Another tool that lets you dictate into a word processor is Dragon Naturally Speaking 5, also from Lamp;H. The new version of Dragon boasts better accuracy and extra commands to let you handle email and surf the Web using voice commands. For instance, you can now say "send", "check for new mail" or "reply to message" and your wish is the machine's command.
Naturally Speaking opens with a good listen-and-do tutorial and you read a chunk of manual to train it to your voice; the training takes five to ten minutes. This teaches you to correct mistakes - say "correct that" and you see a numbered list of choices, then demand "choose five" to pick one. Never mind how fast you speak, the program stays with you.
If you're serious you can have Dragon read through old documents to add new words to its dictionary. For those using it in earnest, the more expensive "Preferred" edition lets you paste in chunks of text, so it might suit teachers doing a heap of school reports. There are also commands to format text - fonts can be changed or text colured - but the speed they offer only comes from practice. The engine of Preferred is much the same as that of Standard, which makes the latter good value.
Surprisingly, these two products share none of the same internal machinery. It's a taste thing and each package will have their advocates. There was little to measure between them; using a news reading speech style both gave great results. They look different, too. Voice Xpress had the better tutorial and lots of add-on help. Naturally Speaking by comparison is tidier and coherent. Whichever way you go, it helps if your machine exceeds the specs as much as possible and that you allow a week or so to learn to talk proper, like.
Dragon Naturally Speaking 5 Essentials Price: pound;29.99
Dragon Naturally Speaking 5 Preferred Price: pound;99
Both come with headsets and require a minimum Pentium 266 MHz computer. Check with Lamp;H
Tel: 0800 056 0539 www.dragonsys.com
Suitability for purpose: ****
Ease of use: *****
Value for money: *****