Dragon: Worth Talking To

The Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6 voice recognition program can help you take a break from the keyboard

By Aoife McEvoy

Yakking to the PC isn't everyone's cup of tea. But if you have trouble typing or want to give your hands a break from the keyboard, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6 Preferred can help. Despite its financial turmoil, Lernout & Hauspie was acquired by ScanSoft in December; ScanSoft released this new $200 version that merges the features of L&H's Voice Xpress 5 and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 5 into one.

After you finish the required training (it takes about 5 minutes) you're ready to start. Accuracy was relatively good from the get-go with this shipping product, although Dragon goofed several times: For example, it heard "Sabbath" when I uttered "snag," and "every horror" instead of "everywhere." As always, the recognition improved a bit when I did additional training. The new version is supposed to filter out "ums" and "ahs"; for the most part, Dragon did ignore these sounds, but at times it picked up random words, even during silences.

Other new stuff: You can add contact names from Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express, and create custom commands ("insert my sig"). Plus, making on-the-fly corrections by voice is now more efficient, with more options on how to do it. The interface is also more intuitive.

Included is the Plantronics SR1, a comfortable, noise-canceling headset. You're advised to run the software on a Pentium II-400 (or faster) PC with at least 128MB of RAM--and you'll need the power. Dragon won't replace your keyboard--typing is just faster at times--but it's a useful alternative if you want to use your voice.

From the March 2002 issue of PC World magazine

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.