ScanSoft Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 6

Speech Recognition software

Yakking to the PC isn't everyone's cup of tea. However, if you have trouble typing or want to give your hands a break from the keyboard, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6 Preferred can help. Despite its financial turmoil, Lernout & Hauspie was acquired by ScanSoft in December last year; ScanSoft released this new $499 version that merges the features of L&H's Voice Xpress 5 and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 5 into one package.

After you finish the required training (it takes about five minutes), you're ready to start. Accuracy was relatively good from the start with this shipping product, although Dragon goofed several times: for example, it heard "Sabbath" when I uttered "snag", and "every horror" instead of "everywhere". As always, the recognition improved a bit when I did additional training. The new version is supposed to filter out "ums" and "ahs"; for the most part, Dragon did ignore these sounds, but at times it picked up random words, even during silences.

Other new stuff: you can add contact names from Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express, and create custom commands ("insert my sig"). Plus, making on-the-fly corrections by voice is now more efficient, with more options on how to do it. The interface is also more intuitive.

Included is the Plantronics SR1, a comfortable, noise-cancelling headset. You're advised to run the software on a Pentium II-400 (or faster) PC with at least 128MB of RAM - and you'll need the power. Dragon won't replace your keyboard - typing is just faster at times - but it's a useful alternative if you want to use your voice.

ScanSoft Dragon "Naturally Speaking "Preferred 6It's easier to use and offers extra perks, but you must train, train, train. And it's expensive.

Distributor: Voice Perfect Systems.

Price: DNS Preferred 6 Deluxe $499; Intermediate $449; Basic $399 (prices reflect quality of bundled headsets).

Phone: (03) 9866 5733.

URL: www.scansoft.com.

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