Tips for using Dragon for Mac

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The Plantronics 655 USB headset

I’m a huge fan of voice dictation. I first fell in love with Nuance NaturallySpeaking on the Windows platform. After I switched over to the Mac and purchased Dragon for Mac 4, I was sorely disappointed. The dictation quality was not near as good nor was the cursor handling.

I quickly backpedaled trying to get NaturallySpeaking version 11 working in a VM on my Mac. My detailed report can be found here: Dragon Dictate in a virtual machine. While I was generally successful, a lot of the expected problems surfaced:

  • USB port handoff between the Mac and the Windows VM was unreliable
  • Significant CPU usage on the Mac
  • Fan constantly ran on the Mac
  • Text compatibility between Windows and Mac always resulted in odd line spacing

I ran with that set up for a number of years dealing with the issues. It was worth that pain.  While in Amsterdam, I picked up a different set of headphones on a desk here in the office and my experience using Dragon for Mac 5 couldn’t have been more different. The dictation quality was actually outstanding. I’m shocked! What changed and what have I learned along the way? Read on to learn more.

1. Choose your headset wisely

The headset sitting on the desk was a Plantronics 655 corded USB headset. There were two of them sitting on the desk. One had a busted USB cord and the other was in good shape amongst a bunch of discarded electronics.  I had low expectations coming from the discarded electronics pile.

Once I plugged it in and ran through the required training regimen, dictation couldn’t have been easier. Actually, even now after a few days I’m doing very little correction on the text. I honestly thought dictation couldn’t get better than what I was doing inside of NaturallySpeaking for Windows. A new bar has been set.  The internal microphone was terrible.  My current headset was much better. This new headset is outstanding.

This headset has a slightly longer boom which gets more directly in front of my mouth. The Logitech H340 USB is a good headset, I just don’t think it fits me near as well now that I’ve played with the Plantronics 655 for a couple of days.

2. Always dictate with Microsoft Word

There’s definitely some extra code inside of Dragon for Mac that works specifically with Microsoft Word. While the dictation quality is the same between Microsoft Word and other applications, the text handling is significantly better. How is it better? A couple of ways:

  • I don’t get random characters after my cursor like I do dictating in other applications.
  • If I move the cursor, Dragon for Mac has better awareness on where the cursor is within the document when using Microsoft Word.
  • If I say “correct “,  Dragon has a better chance of finding the right instance when using Microsoft Word.
  • Dragon automatically adjusts capitalization if I insert text that changes a sentence boundary.

The one thing I really do miss about the Windows version now is that the cursor doesn’t automatically go back to the end after a correction. I always have to say “go to end.” It is not the end of the world, but something I do miss.

3. Reset your profile every so often

Windows definitely runs better getting reinstalled once in a while. Likewise, Dragon for Mac definitely appreciates a profile reboot every so often as well.  I’m not sure if I had a bad microphone and bad training directions that have built up over time. Deleting my profile and starting over seems to help as well.

I think I’m going to stick with the Mac version for a bit to test if I truly have continued success or have just hit a lucky couple of days. Either way, dictation truly makes writing easier for me. If you’ve not tried it, I definitely recommend trying it for a couple of days. It is far better than using Siri on your iPhone. It’s awkward at first, but I find I enjoy it significantly more than long stretches of keyboarding.

Any questions, drop me a line. I always love hearing about other people’s dictation experience!

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