Voice-Recognition Technology for the Mac

Vol. 28 No. 4

Reviewed by

Jeffrey Allen is the principal of Graves & Allen, a small firm in Oakland, California.

 

The publishers of software handling voice-recognition technology (VRT) spent many years more or less ignoring the Mac platform. Yes, we had some basic VRT programs for the Mac, but they had far less sophistication than the programs designed for the Windows platform. A few years ago, that situation started to change drastically.

A company known as MacSpeech emerged as the leader in VRT for the Mac. The company’s program, while somewhat useful, had far less horsepower under the hood than did Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) for Windows. But DNS did not run on the Mac, except in a virtual Windows environment, and  even then not so well as it ran in a natural Windows environment. Ultimately, MacSpeech made a deal to acquire the right to use the DNS VRT engine and rewrote its program to create MacSpeech Dictate, which proved a significant improvement over the previous version of the software and quickly emerged as the best available VRT software on the Mac platform.

Not too long after that, Nuance acquired the program and now has the preeminent position on both the Mac and the Windows platforms. After acquiring the software, Nuance issued a new version of the basic program called “Dragon Dictate.” The current version of Dragon Dictate works well enough for general-purpose dictation but requires a fair amount of training to handle legal terminology and, in particular, legal citations. The software can save a fair amount of time and effort if properly used for general dictation. The program lists for $199.99 and compares to the basic versions of DNS.

Although MacSpeech had a legal version of its Dictate software, Nuance has not yet created Dragon Dictate Legal. The absence of the legal version means that you have to do all the training yourself to get the program to deal with legal terminology and legal citations. The task, while doable, has proven somewhat daunting and fairly time consuming.

Alternatively, Nuance continues to sell the MacSpeech Dictate Legal version for $599.99. Although not as robust as the Windows version of DNS 11 Legal, the MacSpeech Dictate Legal software works better in most legal dictation than the basic Dragon Dictate, even though it is a bit older and uses an earlier version of the Dragon engine. The legal version comes bundled with MacSpeech Scribe, which enables you to dictate out of the office on a recording device and then import the audio file into the program for transcription (you cannot do that with Dragon dictate; it only accepts dictation in real time). The time-saving benefits and features of MacSpeech Dictate Legal more than justify the additional cost.

Related: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Professional; Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Legal

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