Review: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium

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The Best You Can Buy

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium isn't cheap, but if you're looking for software that enables you to work with your PC using your voice or dictate documents and emails there is simply no better tool available.

  • 8.0
  • User Ratings (2 Votes)
    9.5

Virtual assistant tools like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now have made it cool and mainstream to interact with technology using your voice. Microsoft will also be bringing the power of Cortana to Windows 10, and possibly spreading it to iOS and Android as well. One of the first speech recognition and speech-to-text applications, however, is still the best and still paving the way for all of the rest: Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance.

Nuance has led the way for years when it comes to innovative voice technology. In fact, Nuance technology provides the backend for Siri, Samsung’s S Voice and other voice recognition tools. A company like Apple could probably develop its own similar technology, but it would be difficult to build an effective voice recognition application without infringing on one or more Nuance patents in the process.

Voice recognition is tricky even for humans. Everyone has a unique pattern and tone that defines how they speak. When you start combining speed of speech with slang and the accents that come with various regional dialects it’s a wonder we can communicate at all. Programming a computer to understand and interpret the spoken word is a daunting task to say the least.

Overview

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium is a dictation and speech recognition tool that can increase your productivity and reduce the physical stress associated with typing on a keyboard…once you master it. As noted above, nobody does this better than Nuance and Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the best of the best. You can dictate documents or emails, navigate around the Windows operating system, and interact with your PC using your voice.

This latest version includes improved speed and accuracy converting your spoken words to text. Nuance also added support for using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with the major webmail platforms—Gmail, Outlook.com, and Yahoo Mail.

As effective as it is right out of the box, one of the best things about using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium is that it improves over time. It learns your unique speech patterns and the vocabulary you commonly use. It also learns how you like things formatted—for example I spell out the word “percent” rather than using the “%” symbol. You can accelerate the learning curve by granting Dragon access to your documents and emails. Dragon will scan your written content to learn more about how you speak and the vocabulary you use.

Installing and Set-up

There are a number of versions of Dragon dictation software including Professional and Legal intended for heavy duty office dictation. This review focuses on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium, which retails for $199 from Nuance.

Nuance also offers dictation software for Mac OS X, but Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a Windows-only application. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 is the first to add support for both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. It didn’t work with the Windows 10 Technical Preview at first, but the latest release from Microsoft—Build 10041—now works with the software.

Processing speech and converting it to text takes some processing muscle. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 requires at least a 2.2Ghz Intel or equivalent AMD processor. The 32-bit version requires 2GB of RAM and the 64-bit version needs a minimum of 4GB. Dragon NaturallySpeaking uses about 4GB of storage, and requires a sound card and compatible microphone.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium works natively with a wide variety of popular products, including Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, etc.), major webmail platforms (Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail), and current versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox.

My Experience

This wasn’t my first time using Dragon dictation software, but it has been a few years. The basics remain the same but Nuance has come a long way in terms of making the process more streamlined and intuitive. That said, it takes a little effort and dedication to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking smoothly.

First of all, you have to learn the commands and conventions in order to use the software effectively. You can just dive in and start dictating. However the software is only about 90 percent accurate to begin with and if you want to make text bold or italic, or add punctuation like quotation marks or parentheses you’re going to have to learn how to do that in Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It isn’t difficult. There’s just a bit of a learning curve.

Dragon learns from you as you use it, so the more you use it the more effective it will be at understanding you. It’s like getting to know somebody new. At first you might not know what music they prefer, or how they like their coffee, or how they feel about the Oxford comma, but eventually you learn and you get on the same page. You need to go through that same sort of process with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

The more it learns about you, how you speak, and how you prefer to format your text the more streamlined and efficient you can be when working with it. In the beginning, though, there will be some growing pains and there’s a good chance you’ll actually be less productive for a brief period while you work through the learning curve.

Thankfully Nuance understands the process and includes tools to help you along. There are training tutorials included in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 that teach you the commands you can use to navigate and format text. If you’re stuck you can just say “What can I say?” and Dragon NaturallySpeaking will present a list of options based on the context you’re working in. Over time these things will become second-nature.

Some commands are more intuitive because they’re just what you would say if you were dictating to a human being. Things like capitalizing a word, deleting the last thing you said, or correcting a mis-interpreted word are fairly simple.

You will adopt your own unique flow with the software. Some people might be comfortable using the verbal commands with Dragon NaturallySpeaking to correct text as they go. Personally, I generally revert to the traditional mouse and keyboard and just make manual corrections. I actually prefer to just dictate the whole document as a stream-of-consciousness, and then read and correct it after the fact.

The only real issue I have with Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the same issue I have with Siri, or the voice-interaction capabilities of Amazon Fire TV, or any other voice-enabled technology: you need relative silence. I have a wife, seven kids, six cats, two dogs, and four rabbits. I like to listen to music while I’m working. Those aren’t deal-breakers—it’s still possible to adapt and use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to dictate—but it certainly makes it more challenging. Using a headset microphone is one way to minimize the external noise so Dragon can understand you better.

The Verdict

The initial learning curve is challenging, but it’s awesome that Dragon can learn about you from previous documents and emails, and that it continues to adapt and evolve the more you use it.

$200 is a significant investment for a single application. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium is not the sort of thing I would recommend everyone run out and buy. If you have physical limitations that prevent you from using a keyboard to type, though, or you write for a living like I do, there is no better tool available at any price.

As a side note, Nuance also offers Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Home for only $100. It offers most of the same features and capabilities for half the cost.

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About Author

I have a passion for technology and gadgets--with a focus on Microsoft and security--and a desire to help others understand how technology can affect or improve their lives. I also love spending time with my wife, 7 kids, 3 dogs, 5 cats, 3 rabbits, 2 ferrets, pot-bellied pig and sulcata tortoise, and I like to think I enjoy reading and golf even though I never find time for either. You can contact me directly at tony@techspective.net. You can contact me directly at tony@techspective.net. For more from me, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

41 Comments

  1. I only tried the built-in voice dictation on Windows 7 for a short bit, mainly because I didn’t really need it, but it’s a nice feature to have. In comparison, I think the best feature from Dragon is it’s learning how you speak and format things. That little feature might go a long way for personalization, as far as dictation and speech-to-text goes.

  2. I am really looking for the potential benefits of making my typing more efficient. I procrastinate at doing lengthy emails and I hope this software would help me get things done quicker.

  3. I have the 12 premium great program, if I won this I would gift to my wife. The premium will take dictions off a voice recorder.

  4. My friend has MS and it is hard for her to type, I want to gt this for her. I know the learning curve is hard.. I had this years ago when it first came out and I didn’t use it often. But it has gotten better from what I hear.. it would be nice if it used your webcam and read your lips to type.. that would be cool! That way even people who cannot speak could use it and open up a whole new set of people that would use it. I think it is a great program for people who have disabilities and if they focus on this as a client base I am sure they can really advance this tech to help them! Thank you for the chance!

  5. I used an early version of the software in college. It was really helpful writing long papers. I have been interested getting a copy for my kids, but the price tag has been a little steep.

  6. I own an earlier version but the learning curve then was quite steep. I’d give it another try with today’s version.

  7. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has filled the gap for quite a few years when it comes to dictation and navigation in Windows. I wouldn’t mind having a copy to use.

  8. Seems like a interesting piece of software. I have a little difficulty getting Siri to understand my southern accent wonder if this would be the same.

  9. Christopher Wunker on

    My wife is a terrible speller. I would love to have this software so she can dictate her letters and emails and the get the words spelled correctly. She is constantly using Siri so I think whe would love Dragon NS13!

  10. My wife is the secretary of a community group and would really benefit
    from a world-class system to transcribe her meeting minutes.

  11. I bought an older version of the Home software for my husband’s computer several years ago, although I don’t think he’s had the opportunity to use it to its fullest potential. As a board member of an organization, I could probably use a copy myself for much routine paperwork and letter writing.

  12. I haven’t tried this but it seems that it would make it much easier for people who can’t type. I like the concept of it very much. I would like to try this software to see if it does all that it is advertising

  13. I’m hoping to win the new 13 Premium version. I use speech to txt recognition to write most of the many reports I have to produce each month. DNS is a very helpful tool for this. It saves a lot of wear and tear on the fingers and wrists.

  14. I’m sure my dictation will have less errors than my fat fingers can achieve! Probably spell better, too.

  15. I had my first copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking before it had a number, it was unusable. Four was usable but made so many mistakes I spent more time correcting than dictating, Seven was faster than I could type even with corrections, but I type with one finger. I would love to try Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13,

  16. I have never tried Dragon Naturally Speaking but I can see the value if you do a lot of writing. I would like to try it because my mind works smoother when thoughts just flow out of my mouth. When I am typing I tend to think too much and get too wordy. Maybe this could help me write a novel! Or not!

  17. Many years ago a friend of mine tried a very early version of Dragon Naturally Speaking. It was time consuming to train to your voice, inaccurate at odd times, and my friend struggled with the software. However, for the last several years, every Dragon user I have spoken with has loved it! Learns your voice and speaking characteristics much quicker now. For the writers, it allows them to get that first “brain dump” or “stream of consciousness” collection of ideas and phrases into a large document quickly. For quick writing projects like short notes and emails some users said they could produce a final version with few corrections, and little or no editing. My personal use of speech recognition software has been mostly limited to some voice response phone menus, voice dialing, and quick searches on Google. I would love to try this out for myself, as I may be writing more, and longer, documents in the near future.

  18. I’m an aspiring writer, I use pen/paper, iPhone/iPad, but fingers get weary. I want to be able to be more productive, my words and the technology to keep up would be priceless.

  19. I write as well, so my fingers and keyboard take some real abuse. For some reason, my typing style is basically pounding away. I get so into that I don’t even notice that I’m bashing the keys into oblivion. Having an alternate input method would be very welcome. This sounds fantastic.

    It’d be cool to have something like this integrated into the login process so that only your voice could unlock your computer. Hopefully it’d work well enough that nobody else could get in while still letting you log in even while suffering from a cold.

  20. I love the integration with email apps. If I had Dragon, I might come up with more nuanced (Lol) emails rather than efficient short ones bc I hate typing.

  21. This will work great for me. I have bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and have been very limited in my participation in blogs, which I miss out on, due to my limitations. This would be my very own personal secretary, which will adapt to me, as you would in any situation.

    My kids try to help out when I have to type out lengthy documents, but it’s like dictating a thesaurus, constantly having to spell words out for them and defining the words they don’t understand. Trust me, it makes for a time consuming event. I love teaching my kids, they are learning lots of new words. But… this is my thing. I’d like to participate on my own, I not only like this, but need it, so I can get back to what I love to do best, blogging.

  22. While I am skeptical, given my experience with other speech-to-text offering, I would pleased if Dragon were to function as well as Google’s Android module. However, I think that Dragon should stick to text and not commands since there are far too many permutations on Windows PC systems and trying to be the jack of all trades, generally results in being the master of none. I purchased an older version of Dragon some time ago and found it overly complex, so I hope that they have simplified their approach.

  23. would love to try this, arthritis can make typing difficult. sounds great, especially if it can learn from me

  24. Nice review – thanks. I have never used voice software before, but would be great to try and give it a shot.

  25. Great review. I’m a teacher and used different software to record lectures for later review. This would be a great tool

  26. Great website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get opinions from other experienced individuals
    that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me
    know. Appreciate it!

    • I’m sure there are others, but commenting here is a good start. Other TechSpective readers can see and respond to your comment. There are general IT forums, but I am not aware of any that focus specifically on Dragon NaturallySpeaking–or even voice to text software.

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