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The judge I used to work for did almost everything with dictation. I was extremely jealous. It seemed like an incredibly efficient way to get things done. Of course, the difference between his office set up and mine is that he had a talented secretary to take that dictation. I won’t have an office for another month, and the secretary is a long time in the future. Luckily, as I’ve mentioned before, we live in the future. That means I can get software like Dragon Dictate for Mac, talk to my computer, and it does what I tell it to do. But does it do the job well enough?
Initial Thoughts on Dragon Dictate for Mac
I’ve been using Dragon Dictate for Mac for a few months now on and off. After the first week or so of using it I nearly gave up and didn’t even bother with the review. But, from time to time I would come back to the dictation and each time got a little bit better. Like every single person who reviews dictation software, I have to mention the learning curve. It is very strange to say “comma” when you want to insert a comma, or “period” when you want a period (I typed the preceding sentence because it was too difficult to dictate.)
Also, from using dictation, I have discovered that I speak incredibly fast. Dragon forces me to slow down considerably. I realized this almost immediately, during the training you have to put Dragon Dictate through in order to recognize your voice. Speaking of the training, I found the process entirely painless. You read some text, it dictates the text. If, after completing the training, you don’t think the software is acting as it should, you can go back in and conduct further training. I did not find this necessary.
When I opened the box, the microphone that came with Dragon Dictate for Mac was broken. The earpiece was hanging off, and did not snap back easily into place. It took a team effort of me, my surgeon friend, and the screwdriver to get the microphone in proper working order. But once we did it was well worth it. I use the microphone not only for Dragon Dictate, but for Google Voice calls as well.
On the iMac there are no plugs for a microphone in the actual computer. Thus Dragon Dictate for Mac comes with a USB dongle. The plug-and-play was no problem. I plugged it into the back of my iMac and I was off. The sound quality is decent. I have no trouble hearing people on the phone when I’m using it. That being said, in the future I would like to explore a wireless option. I think better on my feet, and I believe being able to pace and dictate at the same time would turn me into a creativity machine.
Using Commands in Dragon Dictate
The Dragon software comes with a command mode. This is to allow the user to switch from program to program, enter keystrokes, and perform any other number of tasks with just one’s voice. I found the process completely unbearable. First of all, you have to switch into “command mode” in order to use it. You can do this with your voice but the software just as often recognizes the words as dictation as it does a command. At the end of the day I ended up using the mouse to switch between dictation mode and command mode. Thus completely defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Bugs in Dragon Dictate
In the Amazon review of this product, numerous users report bugs and errors with the software. I did not think the software was as buggy as many reviewers seemed to. But over the last few months, there have been maybe 3 or 5 occurrences where I would be dictating along and everything would be going great, and all of a sudden Dragon wouldn’t understand a single word I was saying. I would look back at the screen and realize the last paragraph I wrote turned into utter gibberish.
Some users also reported that when they tried to switch from dictating to typing, the software would have issues. I noticed no such problems. Where I did get into trouble a couple of times was when Dragon paused to handle the dictation and I did not realize it, so I started typing. Then, once Dragon caught up, it would insert the dictation wherever my cursor was.
There were several small bugs I did notice though. For instance, if you use the return key to get to a new line, Dragon Dictate for Mac inserts a space at the beginning of the paragraph. Like it did in this paragraph. The preferred option is to use the “new line” phrase while dictating. I found that it recognizes this phrase no problem, so I began using it exclusively. The software also prefers numbers to words. For example, when you say “three” you get “3″ exclusively. “First” is shown as “1st” without fail.
While editing this review, I also noticed that Dragon Dictate occasionally inserts two spaces instead of one. I hadn’t noticed that in Word, but that’s probably because Word auto corrected the issue. Finally, the software has quite a difficult time with many names.
Lawyer Specific Issues with Dragon Dictate
My biggest concern with using dictation software was understanding legal terms of art. To my surprise, I found that words like “habeas corpus” and “mens rea” got dictated without a hitch. “Corpus delecti” turned into “corpus select dying” most of the time. I try not to use legal terms in my writing, so I didn’t notice much of an error when dictating. What I found to be incredibly painful was attempting to dictate a citation to the software. It just isn’t worth it. Luckily my legal research software makes copying and pasting citations very easy, so this didn’t detract too much from my workflow.
If you’re interested, Dragon makes a separate piece of software for “legal professionals.” That software retails for around $600. MacSpeech Dictate Legal comes with a headset just like the version I reviewed. But allegedly the software is better equipped to handle legal terms of art and other things that may be important to “legal professionals.” There’s also a second piece of software included in MacSpeech Dictate Legal which allows users to dictate to an audio recording, open the program, and have the program transcribe everything that was in the dictation. Definitely an interesting feature, but I don’t see how it’s worth $600.
Dragon Dictate for Mac
Reviewed by Josh Camson on .
Summary: Dragon Dictate for Mac is a great introduction to dictation software, and a nice option for attorneys who want to bring dictation to their practice.
- Software: 3.5
- Hardware: 4
- Price point: 5
- Performance: 4
Overall score: 4 (out of 5)