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Dragon Naturally Speaking V.6 Preferred.

ScanSoft (9 Centennial Dr., Peabody, MA 01960. 978-977-2000 c1997-2002. Windows XP/ME/2000/98/95 or NT 4.0 (SP-6 min.), Pentium 11/400MHz , 128MB, 300MB free hard disk space, 16-bit sound card, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 min., CD-ROM drive, speakers. CD-ROM disk, headset microphone, user's guide. $199.99; standard edition or preferred upgrade, $99.99. JSA

This is the third version of this software I have reviewed over the years, and it is the best one yet. For those unfamiliar with dictation software, it is a revelation to see your spoken word appear on the screen, as if by magic. This new version installed easily, and training the software to recognize my voice took only a few minutes. Although my computer has poor audio quality, according to the program, speech transcription accuracy was very good. Accuracy improves when the user speaks at a natural speed in complete sentences or paragraphs, a far cry from early versions that required pauses between words. Text conversion from the spoken word is faster than ever. The software claims to handle up to 160 wpm, and I have no reason to doubt that claim.

Users can dictate into a Naturally Speaking window, or into any of the major word processors (for example, Microsoft Word). Dictation also works with most Windows programs, including e-mail software. Carried over from previous versions, but improved, are a comprehensive reference manual; extensive online help, including a multimedia tour; and a quick reference card. It is easy to edit and make corrections with voice commands. When ready to proofread, the user simply has Naturally Speaking read back the text. My old standby test, "She sells seashells by the seashore," worked perfectly the first time. The default proofreading voice is a human-sounding female with a slight Scandinavian accent. Away from your computer? Dictate into an approved tape recorder, and let the software transcribe your dictation when you return.

The software isn't perfect, however. Occasionally, it would interpret my breathing as the word "and". A microphone position adjustment corrected that minor problem. And a couple of times, when I wanted to insert the words Naturally Speaking, the software opened the Naturally Speaking menu instead. To be fair, the software was uncannily good at distinguishing between commands and dictation.

The software is potentially useful to nearly everyone. It is especially useful for people who would rather speak than type. For anyone with a disability involving his or her hands (or eyes), it would be a wonderful tool. As with previous versions, version 6 is an easy recommendation. Eric Fortess, Assoc. Prof., Suffolk Univ., Boston, MA
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Author:Fortess, Eric
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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