Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 Review

Updated April 30, 2013
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Dragon Dictate for Mac 3
Bottom Line

Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac is full-fledged speech-recognition technology, with dictation and voice control options comparable to Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows. Like all software of this type, there's a learning curve -- but if you have the patience you'll be paid back with accuracy and speed.

Ease of use

Jump right in with the smart tutorial. Dragon Dictate 3's new fully interactive tutorial makes setting up a new profile simple, and it is a tremendous improvement over Dragon Dictate 2.5. Reviewers don't dismiss the importance of reading the manual, but they note that the tutorial can get you up and running within minutes. You can also download Dragon Dictate Command Sheet for Mac, which is full of handy tips that will make navigation and editing a snap with a list of frequently used commands.

ProsExcellent for dictation, Robust new tutorial, Ability to transcribe recorded audio filesConsTranscription does not support MP3 recordings, Some editing and correction glitches

Transcription is a big feature in the new version, and you can speak into the microphone that is included, transcribe audio files or dictate into an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android device with Nuance's free Dragon Recorder app. However you will not be able to edit as you go, which will require you to revisit the text to weed out any errors.

As incremental improvements are made to Dragon Dictate 3, it can prove to be life-changing for those with accessibility issues, but for more casual users, a substantial amount of time and energy needs to be devoted to learning its ins and outs for it to be a really effective tool.

Performance

Still imperfect, but improved. Nuance boasts a 15 percent improvement in accuracy in Dragon Dictate 3, as well as smarter formatting features. PC Advisor touted its dictation prowess, citing "an uncanny ability to recognize all manner of voices with very little training." For example, the software can detect your accent and type out "recognise" or "recognize," depending on what it hears. Accuracy tends to improve the more you use it, as you grow more comfortable with each other.

All these features take up a lot of hard drive space, especially if you are doing a lot of dictation. Dragon Recorder saves files in .wav format, which takes up about 2.7 MB per minute. Macworld has a detailed explanation of file limitations and why all that space is needed. Dragon Dictate 3 can transcribe audio files, but they must be in the uncompressed .wav format, which takes up a lot of space. MP3 files are not supported.

There are some issues with editing and correction. It's definitely not perfect, but it's better than what was previously available. The program does a good job of using context to determine correct word usage, and test exercises like, "You were right to write me right now" illustrate this nicely. Similar to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium, you'll need to use Dragon Dictate 3 in a fairly quiet place or outside noises will be a distraction.

Features

Time savers. If you are already using another version of Dragon Dictate, the addition of just a few new features in Dragon Dictate 3 might not be worth the added expense of upgrading. But new users will enjoy the editing and navigation tools available. For example, setting up your Smart Format Rules will enable the software to cater specifically to your preferences, particularly helpful for decisions like whether to use numerals or spell them out. It pops up the first time you speak a certain phrase or text, and allows you to tell it how you want it. This feature is a huge time-saver.

Another slick tool is that Dragon Dictate 3 can learn your contact names, up to 300. The company plans to increase this number in a future version.

These richer features have managed to bring Dragon Dictate in line with Nuance's Dragon PC-based NaturallySpeaking line, though Walter S. Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal notes, "One of the deficits still lingering in the Mac version is it has fewer sets of application-specific commands than its Windows counterpart." Additionally, you are unable to navigate from one link to another on a web page. But they are getting closer, and this version is a fully capable adversary.

Note that a high-quality microphone is provided, unless you purchase the digital download (for the same price), in which case you will need to acquire your own, which is a must with any voice control software.

Our Sources

1. Macworld

Review: Dragon Dictate 3 Sharpens Speech Recognition, Learns Transcription, Kirk McElhearn, Sept. 27, 2012

Macworld gives Dragon Dictate 3 a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Kirk McElhearn tests the software by transcribing text and calculating errors. He's written about the two earlier versions of Dragon Dictate, including 2.5, which was released about a year before this one. He notes several updated features, including a much-improved tutorial.

2. PCAdvisor.co.uk

Dragon Dictate 3 Review, Rob Beattie, Oct. 5, 2012

Reviewer Rob Beattie likes Dragon Dictate 3 as a dictation tool only; he appreciates the "engaging" tutorial and the Smart Format Rules. He has reservations about whether there is enough added in this version to warrant the expensive upgrade.

3. PCMag.com

Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac, Jill Duffy, Jan. 10, 2013

Dragon Dictate 3 gets an Editors' Choice from Jill Duffy, who compares it to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 Premium. She says that both products are excellent, though Dragon Dictate is definitely geared toward dictation. Some voice control options are available.

4. The Wall Street Journal

A Dragon That Takes Dictation and Controls a Mac by Voice, Walter S. Mossberg, Oct. 9, 2012

Tech columnist Walt Mossberg extensively tests Dragon Dictate 3 against other versions of itself, dictation software built into Mac as well as PC-based voice-recognition software. He also tests the transcribing of audio files versus real-time dictation, finding the results of file transcription lacking.