Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dragon for Mac: No.

I try not to make my blog Whinge Central, but this information might actually be helpful for some of you out there. So: I'm sure Dragon Dictate's latest version of dictation software for Mac users (by Nuance) is useful to someone with some job, but I'm sorry to say that if you happen to be a writer who works with manuscripts that are a few hundred pages long, it amounts to highly-priced garbage. The program is designed to be simultaneously conscious of every word in your manuscript, so that you can verbally navigate to any point – a feature I have no need for, but that I'm not given the option of turning off – and it's quite limited, apparently, in the number of words it can manage at once. If I have my Dragon Dictate microphone turned on and I click into my current 280-page manuscript, the software flips out, freezes, then takes several minutes to crash.  Every single time. When I called Nuance's (consistently appalling) customer service, I was told to dictate short sections of my manuscript into another document, then copy and paste those sections into the real document. In fact, I've taken to doing this when I'm transcribing large amounts of text, because it seems to be my only option. However, when what I'm doing is revising a currently existing manuscript – changing a few words here, a few words there – this is no solution at all. This software, which is supposed to be the most advanced version of a program I once loved, can't help me at all with one of the most essential parts of my job as a writer.

If it weren't for the fabulous (but very limited) native dictation feature in Apple's latest operating system, I honestly don't know how I would do my job. I expect it would either involve a lot of pain or a lot of money. (If your Mac runs Mountain Lion and you're interested in trying out your own native dictation program, open System Preferences; under the "System" section, click on Dictation & Speech; then turn dictation on. (If you really want it to work, you'll need a good microphone.))

I can't speak to any other versions of Dragon. For all I know, the version for PCs works like a charm in all situations. But the version for Mac users is the buggiest, most frustrating, and most patently useless version of dictation software I have ever owned. I say that as a writer who has depended on dictation software for writing long pieces of prose, and who has used multiple programs on multiple platforms, for almost 10 years.