For people who type a lot or suffer sore fingers and hands, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 is the best tool available for dictating text and commanding a Web browser by voice, despite the gradual adjustments needed to conform to your personal manner of speaking.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 is the most full-featured consumer software for dictating to your computer. Dragon types while you talk so that you can let your fingers rest while writing, and it lets you surf the Net by voice. For the first time, Dragon allows you to start using this program without walking through dictation setup, and it works in the Firefox browser in addition to Internet Explorer. This application can be a hand-saver for anybody who types a lot, including journalists, lawyers, and anyone with repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Dragon 9 runs only on Windows XP or 2000 SP4 or higher, so Mac users are out of luck, and it requires 512MB of RAM and 1GB of free hard drive space. (Attempting to run Dragon with less RAM will result in a sluggish system, as we discovered in our tests on several computers.) We tested the AU$399.95 Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 9. Home users who don’t need support for mobile devices can opt for the AU$199.95 Standard. Offices that want to run Dragon on a network should choose Professional. Legal and Medical editions are also available through Voice Perfect Systems.
If you choose Typical/Complete installation rather than Custom, you can bypass the dictation training and shave off as much as half an hour from the setup process. Installing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 from its two discs took about 15 minutes in our tests, with another several minutes spent to set up the included line-in microphone and headset. You’ll have to buy a supported USB or Bluetooth headset separately if your PC lacks line-in jacks.
During its installation, make sure you select the check box that lets you bypass dictation setup; we wish this were selected by default, but it’s not. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to read a long passage of text as required by prior versions of Dragon. When we chose Custom installation to load Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 on another PC, we still had to do the dictation training. We couldn’t quit the dictation and save our work up to that point, either; any interruption would mean starting over from scratch. However, if you don’t speak clearly, it might be a good idea to read the training script anyway. If not, you may find yourself constantly correcting Dragon to help it adjust to your lisp or Texas twang.