Jun 05 2007

Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking Version 9.0 offers the newest capabilities of this voice recognition software application that enables users to speak into a microphone and dictate text into any software application, and the software will convert the speech into text.

There are many uses for this application, including as a dictation/transcription tool in the legal or medical fields and as an assistive technology device for people or students with disabilities, but it also has practical uses for many small businesses.

After hearing about speech-to-text application’s speed compared with manual typing, I decided to see whether the software would increase my productivity in an information technology environment, and quite surprisingly, it did.

End-user advantages: The most obvious advantage is that you can simply talk into a headset microphone, in any application, and your speech is converted instantly into text, making your keyboard almost obsolete. This application is much faster than manual typing. Dragon speech recognition software works for normal typing, such as Web browsing, e-mail and spreadsheets. In fact, I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this article.

Why NaturallySpeaking works for IT

E-mail is one reason. Many times I find myself manually typing and rewriting e-mails. Since I am typing and thinking at the same time, I find that I constantly hit the backspace, delete key as I correct and edit myself.

By using this system, it forces you to think before you speak. I now find that my e-mails are more thought out and more detailed than they otherwise would be, and they’re also entered much faster than by manual typing.

I now often read, compose and send e-mail without ever touching my keyboard. I have also found that Dragon NaturallySpeaking is great for dictating notes after meetings. After a two-hour meeting, no one looks forward to manually typing handwritten notes and thoughts for summarizations. Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I just sit back in my chair, put my feet on my desk, and quickly and efficiently dictate my handwritten notes and thoughts about the meeting. Not only is this quick and easy to do, but my notes are much more detailed and thorough.

Disadvantages: If you can type fairly quickly, some of the advantages of the system are obviously not as strong. There is also a small learning curve of new commands to operate the system, and you have to teach yourself to think before you speak. However, my new habit of thinking before speaking has had some unexpected benefits, for my writing is now much more thorough and concise.

And if you thought dictation-style software was for the courtroom, think again. You will be quite surprised, as I was. Dragon NaturallySpeaking cannot only improve your typing speed, but it can help you find new ways to improve your workflow that you ever thought existed.

CDW price: Starts at $89.99

Arthur Zards is president of XNet Information Systems (www.xnet.com), an online services company outside Chicago, in Lisle, Ill.