Upgrading to Dragon 14: A Rant

So I made the switch. I had been using Dragon 12.5 for quite a while, and previous versions before that. I was quite happy with it. Sure, there were times where it wasn’t exactly super accurate—but for the most part it never made a mistake—the reported accuracy rate was 99%. The more I used it, the better it got since it “learned” how I spoke and the words I used most frequently.

I wasn’t even anticipating a new version. I think I stopped getting notifications from Nuance for some reason—Nuance is the company that makes Dragon—like perhaps I had turned them off or something because they were starting to get annoying. Anyway I was in Staples one day and noticed a copy of Dragon 13 professional on the shelf. “Oh,” I said to myself. “There’s a new version of Dragon out!” It was on sale to—50% off. I thought about it. I hadn’t gotten a new version of Dragon in several years—could it be? Yes. A short search on my phone showed that it was so. Dragon 14—or rather Dragon Professional Individual was now out, and best of all there was a low upgrade price from Dragon 13. Dragon 12.5, my current version, worked great with Scrivener, which is one of the programs I use most often. Best of all, both of version 13 and version 14 claimed vast improvements over their predecessors. Brilliant!

My first foray into using voice recognition software was using Microsoft’s built-in program. It was okay. I spent a lot of time correcting things and generally screwing around, it wasn’t really saving me any time because by the time I got through all the screwing around and correcting things that Microsoft got wrong, I could’ve just typed the damn thing. So I decided to give Dragon a try. I haven’t looked back.

Until now.

In Dragon version 12.5, you could open up any program—Scrivener, Open Office, LibreOffice, it didn’t matter. If Dragon 12.5 thought it wasn’t compatible with the program that you opened, it would give you the option of using something called the “dictation box” in order to continue. In the settings the user was able to turn off this “dictation box” option. Afterwards, Dragon would continue to function as normal in any software that you chose to use, allowing you to cut, paste, edit, capitalize, and correct on the fly.

I had been using Dragon so long and so successfully that I never suspected that Nuance was going to change everything—for the worse. But hey, sale! I was going to save money!

And so it was that I came to own both Dragon 13 and 14.

If only I had known…

So the official answer as to what went wrong is: “We took a survey.”

Wait wait wait, let me go back a second.

Before the survey, before anything else, Dragon was already headed in the strange direction. With 12.5 I had to go onto the Internet and look up how to shut off the Dragon dictation box option for “unsupported” software. That was fine, once that was done, Dragon would ignore the fact that it thought Scrivener was “unsupported.” Dragon was full-featured within Scrivener, allowing me to edit and make corrections just as easily as if I were using their dictation box. So I happily installed Dragon 13, opened up Scrivener, and started going to work. Immediately I realized something was wrong. I was getting capital letters in the middle of sentences, was not able to say “correct such and such” and have the correction box open, selecting things was broken, it was a big mess. So I got online and started looking it up.

The official answer for what went wrong is: “We took a survey.”

Apparently Nuance took a user survey. I was never consulted—but remember I turned off my messages from Nuance because they were getting annoying, remember? If I got an email about it, it must’ve gotten lost in my junk box folder. So don’t blame this on me.

Apparently, the people at Nuance sent out a survey. They received the results, and somehow got the impression users cared more about speed and accuracy than they did about compatibility. But I ask you: what in the hell is the point of speed and accuracy if you can’t use the program where you need it? Nuance decided the best way to make everything in the universe “compatible” with Dragon was to FORCE you to use the dictation box in programs that are not “supported.” Like Scrivener. Now I’m encountering a problem similar to the problem I had when I was using Microsoft speech recognition: by the time I’m done screwing around with the dictation box, I could have just typed the damn thing.

On the forums, I was disturbed by what I was reading. I was already in the process of installing my newest purchase, Dragon 14, hoping that perhaps they had fixed the problem—I wasn’t finding any forced march dictation box rants out there about this latest version. But what I was finding was that people had installed 13, played around with it for a couple weeks, got pissed off, uninstalled it and reinstalled Dragon 12.5. Reading these reviews and comments, I started to get a little nervous. Had I seriously just wasted all that money?

But I got it on sale? Now I’m starting to wonder why I got it on sale. Was it because there was a new version out? Or were they having a fire sale on version 13 to clear it off the shelves so they could put their new product out there—a product without the stigma of 13? Let’s face it: even on sale, Dragon costs a lot of money. People who go out and purchase Dragon are hoping to improve their productivity. They want to speed up their workflow. They don’t want to open a program, put their cursor in the text field, and then open another program to do their dictation. That is the exact OPPOSITE of improved workflow.

Nuance? Are you listening? Have you gone on the Internet and seen what people are saying about your new products? People are downgrading to a previous version of your software in order to make it work the way they need it to. People are asking you why you did it and if you are going to fix it. You are responding: “No, fuck off.”

A software patch, Nuance. A software patch. Dragon 14.5 had better give us the option to once again turn off the dictation box and attempt to allow Dragon to work as normal within programs that we use. If it doesn’t, well I can tell you I won’t ever be purchasing another Nuance product. And I won’t ever be recommending it for anyone else, either.

All that said, and rant over, let’s talk about Dragon 14 in terms of speed and accuracy.

As I’ve been dictating this review, I’ve had to tell Dragon to correct about three different words. The words are coming out perfectly—I’ve had a little bit more trouble with numbers. Dragon wants to be consistent with the way it does numbers, so I’ve had to learn to say “numeral” before I say a number, or I get the written out version. For example, I have no idea if somewhere in the document you’re going to find me saying Dragon fourteen instead of Dragon 14. I tried to find and correct all of these, but it’s just one of those habits that you have to get into. Otherwise, Dragon fourteen is extremely fast. My computer is pretty fast, so I don’t expect lag of any kind—so let’s talk a little bit about how well it works on my laptop. My laptop is decent, not a POS, but not the greatest either. Nuance allowed me to install Dragon fourteen on my laptop and hasn’t given me any crap about it. Sometimes software companies will take note of how many times you install a product and block you from registering and even disable your product—Nuance hasn’t done that, not yet. I don’t think they do, I haven’t seen anything specific about limited licenses.

I digress. Another thing that Dragon does very well his work with the Internet. I’m currently using Google Chrome. I am typing—rather dictating—into the text box on my WordPress currently; Dragon is full-featured here. I am able to edit, make corrections, and do everything else that Dragon is capable of doing in this text box. (This is why it’s passing me off so much—the text boxes in most text editing software are EXACTLY the same, at least for the most part, and definitely for the ones I use. Why? Why can’t I use Dragon in Scrivener)

I’ve tried and tried to convince myself that what I really need to do is just get used to using the Dragon Dictation box. My copy of Microsoft Word is from two thousand three—that was about the time I discovered Open Office. Later, when Sun Microsystems sold out, I discovered LibreOffice. The only reason Microsoft Word is even installed on my computer is because it does a few things that I found handy—for example, I used to have a Windows phone, back before Windows phones began to suck. I had a lot of notes on my Windows phone using the resident Windows note taking program. The only way to get those notes back was either to open them up in WordPad (You can’t say WordPad without Dragon opening it—that’s annoying, I wonder if I can shut that off) and hope that they’re not so corrupt that you can’t find the data, or install Microsoft Word and use it to interpret the file and make it readable again. Other than that I don’t use Microsoft Word or WordPad. I do, however, use the text editor. That particular program I use all the time.

In closing, Nuance Dragon 14—and 13 for that matter—do appear to run significantly faster and more accurately than twelve. However, forcing users to use the dictation box in “unsupported software” is about the biggest software turnoff I could imagine for a voice recognition engine.

At this time I can recommend neither Dragon 13 nor or 14. Unless of course you exclusively use Microsoft Word, WordPad, Notepad and Internet browsers to do all your typing—then it would be fine. If you use any other software that is not “compatible” with Dragon, as with most users you’ll probably find the dictation box to be a pain in the ass.

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