Once it's running, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 adds a small feature bar that sits atop other open applications on your desktop. The well-organized pull-down menus haven't changed from the past. The text will "type" pretty much wherever a cursor appears, including word processing pages, Web form fields, and the included DragonPad.
Dragon performs a microphone check during setup. When our volume was too low on the Windows Vista laptop, we couldn't use the software. Somehow reading our frustrated mind, it typed "I hate you I" when we said, "Type. Type!" Saying "crazy" got spelled out as "greasy." Then "greasy," spoken, translated to "leafy," then "greens fee," then "Greenstein." In fact, the included headset didn't deliver adequate voice quality to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking at all. We reverted to the same headset packaged with Dragon 9, with better results.
Training is optional, but we recommend stepping through its paces to get Dragon up to speed with your speech patterns. The software can also scan the documents and e-mails on your computer to look for commonly used words.
New to this update is support for accents which include, oddly enough, Teen English alongside American, Australian, Southern Asian, British, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish accents. And there's improved QuickVoice formatting. For instance, now you can utter the command, "Underline The Grapes of Wrath" to underline the book's title, which took two steps with previous versions.
In addition, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 introduces Voice Shortcuts that enable you to look things up online quickly in your default browser. Tell Dragon to "search YouTube for Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech,'" and relevant results appear on YouTube. The same applies for Wikipedia, eBay, and Amazon. Dragon 10 is also built to search within Windows Vista folders and in Google Desktop.
This application supports commands in Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, and AOL. Using Dragon with the Google Docs online word processor was trickier in our tests than with Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007. People with disabilities can mostly drop the mouse and the keyboard, asking Dragon to do the work for them. But if you have the choice, we still prefer manual controls to the tedious attempts at using Dragon to cut and paste chunks of text within a long document.
The more you use Dragon, correcting its errors and adding your own lingo to its vocabulary, the better it gets. It already recognizes everything from "a cappella" to "smiley-face" to "ZZ Top." Abbreviations and tech slang work, too; speaking "dot ASP" spells ".ASP" and saying "smiley-face" will spell out this character: :-) Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 has the intelligence to detect words within context. For example, it knows to type "eating a carrot" instead of "eating a karat."
You don't need to speak like a robot into the mic, although enunciating helps. If you tend to mumble, then act as if you're reading a book to a child or a teleprompter for a newscast when using Dragon. Out of the box, the application does very well with long, polysyllabic words. But we've found it difficult for Dragon versions 8, 9, and 10 to distinguish between short words with similar vowel sounds, such as "a," "the," and "of."
You can plug in a variety of voice recorders for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 to transcribe your own voice. The application supports MP3, WAV, and WMA audio files. You can create a profile of your voice for a mobile recording device, such as a Pocket PC handheld. After you record your thoughts on the go, you can feed Dragon that sound file later for transcription.
Unfortunately, the Dragon 10 license is only good for one user. To the woe of journalists and college students, Dragon won't transcribe your recording of, say, an interview subject or a college professor.
Service and support
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 includes free telephone or online chat support for one installation incident, without which we wouldn't have been able to run Windows Vista installation. Step-by-step setup help and tutorials are excellent. We found the searchable online knowledgebase to be well organized. Peer support is also available online.