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Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 sharpens speech recognition, learns transcription

The latest version includes both improvements and new features.

By Kirk McElhearn
September 27, 2012 11:28 AM ET

Macworld - Just over a year ago, I reviewed Dragon Dictate for Mac 2.5, which was an incremental upgrade to version 2.0 of the program. Nuance has now released Dragon Dictate for Mac 3, building on the foundation developed over the past few years since the company acquired MacSpeech, the original developer of Dictate (MacSpeech's Dictate used the Dragon speech-recognition engine).

Dragon Dictate 3 includes both improvements and new features. One of the small-yet-valuable additions to the program is the presence of a simple, interactive tutorial that plays when using Dragon Dictate for the first time, or whenever a new profile is created. (Profiles are created when you begin voice training the program with a specific microphone. The profile also contains information about your vocal style, which helps the Dragon Dictate improve recognition over time.)

Dragon Dictate for Mac
Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 puts dictation into a Notepad document (upper left), and has a new Smart Format Rules feature (lower left). In this example, the dictation window shows a commonly-made error by the software: the correction offered for "12" is only "Twelve" and not "twelve."

The tutorial helps familiarize new users with the basics of dictation: how to speak punctuation, how to correct mistakes and how to edit text. While I certainly recommend reading the manual, the tutorial can have you up and running with Dragon Dictate 3 in just a few minutes. I also recommend downloading the Dragon Dictate Command Cheat Sheet for Mac, which lists the most commonly used commands.

Nuance refined Dragon Dictate 3's recognition engine, and in my tests, out-of-the-box accuracy was noticeably better than in the previous version. (My tests were performed after performing the obligatory five-minute voice training session after creating a profile.) Correction is a bit smoother as well, and one notable addition is what Nuance calls Smart Format Rules.

When you say certain types of text (numbers, abbreviations, salutations, etc.), the Smart Format Rules palette appears and asks if, for example, you wish to always use numerals or always spell out numbers. You can adjust a number of auto formatting settings in the Tools -> Auto Formatting window, but the Smart Format Rules palette can save a lot of time, since it appears the first time you say certain types of texts.


Transcription is another marquee feature in Dragon Dictate 3. You can dictate into a digital voice recorder or you can use Nuance's free Dragon Recorder app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Android smartphone. When you move these audio files to your Mac, Dragon Dictate 3 can transcribe them.

The first time you use transcription, Dragon Dictate 3 takes a few minutes to analyze your recording to recognize how you speak. Dragon Dictate then interprets the text and places it in a new Notepad document. Subsequently, when you transcribe text, there will be no initial training and calibration.

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Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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