This time last year at Zath, we reviewed Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 and found it to be one of the best speech recognition options available on the market despite its high resource usage. This year, we’re back with the latest version of the software, NaturallySpeaking 11.5, to see how it compares to its predecessor and whether any of the updated features can further tempt consumers to buy in to the speech recognition scene.
The new version is a free update for existing users of version 11, but it is also shipping as a boxed product for buyers who haven’t used the previous version before.
In The Box
Everything that you find in the box is the same as the previous version, so we won’t spend too long dwelling on the contents.
If you haven’t got a microphone already, then you will be glad to know that a headset is bundled with the product, although if you’re going to be using it for long periods of time then you might be better off purchasing a higher quality one yourself. Also included is a quick reference card, which takes you through the key features of the program.
Setup and Installation
The installation of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 is mostly automated, although you will have to install an additional runtime environment before the program can install. This means that it’s not the quickest installation in the world, taking around 15 minutes to install on our test machine.
Like last year’s version, you will be taken through a setup process following the installation. During the setup, you will be asked to create a profile and give information such as your age, region and accent. Following the selection of the UK as my region, I was surprised at the lack of accent options, with ‘Standard’ applying to most people that would use the program. Given the diversity of accents across the UK, it would be interesting to see the accuracy of the program when working with a southern accent compared to a Liverpool accent, for example.
New Features in 11.5
Using version 11.5, it’s easy to see why this is a free upgrade over version 11. Quite frankly, there isn’t a lot here that’s new, but there are a few little additions that make the program more capable and more accessible.
Once you have completed your initial training step after installation, the software offers to search for key words that you use so that it can better adapt to your writing style. This is done by scouring through your sent e-mails and scanning your local documents. I couldn’t complete this step as the test machine that I was using had no documents or emails on it, but if you don’t mind your private mail being taken apart by a piece of software then it may help somewhat.
Another new addition in 11.5 is the ability to use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a wireless microphone, although this is more of a gimmick than anything, as you will probably have a microphone on your desk or built in to your computer when you’re dictating. Having said that, it’s not a bad option to have. You can also analyse pre-existing audio files in version 11.5, which will come in handy if you want to produce text from some audio notes you made at an earlier time.
A few of the features introduced in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 make it a little more tempting than the previous version, but there isn’t enough here to get existing users excited about. It’s a free upgrade, so existing users of version 11 can take advantage of that easily, but if you’re waiting for that magical day where computers can suddenly understand every word you say and run around after you, you’ll be left disappointed.
Still, if you haven’t purchased NaturallySpeaking in the past, now is as good a time as any, and if you’re interested, you can pick up the home version from around £75, and the premium version from around £130.