Nuance Dragon Dictate 3

KEY INFO
Developer: Nuance Communications Inc
Price: £130

REQUIREMENTS
2GB RAM,   Intel processor, 4GB HD, headset (included in some versions)

With Dragon Dictate 3, you can speak into almost any text field.

Those familiar with Dragon Dictate 2.5 might wonder what more Nuance could add to its already comprehensive speech-recognition application. Although not a radical overhaul, Dragon Dictate 3 does much to expand on its predecessor’s feature set without straying into bloatware territory, and packs in significant performance improvements too.

Like previous versions, Dragon Dictate 3 does far more than convert speech into text – it also lets you control your Mac using voice commands. You can send emails, launch applications, surf the web and more, all directly from your headset. You can even forego the mouse or trackpad, using the application’s MouseGrid feature to move the pointer and replicate controller buttons. You can use the Mac’s internal mic or indeed any add-on microphone, though most boxed editions come bundled with a USB or Bluetooth headset. Like Version 2.5, you can also use your iOS device as a mic via a free app.

Correcting mistakes is much easier in the new version.

The speech interpreter learns from its mistakes, so accuracy improves over time, with information pertinent to you stored along with your settings in your Dragon Dictate profile. You can set up multiple profiles, and use different customisations for different jobs.

Dragon Dictate 3’s biggest new feature is support for digital recordings. You can make notes using a digital voice recorder, and have the application transcribe them. Most popular audio formats are catered for, and there’s a free app to turn your iOS device into a voice recorder. It works well for straightforward note-taking, but is less successful when transcribing interviews or conversations.

The core application has been improved, with Nuance claiming its speech-to-text transcriptions are now around 15% more accurate. Training Dragon Dictate to the point where it gives the promised 99% accuracy takes time, but correcting errors is far more fluid than before. Getting to grips with its commands and instructions takes time too, but it’s time well spent.

Other improvements include smart formatting of things such as dates and numbers, an interactive tutorial and wideband Bluetooth support. But why would you need it if you already have Mountain Lion’s integrated Dictation feature, which is itself based on Nuance’s software? In a nutshell, Dragon Dictate 3 is far more comprehensive. Dictation can’t be trained, it’s limited to 30 seconds of dictation at a time and is only available while you’re online. It’s fine for tweets or Facebook updates, but if you’re serious about speech to text, then you really need Dragon Dictate 3.

Verdict

A solid, though not revolutionary, update brings welcome improvements to accuracy and ease of use.