Nuance claims a recognition accuracy of 99 per cent for DNS 9, meaning you should only see one word in a hundred misrecognised. On test, we were getting more errors than that, with perhaps one word in 30 needing correction. That’s still over 96 per cent accurate, though, and dictating represents a considerable speed improvement over most people’s typing. Past experience suggests that accuracy improves with use, too.
The DragonBar is a taskbar-like strip which can sit at the top or bottom of the screen or cling to whichever is the active window. As well as showing whether the microphone is active and giving an indication of microphone level, it’s the way into all DNS 9 controls.
Here you can select users, in case you have several people using the software on a single PC, work on the accuracy of recognition by extra training – that word again – and edit your individual vocabulary. Although DNS 9 learns the words you use as you dictate to it, you can also add in specific ones, to boost its knowledge of your specialist subject areas.
It appears that the programmers at Nuance have taken some note of common problems in the new release. Try as we might, we could never get version 8 to recognise ‘A4’ as a commonly used paper size; it would always go for ‘a four’. Version 9 gets it right, but has a few of its own idiosyncrasies. For example, it renders ‘recognise’ and all its variants with a ‘z’ rather than ‘s’, even when UK English is selected (actually the use of a ‘z’ is true English, but that’s another story – ed.).
The program responds best to complete sentences or at the least a clause at a time. It’s most likely to make mistakes when you say individual words. To correct it, you say ‘Select’ followed by the misrecognised word or phrase and a list of likely alternatives pops up. You can usually select the correct alternative by saying its number in the list, but if it’s not there, you can train it by adding a new word to the vocabulary.