Speech-recognition software – also known as voice-recognition software – lets you control your computer with spoken commands (e.g. "open Word" or "turn off microphone") and converts speech into text. It's a game-changer for persons with physical limitations that prevent use of a traditional keyboard (such as repetitive-stress injuries) and slow typists alike.
Many people have become aware of speech-recognition software thanks to Apple's iPhone 4S with Siri, an application that recognizes spoken commands and can make your dinner reservations, map a route to the restaurant or send text messages (with some hiccups, of course). But mobile applications do little more than respond to simple commands. To truly appreciate what's available, you'll need software designed for a PC.
Nuance's Dragon line is by far the biggest player in the market. Almost unanimously, reviewers recommend the remarkably intuitive Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium (Est. $150). There is also a less expensive version, Dragon Naturally Speaking Home 12 (Est. $80), and a version that is compatible with Apple products, Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac (Est. $170). With proper training it's possible to achieve 98 to 99 percent accuracy, but you'll notice that the demands on your operating system are pretty high.
ConsumerSearch scoured the web for the best and most comprehensive reviews of voice-recognition software, carefully considering features, price, usability and performance. While Dragon is the behemoth, Windows Speech Recognition is a good gateway into speech-recognition software. If you're already using a recent version of Windows, it's included in the suite of applications you already have; if it meets your needs, there's not much reason to look further.
If you need to move beyond Windows Speech Recognition, a lot of effort has been put into testing and reviewing the other major players, and ConsumerSearch has broken down all of that information right here.