A few weeks ago, I added a Dragon to my working repertoire. Before you raise your eyebrow at me, let me be clear I’m talking about Dragon Naturally Speaking the voice software recognition system. This software allows me to dictate words to a text editor rather than type them using my hands.
UPDATE: Oct 31/18
I just learned that Nuance – the makers of Dragon – have discontinued the updating of Dragon for Mac. Those of us who own the software may continue using it but it is no longer supported.
The Two Reasons I Did This
The main reason I added this software was to increase my word productivity. It’s that simple.
- I wanted to produce more words, and
- I wanted to do it safely and easily.
When it comes to producing words safely and easily, you may have questions. How hard and how dangerous can typing be? Well, when you’re producing 1 million words a year, the issue is one of repetitive stress injury. I am reading about more and more writers, of a certain age, who are struggling with finger and wrist problems and I’d rather not be included in their number.
My main concern was whether using software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking would increase my word count or whether it would be “one more thing” to complicate my life.
I Have Past Experience With The Mac Version
A few years ago, I installed this software on my Mac and it was an unmitigated disaster. The software was buggy, and after two weeks of trying to make it work, I gave up.
This time around, I did a significant amount of research about the topic, read some author blogs, listened to a few podcasts, and I even purchased an e-book. I was satisfied this software had developed enough to make it useful, but I took it one step further.
Even though I run a Mac system, the recommendations were to use the Windows version of this software because the Mac version isn’t as good. (I don’t want to enter any conversation about whether Mac or Windows is better but in this case Windows wins any contest.)
To run the Windows version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, it was necessary to first install a virtual machine on my iMac. While there are several options available, I went with software named Parallels.
After Parallels was installed, I then had to download and install Windows 10 to run the voice recognition software. With Parallels running Windows 10 I installed Dragon Naturally Speaking.
My Personal Reaction To This
- Talking to a microphone instead of typing is an interesting change in work behavior. There are a few things that I need to do in order to become productive:
- I need to relax when I’m talking.
- I needed to work out a workflow so I know what I will talk about.
- I need to learn the software commands so I can add it to the finish dictation and teach the software to be more efficient and accurate. I’m told I should be able to achieve a 98% accuracy rate after training.
- I need to learn to know all the things I don’t know yet. Or, the things I don’t know I don’t know yet.
My personal sense of this is that I can type approximately 1000 words an hour of nonfiction. But I know 100 words is roughly one minute of a podcast. That means if I’m speaking at 100 words per minute, I’m producing significantly more words per hour than if I were typing them.
That assumes I can learn how to speak or create as fast by using my voice as I do when I am typing.
So you’re seeing this in action, or rather reading the first output of this right now in this article. And it took approximately 20 minutes for me to dictate the (approx) 680 words.
I’m considering a new monthly report on productivity and other personal aspects of writing. Word counts would be one part of that and the technology I’m using would be another. So we’ll both be able to evaluate how many words or what improvements (or problems) I run into over the next few months.
Update After Several Months Between The Rough Article And Reality.
I confess that using Parallels running on a virtual machine on my Mac, was clumsy and while the software itself worked well, I decided I wanted something that would run as a native program. Frankly, I also resented paying $100 a year for the Parallels software. I did not try any other virtual machine and I did not use the Mac System of installing windows. Either of those two options would not have given me a native and smooth transition.
My biggest mistake in 2018
I then made a serious error in judgment. I purchased DragonNaturallySpeaking for the Mac.
For the life of me, I cannot see how any company can put out a product so bad, and one that is so buggy and full of errors as to make it unusable, and charge money for it. I reviewed it on Amazon, which is where I bought it, and my only regret is that I had to give it one star– I could not give it zero.
Side by Side Tests:
I will not post the data here, but I then ran a series of the side by side tests with DragonNaturallySpeaking versus the native Apple Dictate. (if you have a Mac, press the function key twice to enable Dictate and again to close it.)
I found the Apple software to be as good as, if not slightly better than the Dragon.
The only advantage the Dragon had was that it would do transcription from my phone recording software. I note the transcription results were as bad as the direct dictation results.
My sense of DragonNaturallySpeaking for Mac.
This software is kludge. (This is ancient computer slang for garbage.) It was the worst purchase I’ve made in the past few years.
I am committed to moving to a dictation software system. I do want it smooth and efficient.
Given that I write for a living, and that it is important to me to push the words out, I have decided to buy a Windows laptop, install the version of Dragon I own as well as purchase the basic writing software such as Scrivener for Windows, and use the laptop as a dictating system.
I do note I was pleased with the Windows version of Dragon. But, as I have said, the Mac version is garbage.
Tell us what you really think, Doug. 🙂