If you're a regular reader of AnandTech -- and my articles in particular -- you may already know that I use speech recognition for writing the vast majority of my content. About five years ago, after a wonderful spree of typing like a madman on an article, my hands and fingers started going numb. Yes, I have the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. I tried to type less, and that helped a little, but what I really needed to do was cut out typing as much as possible. After reading about some options, I decided to try Dragon NaturallySpeaking. That was version 8, and I've never looked back.

A couple years later, version 9 was released and I began using that. I didn't notice any major improvements in accuracy or speed, but it did seem like it was a little better. I believe version 9 also added support for Office 2007's ribbon interface, but since I still have no problem using a mouse I haven't bothered with using Dragon to send commands much. Version 10 came out last year and I've been meaning to write a review for a while now. That keeps getting pushed aside, so rather than a full review I'm going to do a quick update on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.

Unlike version 9, version 10 definitely has some noticeable improvements. For one, it simply seems to be faster at recognizing speech -- Nuance said that the latest version is optimized for dual-core processors, which would certainly account for the difference. Accuracy is still a very nebulous concept, and I'm not sure if Dragon has gotten better with the latest version or if I just adapted to using Dragon over the years. Whatever the case, I'm quite happy with the level of accuracy NaturallySpeaking provides, and version 10 is the best so far.

The other major change with version 10 -- not initially, but as of March this year -- is that we finally have a version of NaturallySpeaking that works with 64-bit Windows. It was a long time in coming, and I'm not sure what the holdup was, but with the latest patch you can now use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 with Windows Vista 64-bit. Hooray for progress! Windows XP support is limited to 32-bit versions, however, and I haven't taken the time to test naturally speaking with Windows 7.

Some of you are probably wondering how Dragon NaturallySpeaking compares to the built-in speech recognition in Windows Vista. I discussed that in my speech recognition article several years ago, and frankly I still haven't been able to invest a significant amount of time in using Microsoft's "free" speech recognition. It looks like Microsoft may actually do a little better for sending certain commands to your computer, but in general the speech recognition interface they provide just isn't nearly as seamless as NaturallySpeaking. I haven't looked at Windows 7 to see if anything has changed, but I somehow doubt that I would actually make a switch at this point. It's a lot like using Windows and Microsoft Office; you can get open-source alternatives for free and run Linux and OpenOffice, but ultimately you find yourself wanting to go back to Microsoft.

So why this blog post now? I just received an email from TigerDirect with a link to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard, which allows you to purchase the application for $50 instead of $100. 50% off a great application is certainly a worthwhile investment, and for those that are willing to jump through the hoops you get a $20 mail-in rebate. That brings the total cost down to $30. $30 for what is arguably the most important tool I use? Sign me up! (Incidentally, Nuance sent me the Professional version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, but I pretty much limit myself to use of the Preferred feature set. You might want to check out the datasheet for specific details on what features may not work with the Standard version. Note that Microsoft Office is listed as a feature of Professional; you can still use Standard to dictate in Word, but you can't issue specific Word/Excel commands.) Note: The link above is a direct add to your cart, and TigerDirect says it's a "limited time offer", so I don't know how long the link will remain active. If you have an alternative deal for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, please post it in the comments!

The only thing you need beyond the software is a microphone, and my experience is that you don't even need a great microphone. However, there's more to it than just getting a microphone that works; if you plan to use speech recognition on a regular basis like me, you'll also want a microphone that's comfortable… and I prefer something that doesn't go over the top of my head, since I don't want to mess up my hairdo. ;-) I got the Sennheiser ME3 with Andrea USB Pod from emicrophones.com back in 2006, and it was definitely a nice upgrade to the Logitech headset I was using. You can find less expensive microphones with a similar style, but I would suggest getting some sort of USB sound pod and bypassing your soundcard; I don't know if it works that much better, but it's great if you ever have to use your microphone on a different PC. Since I routinely switch between my desktop and a laptop, the USB adapter is a godsend; integrated audio on some laptops can be particularly bad, and don't even think about using the built-in microphone on your LCD!

If you've never tried Dragon NaturallySpeaking, you really ought to. With a modern PC, it's really quite awesome being able to dictate to a computer and have everything come out accurately… well, at least with around 98% accuracy, give or take. My only real problem with NaturallySpeaking is that there are a few quirks I still encounter. It's nothing drastic, but sometimes the program crashes and any updates to my dictionary that I've created are lost and need to be reentered. I use a lot of custom phrases for computer products; for example the Gateway NV52 required that I put "envy fifty two = NV52" into my phrase list. I also have just about every AMD and Intel processor number in my list, so when I add 10 processors and forget to save my user files and Dragon crashes a few hours later, it can be annoying. My other gripe is with the "we need more hard drive space" dialog routinely appearing. Regardless of what I do, that dialogue seems to stick around and pop up every few weeks.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that Dragon NaturallySpeaking is so accurate that you start to get lazy; homonyms can still throw the program for a loop, so if you don't read what it transcribes carefully, you're likely to come up with some grammatical/spelling errors from time to time. That's actually high praise for the program: it's so accurate that you come to expect everything to work out properly and stop paying attention. Just try not to do that when you're writing an important female, or the results might be a little embarrassing! (Ironically, Dragon just screwed up that sentence. I truly did say "email" and Dragon thought I said "female" -- see what I mean about embarrassing?)

Final tally: Over 1200 words and I only had to correct around ten actual mistakes (i.e. not counting mumbled words). Yes, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 truly can achieve 99% accuracy.

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  • khernitzz - Sunday, September 20, 2009 - link

    I believe you can also avail this offer if you purchase them directly from the company:

    http://support.nuance.com/customerservice/phone/">http://support.nuance.com/customerservice/phone/
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    My bad, sorry --I didn't realize you posted the link to direct-add the item to ones shopping cart. Bit of confusion there, but I've sorted it out. :) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Yeah, sorry... that's the link in my email, so honestly I don't know how long it will be valid. I'd honestly still recommend trying Dragon if you're a slow typist or have any sort of RSI/CTS, even at $200. Reply
  • lyeoh - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    I'm not a doctor, but if your CTS is due to squished nerves, you could try taking methylcobalamin/mecobalamin.

    A doc prescribed it for me and it worked. Could check with a doc or neurologist first.

    Basically the theory is the problem is because the nerves are being squashed, and the methylcobalamin helps the nerves stay alive and "OK" till the body hopefully adapts/heals.
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Friday, September 18, 2009 - link

    No offense intended towards you because you obviously have good intentions, but The Missus demands that I speak up. I'm stitting right next to my g/f who is a pharmacist. She saw your post and her head rolled. She didn't say it, but since I hear it all the time I know what she was thinking. It's great the drugs work for you, but if at all possible, it's a much better alternative to seek solutions that do not require drugs. Americans in particular are hooked on pill popping. Check out the movie Sicko for a brief look.

    I should also mention my g/f is back in school to become a nurse (while continuing to work in a pharmacy) because she's so disgusted with her segment of the health care system.
    Reply
  • lyeoh - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    Yes drugs are often not a solution, or the best solution. If you or your girlfriend have better and more effective suggestions, I'm sure he (and I) will be happy to hear of them.

    But voice recognition software is most certainly not a solution for CTS - it's a workaround. If he's not careful he might end up with vocal chord problems too ;).

    My course of methycobalamin was certainly cheaper than the voice recognition software mentioned in the article. And more importantly I can use a keyboard and mouse now with no pain.

    It may not work for him, but at least he might be aware of one more option (and one that at least has some scientific basis/research behind it - even if it was mostly done in Japan, and more recently China).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    FWIW, I appreciate the suggestions. I typically eat reasonably healthy (almost no fast food, lots of water, get regular exercise, and take a multivitamin just for good measure). I do type more than I think is "safe" even now, just because sometimes I'm too lazy to put on my headset for a short note, or because there's some background noise - right now the dishwasher is running, for example, so I'm typing this. Shame on me....

    Anyway, I don't really have pain per se; rather, I have numbness and tingling that crops up, and that's usually a sign of bigger problems to come if you don't take action. Rather than going along typing until I am actually incapacitated by my inability to type, using speech recognition for my articles seems like a nice solution. I also have a "natural" ergonomic keyboard, which seems to have helped a bit relative to the old keyboard I had. Mousing as I said isn't a problem for me (yet?) so I can do that fine.

    As for surgery... well, that wouldn't be a good course of action unless I had actually changed the habits that lead to CTS in the first place, right? So that's an absolute last ditch effort (and prone to complications from what I understand).

    For $30-$50 -- or free if you're like me and Nuance sends you a copy for evaluation! :) -- Dragon is a nice solution that I appreciate. I actually bought version 8, though, so it wasn't always free. I also have my dad hooked up with DNS as well, since he has myasthenia gravis and can no longer type properly, and my brother who types at around 25 WPM got it from his wife a few years back based on my recommendation. He now writes longer email messages than before! LOL

    Will it work for everyone? I'm sure it won't, especially anyone with a speech impediment, but for those where it does help give it a try! Or if you're curious, try out the Vista/Windows 7 speech recognition... but don't say I didn't warn you that the interface is at times clunky!
    Reply
  • mmike70 - Friday, September 18, 2009 - link

    The two compounds listed are basically Vitamin B12, hardly a drug and are used quite successfully in treating peripheral neuropathy. Reply
  • martalli - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    I am a doctor, and I would note that Vitamin B12 is useful in treating neuropathy due to B12 deficiency. However, if you are not deficient in B12, it will not help. Reply
  • lyeoh - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    He could try it for himself - consult a doctor/neurologist about it etc. Or even buy it "over the counter" - it is extremely unlikely to kill or harm him.

    In some studies methylcobalamin has been shown to help nerve regeneration in rats. And B12 for rabbits.

    See: http://www.google.com/search?q=site:www.ncbi.nlm.n...">http://www.google.com/search?q=site:www...gov+meth...

    And even if the recovery is actually due to a "placebo effect", I don't think he'll care that much as long as he's much better and can use a keyboard and mouse without pain.
    Reply

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