Best Speech-Recognition Software

Updated April 30, 2013
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Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium
Best Reviewed

Best speech-recognition software

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium

Dragon NaturallySpeaking vs. Windows Speech Recognition

You will need to be committed to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium (Est. $150), users say, because the learning curve is steep and can be very frustrating. Reviewers agree that even with a very smart and useful tutorial, it takes some diligence and persistence to make using the software routine.

But for those willing to put in the time, Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium has features that other applications can't touch, including voice-controlled editing, as well as the ability to transcribe audio files, learn contact names and read back transcriptions. Nuance has added 100 features to Version 12, including support for a wider range of commands for email applications, smart formatting and an interactive tutorial. But if you're already a Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11 user, reviewers say you can wait to upgrade. If you are a new user or own an older version (10 or before), then your quest likely ends with Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium.

For home users, many of the features of the powerhouse Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium will be overkill. That's where Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home (Est. $80) comes in. It fits the bill for those who are simply looking for software that allows them to order their PC around without touching a keyboard, post social media updates, go web surfing, and create documents and emails using their existing software.

There are several iterations of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home on the market: versions 12, 11.5 and 11. Reviews are similar for each, though the features, speed and accuracy have improved slightly from version to version. Version 12 seems to be significantly faster and smarter than the earlier versions. The training doesn't seem to get much easier, though. As with all voice-recognition software, you'll need to spend some time getting to know it before it can really do anything remarkable for you.

Windows Speech Recognition

If you are a Windows user, a feasible alternative might be Windows Speech Recognition, the program that is integrated with Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It certainly merits a test before you purchase another program. Reviewers are impressed with the plethora of features and with its speed and accuracy, which some say is as good as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Lecia Monsen from says she is pleasantly surprised by Windows Speech Recognition because it "… seemed like the kind of software Microsoft would sell separately. We figured that it must not be worth much if they were throwing it in for free."

However, Windows Speech Recognition pales in comparison to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium. An Amazon customer writes, "Before purchasing Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 12, I attempted to use the speech recognition program included in Windows 7. I found myself repeating commands over and over until I eventually gave up and began typing."'s William Ehrendreich reviews both Windows 7 Speech Recognition and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium. The difference is significant. Before using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium he writes, "Microsoft Windows 7 Speech Recognition, though quirky, worked most of the time." Once he reviews Dragon NaturallySpeaking, he finds it much more impressive than Windows Speech Recognition, but he still says the latter has its place, considering it's free.

Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 is the only viable choice for Mac users

The speech-recognition software market has traditionally been dominated by PC-based applications. Mac users have few options. MacSpeech was a player for a while, but has since been purchased by Nuance Communications, which integrated it with their Dragon line, creating Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac (Est. $170). It's nearly as good as Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium, but it still has some shortcomings. If you are a Mac user, it's definitely your best bet, though.

Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac doesn't have the versatility of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium. It's geared more toward dictation, though voice commands and voice editing are available. The rules are just a little bit more stringent. Setting up Dragon Dictate is easy, dare we say, even fun, as it takes the time to get to know your voice and speech patterns. You start by reading the instructions as a test script, so you can learn about the software as it's getting to know you.

Compared to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Dragon Dictate 3 does a better job filtering out extraneous noise. Jill Duffy from writes, "Using a USB microphone, Dragon nailed every word I said, even with a good deal of ambient noise, including a jackhammer pounding away at the sidewalk outside my window."

If you're not planning on doing a lot of dictation, you might try Apple's own voice command software installed on your Mac operating system. It's free, and if you are just looking for basic voice control, it may be suitable for your needs.

Anyone using an older version of Dragon Dictate for Mac might squirm at the idea of spending almost $200 to upgrade when there really isn't a whole lot that is new. Dragon Dictate 3 does seem to be faster than older versions, according to reviews, with very little lag time between speaking words and seeing them in text form. Those folks might be wise to wait for the next generation, which could prove to be a little more earth shattering.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11 [Old Version]
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Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 12 Bluetooth (Wireless), English (Old Version)
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