I'd looked into getting some voice recognition software for some time, and to be honest I'd always had my doubts about how genuinely helpful it would be. However, this product has made me realise that it can actually be a convenience and a timesaver if:
1. You are prepared to put in the (modest) amount of time required to learn how to use it correctly.
2. Your computer is sufficiently powerful (Dragon Naturally Speaking uses about 300MB of RAM when running, and up to 25% CPU on my Lenovo (IBM) X61 whilst it's actively capturing input.
3. You work alone in a reasonably quiet environment.
4. You are prepared to train it to recognise technical terms and unusual names.
The first piece of good news is that Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Home Edition is customisable. Depending on the version you choose, it is more or less so. The Home Edition is the least so, but it is still possible to train it to recognise new words, names and acronyms with minimal effort. The second good news is that it can be switched into three different modes of English; US, UK and Australian.
Installing it is relatively painless, although you do need to go through several minutes of 'training' which involves reading aloud one of 5 different tracts of text. I happened to choose President Kennedy's inaugural speech which, to be honest wasn't as enthralling as I was expecting, but seemed to do the job. After that, I went through the tutorials, which are structured reasonably well. They could be improved - I might suggest by adding some set 'training' tasks or games to get the user more involved rather than just reading text and watching video clips. However, what is present is well written.
Recognition of most words and names is very good. It will not add punctuation by itself, however. It requires the user to dictate every comma, bracket, quotation and question mark. I would have been very impressed if it had offered this feature. However, that said, the user may then need to spend a large amount of time correcting its mistakes.Most difficult for it to handle are technical terms. I had to train it to recognise the exact format of several technical phrases, and noted that it was much better at dealing with them in certain ways, e.g:
'14-24 f/2.8' can be added as a custom word by adding: 'fourteen to twenty four f two point eight' and then briefly training it by reading the phrase aloud.
However, it failed miserably to recognise this as a whole phrase, and would repeatedly mistake it for separate words, which it would add incorrectly, so I was forced to add a prefixing word:
'Nikon 14-24 f/2.8' which was added as 'Nikon fourteen to twenty four f two point eight'
Which it recognised very well indeed. I don't necessarily always want to use the phrase in that way, but I can live with it. If I want it without the prefix I can just say "delete Nikon" after it and the word 'Nikon' will be erased. Simple!
So there are limitations with very technical acronyms and phrases, but I guess this is to be expected. The vocab editor could use some improvement - rather than editing custom words, I could only delete and re-create then, which is a little irritating. Overall however, I think you're getting a very sophisticated piece of software for very little money, and if you really think you could benefit from it, I'd say it's worth a shot.
Not perfect, but for this price, and considering it includes a headset (admittedly a fairly cheap, if functional one), you can't go too far wrong. If it were more expensive, I'd expect more, but at this price level it's worth 4 stars.