At the launch of this new version of its market leading speech recognition software, Nuance left the Big Feature for the end of the presentation. As if revealing a cure for global warming, the presenter declared “You don’t need to train it to your voice.” Well that’s handy, just install and go straight out of the box, but I think we’re still in line for a string of hot summers.
You can start using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (DNS 9) straight away, by clicking on the Skip Training button in the installation dialog, but even in version 8, initial training only took around 20 minutes and you only had to do it once. Version 9 works better if you do the training and better still if you also let it sift through your Word documents and emails to adapt itself to your writing style.
This it does capably enough, though if you have a lot of files, it takes a good coffee break to get it finished. You wind up with a long list of words special to your own vocabulary, which you have to train the program for pronunciation. So when Nuance says you don’t have to train it, there are provisos.
There’s very little ostentation about DNS 9. It doesn’t have any flashy screens to show, as it does nearly all its work behind the scenes. Probably the most common use of the software is to dictate into Word. It's closely integrated with several modules of Office, but can be used in virtually any Windows application, for both dictating text and issuing commands.
The Standard version (£80) covers basic dictation into and control of Word, Outlook Express, Internet Explorer and AOL, while DNS 9 Preferred (£150) handles most Windows applications, including Excel and WordPerfect. It also supports Bluetooth headsets and mobile devices. Professional (£645) can do all that Preferred can, but is networkable and includes support for array microphones, multiple custom vocabularies and voice commands. As well as these three, you can buy DNS 9 Preferred Mobile (£200), which comes with a Philips digital recorder for £200, as well as the Wireless version, reviewed here.