I've written blog posts on planes, on trains, and definitely in automobiles. This is the first time, however, that I've written a section of a post just using my voice. MacSpeech Dictate, version 1.2 (the
firstthird version using the Dragon technology licensed from Nuance), released this week, is so much better than any previous Mac dictation system that I find I can't think fast enough to keep up with it.
The new MacSpeech version isn't cheap. For $200 you get the software on a CD and DVD, plus a Plantronics headset with a USB adapter (other microphone setups are available as options; I'm using it with a Sennheiser headset). It also has fairly steep system requirements -- you'll need an Intel Mac running 10.4.11/10.5.3 or higher. The software isn't problem free; it can get a little confused when you switch back and forth between dictation and typing, and the interface isn't exactly what I'd call streamlined... but the results are unbelievable.
Installation is quite straightforward. Run the app, adjust your headset volume, read about five minutes of training material; then you're ready to roll. Any application that accepts text input will work with the MacSpeech software. Your text appears just as though you had typed it from the keyboard. In my initial testing, accuracy is very, very good. Almost everything I say gets correctly interpreted by the software, so the recognition and correction tools aren't getting much of a workout yet. Later on I'll try some more complicated dictation tasks and see how it goes.
Having to announce each punctuation mark and speak like a newscaster could easily get old, and my coworkers may not appreciate me dictating everything every day. I can't deny, however, that there is something truly magical about the power of MacSpeech Dictate. Spell words it doesn't recognize, add custom words to the vocabulary (including entire text documents already written)... just awesome.
Back to the keyboard -- I can definitely type faster than I can dictate (at least, so far) and other formatting tasks are much easier with a hand on the mouse. Still, for anyone who faces challenges using traditional inputs methods due to RSI or other restrictions, this new version is definitely worth a close look.