For more than eight years I’ve been working with dictation software in one way or another.Â Mostly I’ve been working with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but I’ve given ViaVoice and more recently MacSpeech iListen a try.
Dragon is without question the standard against which all the rest are measured.Â I’m currently on version 8 (David Pogue indicated that version 9 wasn’t worth the upgrade if you have 8 ), and it’s just about perfect.Â I do have corrections but they are few, and I’m surprised by how accurate the program is even when I’m speaking quickly.
My only complaint about Dragon is that it’s a Windows application.Â As anyone in the liaison group can tell you, I live on my Mac.Â I don’t have anything in particular against Windows – some of my best friends use Windows.Â Actually there are three things I can only do on a PC:
- Schedule a meeting with a room as a Resource in Outlook/Exchange
- Convert my laptop to tablet mode to read and annotate PDF documents
Someday I hope Microsoft makes Entourage work with Exchange.Â Someday I hope Apple makes a tablet.Â Someday I hope someone makes dictation software that works as well on a Mac as Dragon NaturallySpeaking does on my tablet.
Recently I purchased iListen from MacSpeech.Â If I could have a reliable speech-to-text program on my Mac, I could avoid bringing two computers home most weekends.
I’ve had plenty of luck finding applications on the Mac.Â OmniGraffle takes the place of Visio, BBEdit replaces Visual SlickEdit, Pages beats Publisher, Keynote beats PowerPoint, and so on.
David Pogue at the New York Times recently wrote about iListen as a side note in his review of NaturallySpeaking 9.Â He’s a dedicated Mac user – if you haven’t seen his TEDTalks presentation about Microsoft, Apple and design, you should.Â But David has stuck with Dragon over the years because it’s better than anything else.
As Pogue notes, iListen isn’t nearly as accurate or as elegant as NaturallySpeaking.Â I’ve done more than 30 minutes of training and I continue to have errors in almost every sentence.Â I haven’t given up, though.Â I correct what needs correcting, despite a correction interface that is not intuitive.Â Even with corrections I continue to have accuracy problems.
What’s most frustrating is that iListen essentially requires you to use your headset or the mouse, but not both.Â The program tries to remember where the cursor is in the document as it works.Â That makes no sense to me.Â Ultimately I get to a point in every document where I find i have to reach for the mouse to fix an error that I can’t get the program to select, thus ending my voice transcription attempt.
I’m not giving up!Â In some ways I feel as if iListen performs today as NaturallySpeaking did five or six years ago.Â Given time, I hope to see MacSpeech develop iListen into a truly useable application.
Or perhaps if I’m lucky, the makers of NaturallySpeaking will create a Mac version now that the hardware is Intel-based.