Faster, more accurate, 64-bit dictation with Dragon Dictate for Mac 4

Nuance recently released version 4 of Dragon Dictate for Mac. The new version is 100% 64-bit, transcribes podcasts or pre-recorded audio files, enables full control over Gmail in your browser and has improved accuracy using the Best Match V technology. Furthermore, Dragon Dictate version 4 offers full text control in Apple Pages 4.3 with the ability to mix dictation and typing.

First the best news: Dragon Dictate 4 is a lot more accurate than its predecessor. Perhaps this is due to version 4 being a 64-bit application, but whatever the cause and without being able to scientifically prove it, I had the distinct feeling that Dragon Dictate now really understands what I’m saying, even when I get tired and my English (I’m not a native English speaker and tend to have an undefined accent when I tire) becomes less comprehensible. I would say that Dragon Dictate 4 now reaches an accuracy level of 99.99%. It’s not just that it’s more accurate, it also works better in applications such as Ulysses (the app in which I’m dictating now) and Pages – even when it’s version 5, the latest version. With previous versions, Dragon Dictate would become totally confused when used with Ulysses.

Dragon Dictate 4 is also much faster than its predecessors. On my iMac (mid-2011) I would say it’s about twice as fast.

Dragon Dictate Mac 4

Of course I also tried the new version’s ability to control and dictate a message in Google’s mail application within your browser. This requires you to first install Safari or Firefox extensions. I’m not sure if these extensions are already out of beta mode, because on my system Safari became sluggish with the extension installed and some websites did not display correctly anymore. The brief moment I spent with Safari’s Dragon Dictate extension did allow me to use Gmail by using my voice as if it were a native OS X app. Another “integration” with the web is that you now can use your voice to click on any visible link, and open emails with your voice.

Dragon Dictate 4 also supports transcription from files in multiple formats, including MP3, WAV, AIFF, and even MOV files. This enables you to transcribe podcasts or videos spoken by other people, because you only need a 90 second audio clip to create a profile for the speaker.

I tested this with a video, a screencast, spoken by myself with a lot of “heh’s and haah’s” and considerable hesitations and I ended up with a transcription that was about 80% correct. That may seem like unusable, but given the quality of my speech, it’s not surprising. And even if it’s far from perfect, it would still be better than having to transcribe the whole thing by hand. I would say even with this accuracy score, it would still save me an hour or two.

That is because you don’t have to listen to every sentence on your own — playing, fast forward, backward, etc. — as you would have to when transcribing by hand. Dragon Dictate has a nice correction panel with a play button that allows you to listen to each sentence individually that the app transcribed. The sentences or parts of them are highlighted and you only hear what is highlighted. That speeds up the transcription process considerably.

In terms of management, Dragon Dictate now allows you to create a profile with multiple transcription sources and multiple microphone settings, which makes it easier to use different hardware. For example, if you have a headset that is not always connected, you can now quickly dictate from the iMac’s built-in microphone without having to switch profiles.

Based on my testing, Dragon Dictate 4 is the first version that makes dictating come extremely close to perfect, while giving you the ability to take most of the pain out of transcribing regardless of who was the speaker. Given the time savings Dragon Dictate 4 allows for, I would say the €143.00 (approx.) price tag is not exaggerated at all, despite some people’s complaints on forums and MacUpdate.