naturally Speaking Premium 12

Training Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium

Training Naturally Speaking 12Nothing in life is easy. Well, using NaturallySpeaking is - but only once you've set it up, practised using it, and trained it to recognise your tones. This is not difficult, but it is time consuming. (I speak as one who once demonstrated this technology on live television without the requisite training time. Trust me: take the time.) Nuance provides plenty of tips and documentation. It's straightforward and even fun. You have to read back text from the screen, texts that vary in difficulty, length, and content. There's also a walk through of how to use the software.

Installing from the disc on our Windows 7 laptop was simple and speedy. We spent about half an hour going through the training process before we started using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium. This, reader, is because we have nothing better to do than review software. You may wish to get started immediately - rest assured that you can jump back into training your user profile at any point. At the very least before you get started you can choose your regional accent from an extensive list, and point the software toward your emails in order that it can investigate your syntax and vocabulary.

Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium

NaturallySpeaking remains a cinch to use. The interface is so simple as to be virtually un-noticeable - a critical factor in a supportive utility such as this. A grey toolbar sits at the top of your screen, and an optional sidebar on the righthand tide. The toolbar lets you know when the microphone is active and offers access to menu items including profile, tools, vocabulary, modes, audio and help.

Getting started with dication is simple - I've used this type of software before, so I offered a quick look at NaturallySpeaking to my wife. She picked it up straight away. With training the accuracy was nothing short of stunning. I have an odd hybrid Yorkshire/London accent, and a tendancy to mumble as a result of a facial operation many years ago. But I'd say that NaturallySpeaking was more than 90 percent accurate. More importantly, the basic editing tools that work with Word make it easy to rectify mistakes on the fly (saying 'delete' or 'new paragraph' does what you might expect it to). This is critical if NaturallySpeaking is to earn its corn as part of your productivity arsenal, but takes time to master.

Further voice commands will make Dragon more useful - again, getting the most from this investment requires effort. You can add punctuation by saying 'full stop', for instance.  A Quick Reference Card offers a quick overview of voice commands to use when dictating text and when simply using Dragon to navigate the OS. Within Windows 7 and Windows 8 such voice commands are baked in to the accessability options, of course, but if you require voice commands it makes sense to use the same program to dictate as to navigate.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium Expert Verdict »

1.6GHz Intel or AMD processor
3.2GB hard disk space
Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8
1GB RAM
sound card supporting 16-bit recording
DVD-ROM drive for installation
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 9 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 6 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 8 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

This is the best speech-recognition dictation software there is. But it is a significant investment, both in terms of time and money. If you already have a recent version of NaturallySpeaking and a decent headset, the upgrade may not be such an attractive proposition. But for those looking for a tool via which they can dictate rather than type, this is the tool for you.

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