Dragon For Mac 6 Review

I have been using speech recognition software for years now, mainly to let me write when my RSI and assorted ergonomic related ailments got too bad for me to type. Over this period I have primarily been a Mac user. Speech recognition on Apple’s machines has been an area in which they have lagged well behind Windows.

I have tried every incarnation of Mac speech to text software, starting with iListen before it was acquired by Nuance and working my way through DragonDictate and the renamed Dragon Professional Individual for Mac. Every version has ultimately disappointed. When Nuance took over the basic speech recognition engine became the same superb one as used on Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows. Unfortunately, the interface built around it was usually terrible— ugly, buggy and extremely prone to crashing.

The last (otherwise very good) version was ruined for me by the corrections interface. It randomly added characters as I typed corrections which made the process, so essential to accurate speech recognition, extremely long-winded and frustrating. Eventually, I gave up and went back to Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows running on Boot Camp.

I booted up version 6 of Dragon Professional with no great expectations. It installed quickly and easily, and the accuracy was superb out of the box. My hopes started to rise, but they always do at this point in testing a new version of Dragon. I am so used to having them dashed I gritted my teeth and kept at it. I fed it the texts of 9 of my books and some of my journal pages so it could get used to my writing style.

This time around making corrections actually worked. There were none of the show-stopping bugs I encountered with version 5. Soon I was dictating happily within Scrivener with full-text control. A dream come true for me this. The program learned fast and well.

Screenshot 2016 09 20 10 22 29

The new batch transcription feature worked very well. I could dictate onto my Android phone, upload the results to Dropbox and then get the speech files turned into text. Being able to use a phone with speech recognition is incredibly useful. It lets you dictate anywhere and in a sort of secrecy. People assume you are simply making a call if they see you. If you are self-conscious about dictating in a public space, this is very useful.

I find myself making notes and jotting down ideas as I go. First time this has ever happened.

Recognition accuracy is extraordinary— over 99% on normal speech, 98.2% accuracy transcribing dictation of a fantasy novel with made up words. That’s 18 mistakes in 1000 words, better than my actual typing. (As an aside I tend to think my typing is more accurate than it really is— I correct mistakes automatically as I go along and so don’t notice them. When I bother to keep track, I discover I usually manage around 94% to 97%. ) I was dictating at 100 words a minute.

There have been a few problems, but they are fairly minor. Instead of randomly adding letters and symbols to my corrections, Dragon now sometimes locks up the letter A. No idea why. At first, I thought my MacBook’s keyboard was broken, but when I switched off Dragon, the letter became available again, and the program worked just fine. Simply restarting it got rid of the problem.

When it learns fantasy names, Dragon does not recognise the capitalisation. Kormak becomes kormak. Aethelas becomes aethelas. This can be cured with a simple find and replace, though. It’s a huge improvement on previous versions where there were certain words I could not train or get the program to learn no matter how often I tried.

You still can’t train Dragon to learn new words and phrases from your transcription files. I wouldn’t have noticed this except for the fact that the Windows version has been capable of it for several generations now.

These are all relatively minor glitches. The highest compliment I can pay Dragon for Mac 6 is that I have been using it and getting work done. My previous experience of Mac speech recognition has been to desperately try to make it work and give up in disgust after a few days or weeks and return to Windows.

So far it looks as if Mac speech recognition has finally come of age. I’ll report back in a few months and see if I still feel that way.

Addendum: Jeff Leitman from Nuance responded to my review with the following clarifications and solutions to the problems I mentioned. With his permission, I am sharing them here.

I wanted to let you know we are planning a 6.0.1 update this Monday, September 26th, that addresses a number of issues, including the difficulty with the A key you reported. It is related to changing Shortcuts, located in the Preferences.

The best way to have Dragon learn proper names is to add them to the Vocabulary Editor. If you use Vocabulary Training to read documents, it will use lower case. We will look into that for future updates. I added both Kormak and Aethelas directly into the Vocabulary Editor capitalized and Dragon did save them as capitalized terms.

I’d like to thank Jeff for reaching out. I am very impressed by the dedication this shows.

Addendum Two: A number of people have written to me concerning bugs and flaws in this version of Dragon. Since the last update, I have experienced a return of the random letters appearing during correction bug. More information is available in the comments below.


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Comments

  1. http://Bob%20Senecal says

    Bill,
    I am using the software now. My experience is basically the same as yours. You convinced me to take the plunge, yesterday and after barely an hour using this I know this is the right decision. Ever since I was able to switch to the Macintosh I still had to hold onto the ability to use Windows because Dragon on the PC with boot camp was far superior in my opinion and that was version 11.5. Not that I really ever used it but I liked having it available just in case. Anyway I had to decide whether to upgrade the PC side of my system because it had become unusable or upgrade to El Capitan and put the money on version 6. So now I feel I can confidently abandon Windows altogether (I’ll probably sleep a little bit better). I always struggled with trying to get the previous versions to recognize certain words. With version 6 it was a piece of cake. It obviously is going to take some learning but I feel confident that what I expected all along has been achieved. Sure there’s things to learn and it’s not perfect yet, but I feel my investments over the years has finally paid off.

    Thank you for convincing me to take the plunge one more time.

    Bob

    • Thanks, Bob. It sounds like your experience very much echoes mine. I have approached the previous Mac versions of Dragon with high hopes only to have them dashed. Dragon for Mac 5 was very close except for the correction problems but that was a huge problem. This version seems to have finally gotten things right. It makes me feel that all of the hundreds of pounds I have sunk into upgrades have finally paid off.

  2. Well, this is one good report, at least; thank for sharing!

  3. http://Garin says

    I’m sorry to say the Dragon 6 for me is one of the worst up grades so far. It’s constantly crashing on my Mac and the cursor is skipping all over a document when I’m not touching anything. So it begins dictating in the middle of a word in a completely different paragraph than where I was completely destroying my documents. It insert spaces whether should not be spaces and then connects words where there should be a space. This is been the same for quite some time with other versions and seems they are not doing anything to correct this still. Since installing it just last week, I have over 79 crashes. It will randomly start typing complete gibberish any race other parts of my documents so I have to force quit it. That’s on top of it crashing. For the few moments that it does run, it is pretty accurate for sure but as in other upgrades I’ve reluctantly purchased, it crashes because of a thousand bugs that would frustrate the living daylights out of any user. I read the reviews here and appreciate the time going into these reviews but unfortunately I can’t concur with any good words so far and want other people to know about my Dragon 6 experience. Alas, sadly again with Dragon for Mac it’s buggy beyond belief. I hear that the PC version is much more stable but I only operate on Mac. thanks so much for your reviews guys.

    • Sorry to hear that, Garin. I know exactly where you are coming from. It sounds like you are having the same sort of problems I had with previous versions of Dragon for Mac. At the time, I wondered why none of the reviews mentioned them. This time around I have had no problems whatsoever. The only conclusion I can come to is that there is something about your particular configuration of software and hardware that is disagreeing violently with Dragon.

    • http://Nancy says

      Garin: I have had exactly the same experience. One reviewer said Dragon for the Mac is so buggy, it should come with it’s own exterminator! I agree. I cannot recommend this product to anyone!

  4. Thanks for this review, which encouraged me to take the plunge during a recent discount. So far, after just a few experiments, I’m pretty impressed at the recognition quality. But, with version 6.0.2, I’m having a different “A” problem: now and then (alas, not infrequently), at the end of a sentence, it just adds a space and the letter “a” (or “A”). And no, I’m not saying “uh.” Pretty annoying. I have to confess that I find it hard to understand how they can get the truly hard part of speech recognition working well (deep learning!), and have annoying bugs in the user interface.

    Also, for those who wonder why it takes forever to download, only to install a 284 MB app, take a look in /Library/Application Support/Dragon. The downloaded installer is ~2 GB, and when you run it, it puts a 2.7 GB speech data app there. Nothing bad about that (unless you have limited space on your SSD!), just info for the curious.

    • Hi Tom,

      There was definitely something off about the recent update. I have seen the return of the dreaded random letters added during correction bug which had been well and truly squelched in the previous version. It’s not as bad as it was, but it is back. I totally feel your frustrations– the core speech recognition is so good but…

      At the moment, I am back in Boot Camp using the Windows version. I feel bad now, you are just one of many people lured into purchasing on the strength of my review and now disappointed. A number of other people have made their annoyance and frustration plain to me via email. I think I will add an update to the review recommending people take a look at these comments.

      • Thanks for the reply, William. For the record, I did not feel at all misled by your review. I read your first addendum, and the comments, but still felt it was worth a try (at the 50% discount price only!). It’s only in Nuance’s best interests for them to fix this, so I suspect future updates will sort it out. For now, I’m willing to hold off final judgment. Thanks for providing a venue for substantive user reviews. The reviews I’ve read in the Mac magazines do not adequately describe the weaknesses of Dragon for Mac.

        • I am really surprised that this release of Dragon for Mac has not gotten more coverage. I’ve also found that a lot of reviews don’t really get down to the nitty gritty with speech recognition software. To be fair, I think this is because a lot of the bugs only become evident with extended use, and very often they seem to be tied to specific hardware configurations. I do still think this version is a big step up from the previous versions but it’s definitely still a case of buyer beware.

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