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Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5 Premium review

Kat Orphanides
6 Dec 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
96
inc VAT

This accurate speech-to-text tool is powerful and accurate enough to change the way you work for the better

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Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5 Premium is a software and a hardware combination that lets you dictate to your PC. Your speech can either be written to a word processing document, among others, or used to issue commands to your PC so that it can open files or navigate the Windows Start menu without you having to use the mouse.

The bundled HS-GEN-C headset has separate 3.5mm microphone and headphone connectors but comes with a 3.5mm headset adaptor, too. The headset feels a little cheap, but is lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods.

Headset

The bundled headset isn't high-end stuff, but it's light, comfortable and works well

Conveniently, you can install and activate Dragon on up to five PCs and create multiple user profiles. Each profile stores information about the way you speak and write, your personal dictionaries and the audio device you use. You can add multiple audio devices to your profile, so you’re able to use a separate microphone and headphones. We found that NaturallySpeaking 12.5 Premium worked well with separate audio devices if they were used in a quiet environment. You can even use an iOS or Android phone as a network microphone if you use a special app.

Dragon asks for your age when you create a profile because both your style of speech and your voice can vary with age. It also asks for your region, which determines spelling and word usage, and provides a list of accents. Having selected the UK as our region, we were offered a choice of a “standard” English, Australian, Indian and Southeast Asian accents. We tested the software with both male and female voices speaking with a neutral English accent.

Insert text or image block

As well as training Dragon to recognise new words, you can create commands to insert blocks of text and graphics

Dragon to understand your voice and speech patterns. The recommended option here is to read supplied text at a prompted pace, but alternatives are available for those who need to read at their own pace or need to print the text out. Once this training session has been recorded you must wait a few more minutes while Dragon analyses the recorded information and adds the information it’s gleaned about your speech patterns to your profile.

Dragon then asks permission to analyse your emails and documents to increase its vocabulary. Unfortunately, it only checks the default Sent folders belonging to Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and Lotus Notes, while your My Documents folder is only checked for word processor documents, such as .doc, .rtf and .txt. It doesn’t analyse Google Drive, Google Apps or Microsoft SkyDrive for documents, although you can link webmail accounts to local clients for analysis.

Dragon document analysis

Once Dragon has scanned a document you’ve given it to analyse, it’ll pick out all unfamiliar words and get you to add reference recordings of their pronunciation to its dictionary

After training it, Dragon could understand what we were saying with almost complete accuracy. We tested Dragon with a word processor and browser, and issued basic Windows commands. An information window gives you a quick reference guide to appropriate commands for whatever program you're currently using.

Punctuation must be inserted manually through speech. If you want to use a full stop or comma you must say the words. However, you also need to train NaturallySpeaking’s vocabulary detector to distinguish between the word comma and the comma punctuation mark. We trained the system to insert a comma when we said comma and write the word in response to "word comma".

There's also an auto-punctuation mode that does a good job of detecting apostrophes, full stops and so on. This meant we had to make fewer corrections.

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