Nuance and MacSpeech's Spoken-Word Performances
The optimistic read of today's column would be something like "computerized voice dictation software is here and it works. It's now available for Macs and PCs." The pessimistic spin would be "but it's still impractical for most people."
I lean a little more towards the second reading, but that's because typing is such a strong habit to try to break. The two programs I tried out, Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 and MacSpeech's MacSpeech Dictate, both cost enough and require enough adaptation and training to make switching to them a non-trivial proposition. You need to have some preexisting condition that makes typing a bothersome or outright painful practice in comparison.
Plus, there's the issue of voice dictation's incompatibility with shared office settings -- not because the software will get confused by conversations in the next cubicle, but because the human being in the next cubicle will find it utterly exasperating to listen to you chatter away at your computer in the curious syntax demanded by these applications: "plus, COMMA, there's the issue of voice dictation's incompatibility with shared office settings, DASH," and so on.
Attentive readers will notice that my competitor David Pogue at the New York Times had a much more positive take on NaturallySpeaking 10 a couple of months ago. For that matter, I think I was more positive in my 2006 review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.
Am I being too hard on these applications this time around? I'd like to hear from you about that -- especially if you've bought your own copy. How long did it take for you to give up the keyboard for daily use?
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