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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Package, 17 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred Wireless 10.0 (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
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This really is an impressive piece of software and hardware. I was sceptical that it would live up to the claims made for it but by and large it does. Firstly let me say something about what comes in the box and ease of set up etc:

This is the wireless version so along with the software you receive a Bluetooth headset and USB adaptor. I found this initially a little fiddly to set up but once optimised in terms of volume etc it performed very well (NB you may well want to charge the headset via the USB port prior to installing the whole product otherwise you'll have to stop the process and wait till it's charged - quite annoying that). Once the software is installed and the headset is synchronised you are then guided through a brief introductory tutorial and taken to the Nuance website to register the product (which is very straightforward as you can select a 1-click automatic registering option). Incidentally, prior to receiving this product there was some speculation that one needed to be in an approved field (such as higher education) in order to activate it - this is not the case however. The Plantronics wireless headset works well enough and is easy to adjust, comfortable and roughly gives eight hours use before recharging is required.

So the hardware seems solid enough but what about the software? Well to begin with it should be noted that this is the 'Preferred' software option as opposed to the 'Standard' one. Although this means it is rather more expensive it does mean it has several features that the standard version does not e.g. it incorporates natural commands for Outlook, has Dragon Voice Shortcuts, includes Nuance 'Real Speak' for turning text into human sounding synthesised speech , plays back and transcribes dictation etc. Whether these extra features would be worth the extra investment would of course naturally come down to the needs of the user, though clearly the advantages to a business user are obvious.

Anyway, though you can opt to bypass the tutorials altogether (and surprisingly still get generally accurate transcriptions of your spoken words to text) it is worth going through some of the many 'read out loud' text exercises the tutorial provides. This affords the programme greater accuracy as it increasingly familiarises itself with the subtleties of your voice. I think it is fair to say that this process can be somewhat time consuming but nevertheless seems to be worth it if you have the patience. Additionally this 'customisation to your own voice' process need not be done in long sessions and can be done piecemeal whenever is convenient. Once you have a basic handle of the dictation side of things there is a comprehensive guide that takes you through how to voice control pretty much all of Microsoft's applications and how to execute the quite bewildering range of voice commands. Even though my primary - almost sole - use of the programme is for word processing and dictating into Outlook I tried the other applications and they appeared to work fine also (though controlling the mouse by voice is not something I feel I could ever get used to). Make no mistake - if you want to fully exploit what this version of Naturally Speaking has to offer then there is a hell of a lot to take on board and at certain times I felt a little overwhelmed by the information I was trying to absorb. Patience is the key here though - don't try to run before you can walk (as I did) and it is very much one of those applications that the more you put into it the more you will get out of it: several hours into using this I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what it is capable of.

There are a couple of annoyances that I have encountered though. One is that although the dictionary is fully customisable (i.e. you can record and add any words that are not included in its lexicon) I have had trouble in the programme recognising certain regularly used words. This necessitates me always having to correct it manually which can at times really slow down the flow of dictation (that said Dragon only claim 99% accuracy so I'll let them off!). The other is a little less easy to remedy: although the product claims to process 'conversational' speaking, I found that in practice I have to enunciate my words far more deliberately and clearly than I would in normal conversation. Maybe this has something to do with the tutorials however as they require to read out passages and, like most people, my reading voice is rather different to my 'talking' voice. Consequently this can to some extent 'kill' the spontaneity of thought while, for example, writing an email to a friend. On the plus side though this programme offers up some fun (if perhaps frivolous) use as a means of juggling a whole host of MSN conversations simultaneously - which normally would not be a possibility to all but the most lightening quick typist.

In conclusion I would say that this is a very good - possibly even great - package. As I say its full power and utility will only become evident in the fullness of time. Whether or not it is worth the considerable extra expense to enjoy the privilege of going wireless (and having the extra features) is for the purchaser to decide. Personally this version is probably far too highly featured for my particular needs (I intend to review the standard edition in due course and then will be in a better position to contrast the two).
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