Over the years, Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software has helped disabled users as well as those in dictation-heavy fields. We looked at the shipping version of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred, which includes features for command customisation as well as full support for popular business programs. While this version shows excellent accuracy in capturing verbal commands, vendor Nuance's claim of 99 per cent accuracy untrained seems a reach, based on our testing.
Despite this claim, Nuance suggests reading training excerpts to adjust Dragon to your voice. We tested the app by dictating a 675-word business article into Microsoft Word.
A new-user file created in NaturallySpeaking 8 Professional gave 94 per cent accuracy, while NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred, untrained, showed 96 per cent accuracy, not quite the 99 per cent Nuance promises.
The company claims that accuracy varies by sound quality and by how a person talks, but the test PC had a top-grade sound card and we enunciated words clearly. While 96 per cent accuracy falls short of the promised mark, it's still impressive.
Version 9 works famously with both Microsoft Word and Excel. Regrettably, our experiences with its new Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird voice support were fraught with "now-it-works, now-it-doesn't" moments.
Verdict: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred, in general, is best for writing or dictating. Only practice makes for a genuine hands-off experience. Version 8 users have little need to upgrade but if you are curious about voice recognition now is a good time to try it out.