Another year, another release of NaturallySpeaking. The new version now fully integrates the codebase of the old L&H VoiceXpress, so it promises to be the best edition yet. Indeed, ScanSoft makes some bold claims, saying that it’s 15 per cent more accurate than before. But as 6.0 boasted recognition accuracies in the high 90s, take that with a pinch of salt.
What we guess ScanSoft means is that 7.0 makes 15 per cent fewer mistakes. This is quite possible — with only a 10-minute enrolment under its belt, NaturallySpeaking 7.0 rarely gets a word wrong if you enunciate clearly. For the best recognition rates, let it trawl documents for words not in its extensive vocabulary.
Speed is another claimed area of improvement — it can take as little as 10 seconds to load the software and get dictating. This does slow down operating system boot times, as portions of the software are stored in memory, but once it’s loaded you can dictate at up to 160wpm.
Other new features include Natural Punctuation, which makes a fair stab at obviating the need to say ‘comma’ or ‘full stop’, and support for Pocket PCs as dictating devices — when docked, the dictated notes are automatically transcribed and turned into Microsoft Word documents ( see here for a screenshot). It still offers tight integration with Microsoft Office and will support Office 2003 when released.
Speech recognition is one of the few applications that stresses a processor. We installed NaturallySpeaking 7.0 on a 1.1GHz Athlon-based PC with 384MB of RAM and it still felt a bit sluggish.
In brief: ScanSoft Dragon NaturallySpeaking 7.0 Preferred
NaturallySpeaking 7.0 is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary upgrade. Nevertheless, it continues to offer ever higher recognition accuracies. Those who spend a lot of their working life dictating should ignore it at their peril.
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