A few days ago, I posted a review of Dragon Dictate for Mac. Tellingly, it was entitled “utterly frustrating” and I illustrated my frustration with a video of the product in action (included below). Today, Nuance (maker of Dragon Dictate) responded with a detailed comment. Since their comment was long and thoughtful, I decided to post it, and my response, as a new post.
My Feelings About Dragon
I really wanted to like this product. Seriously. I’d heard so many great things about Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows but could never afford it. Once I switched to Mac, I was concerned about the MacSpeech until Nuance bought the company and updated it as Dragon Dictate 2.0. So I decided to take the plunge when Amazon offered it as a “Gold Box” deal.
See my post, Dragon Dictate for Mac: Utterly Frustrating, and my video, Dragon Dictate for Mac: An Exercise in Futility
Since then, I have been completely frustrated with the product. It does a great job recognizing speech, but the interface is so limited and clunky it’s just about impossible to use. There’s nothing wrong with the underlying engine, just the packaging of it into a Mac application. If my basic concerns were addressed, I bet it would become an excellent product.
The Dragon Responds
Erica Hill from Dragon corporate communications left a comment in my post, hoping “to hear back from you, either here or directly via email.” So here’s your response, Erica!
First, thank you for responding at all. All too often, companies don’t have this kind of proactive, honest response to feedback, especially when it’s negative. But you’re doing the right thing by responding like this!
Thanks for your thoughtful review of Dictate. We sincerely appreciate all feedback — good or bad, as it only helps us to improve Dictate.
I’m sorry that you haven’t had a good experience. We don’t hear this too often, but I’m glad that you’ve let us know, as it doesn’t matter if it’s one person or 100 — the experience should be enjoyable and productive for everyone. You mentioned wanting a refund — we will certainly oblige — just drop me a line at erica DOT hill AT nuance DOT com and I’ll get the process going for you.
I actually don’t want a refund. I want a functioning product. How about an upgrade to the new, improved, functional version of Dictate you so must be feverishly working on in the back room? Barring that, I suppose a refund might be the only recourse if the product will remain as-is for the foreseeable future.
Bottom line, your points are taken, and please know that we are committed to improving Dictate with every new version and update, so your feedback helps. With regard to your suggestions for improvements, I checked in with the product team and have a few thoughts to share on some specific points, and a question or two.
My suggestion: Add a simple, streamlined dictated command to add a word to the dictionary — “add that” should allow you to spell and train in one go
Use “Access or Show Vocabulary Editor Window” to open the Vocabulary Editor window. But you are correct, there is no voice-only way to add custom vocabulary words. But once you add a custom word like “Fibre Channel” and train it, you should see that word or phrase recognized in your dictation.
Ok, so it’s possible to kick off the complex process of adding a word with a dictated command. Thank you! Now what about the rest of the process? This would be a very useful feature. As for recognition, as you can see, it sometimes recognizes added words correctly and sometimes not. It’s all very frustrating. For example, even though I’ve added and trained “SATA” (pronounced as “SAT-uh”) it never, ever recognizes it correctly. Not once.
Use “Train Vocabulary From Selection” after selecting a word or words using the “Select…” command.
I’m not clear on what this does. I knew about this command, but it didn’t appear to do anything at all. When I try this, I invariably get a window that says “all the words in the text supplied are already in this vocabulary.” And it does not appear that this improves recognition accuracy or adds words to the vocabulary.
For example, I recently wrote an article about the Micron P320h SSD. I did not add that long, clunky product name to the Dictate vocabulary, so every time it appears I either have to say the ungainly phrase, “cap P no space 320 lowercase h” or type it in manually. Yet selecting that name and saying “train vocabulary from selection” pops up a window claiming that all the words are in the vocabulary. They are not, and are not recognized correctly. So I don’t understand what the point is.
Use “Vocabulary Training” to scan existing documents for unique vocabulary words.
This seems to work to add words to the vocabulary, but it does not appear to train the pronunciation of them. And it seems to skip words like “P320h”. I will certainly begin using this function in the future, but I don’t hold out much hope that it will improve recognition accuracy for technical terms.
My suggestion: Fix the obnoxious behavior outside the Dictate “notepad” window — or add an “insert only” setting to not “guess” where you are in a document and overwrite things
“Universal Tracking” is something we are working on. Currently we do recommend that folks dictate within TextEdit for the best experience.
My suggestion is simpler than universal tracking as defined here. Rather than trying to make the application smarter, why not make it dumber? Don’t automatically insert spaces or retrace characters in other applications than TextEdit. Just insert what is dictated and let the user handle cursor movements. This would be much more intuitive than the bizarre behavior exhibited by Dragon Dictate currently.
Where exactly do you recommend dictating in TextEdit? The online marketing materials claim “watch your words appear on screen in your favorite Mac applications” and “Dragon Dictate for Mac works with your favorite Apple applications, including Mail, iChat, iCal, TextEdit, Pages, Safari and many more.” I see no mention of Dragon Dictate’s reliance on TextEdit on your website or on the product box. Rather, promotional materials indicate that the product works in any application.
One commenter on my blog suggested using the “cache selection” command to improve Dictate’s behavior in other applications. I will try this in the future as well.
My suggestion: Fix the weird “add extra characters after the cursor” bug demonstrated in my video
This will be addressed in a future release.
That’s good to know. Although you claim that most users are satisfied with the program, this bug is widely documented on the Internet for years, and I have received condolences from other users who say this is the main reason they stopped using the program. Fixing this problem should be priority one for Nuance, since it affects every user in every application.
My suggestion: Allow me to fix one or two words, not a whole phrase, and allow me to fix it outside the Recognition window’s (limited) choices
These are great suggestions and the correction process is something that we are always striving to improve.
The recognition window issue is a major pain. Often, it simply refuses to offer an appropriate choice of words, even after multiple attempts at dictating the word desired. This happens with known words as well as those not in the vocabulary editor. It would be tremendously useful to be able to say “spell that word” or something similar rather than relying on the choices that the recognition window shows.
My suggestion: Add a “no abbreviations” setting to the Mac version so it stops correcting “minutes” to “min.”
Finer control of engine settings for AutoFormatting will be addressed in a future release.
This is very good news indeed, since it is majorly frustrating that Dictate will not allow me ever to dictate the word “minutes” after a number. It always changes my wording to “15 min.”
At the very least, the recognition window should offer the spelled-out version of any abbreviation as a optional correction. I would think this would be a very simple feature to add. But at present, recognition only offers one choice: The abbreviated form that has already been recognized.
Weighted Recognition Options
My suggestion: Allow me to say “always recognize it this way” for words like “Fibre Channel” and “Stephen’s stance” (not “fiber channel” and “Steven’s stance”)
With addition of custom vocabulary words, items like “Fibre Channel” will appear in dictation. Sample dictation:
1. Let’s review the latest in Fibre Channel designs for high-performance storage area networks. I would like to know Stephen’s stance on this issue.
I have added these the vocabulary words to Dictate, but it still recognizes them incorrectly the majority of the time. As illustrated in the video, “Fibre Channel” is often recognized correctly but sometimes not, even though the alternative “fibre channel” would never appear in a document I was dictating.
Again, my suggestion is to allow the user to say “never recognize that” or something similar.
My suggestion: Improve recognition of common commands and terms (“explanation point”? Seriously? When has anyone ever dictated that?)
Would like to know if you were using the mic that came with Dictate or a different audio input source. This type of misrecognition could be due to poor audio quality. Can you let me know?
I am using the headset mic and USB adapter that came with Dictate. However, when using this mike in other applications like Skype, I have heard that sound quality is poor. Perhaps there is something wrong with the mic hardware?
More Issues with Dictate for Mac
Although I did not comment on these issues at length, since we’re talking about improvements to the application, let me take a few moments to outline some more issues that I am experiencing.
- High CPU utilization: Dictate will often use quite a bit of my system’s CPU, pinning one of the four cores near 100%. This seems excessive, especially since it does not always require this much juice. I suspect a bug.
- Delayed recognition: After a while of use, Dictate begins slowing down. Just now, it was taking 30 seconds or more for my words to appear in the floating window and another 20 seconds or so to appear in the document. I have to restart Dictate or just return to the keyboard. This is often a prelude to the third issue…
- Crashing: Dictate has proven unstable in regular usage, often crashing after extended usage. I usually allow the application to send these reports to Nuance, so you should have this information already. When it crashes, Dictate often loses a few minutes of work in the TextEdit window.
That Dragon chose to respond to my issues publicly, and am willing to work with you to resolve these problems. But it seems that there is no solution at present to most of my concerns, and the additional issues of load, slowdown, and crashing do not inspire confidence. I still cannot recommend this application, and find myself increasingly frustrated with it.
What I would like from Dragon mainly is a roadmap showing definite improvements in the near future. Resolve the random character issue (which has been known for years), fix the slow down and crashing issue, and perhaps add some of the easier feature requests and streamline the process of adding vocabulary. All of these should be doable for a company like Nuance, especially since the product retails for so much money.
When can we expect these fixes? Are you working on them? We customers would love to know.
See also Dragon Dictate review: speech recognition from Nuance for Mac
I agree with your previous post and this one. And I regret suggesting that you buy the product in the first place.
I must say that version 2.0.1 was better than the current version for the interface, and noticed that the interface control is much worse. In particular, I have raised two cases with several interactions around training the word “IPv6” since Dragon Dictate wants to constantly make this “IPV six” and no amount of training or teaching will fix this problem. I also have problem with constant crashing.
For the price, I also regret buying Dragon Dictate. If it was twenty or thirty dollars, then OK – but I paid GBP£150 for this and it hasn’t been worth the money. It works up to a point, but mostly it’s a disappointment.
If you ever want to try switching over to the (presumably superior?) Windows version, I’m more than willing to donate a copy of VMware Fusion to the cause. I recognize we are still occasionally second-class citizens on the Mac platform, even in 2011 🙂
As a regular user of DD, I agree with your comments.
For example, try to get it to write “disk” instead of “disc”. “Disc” is built into the UNEDITABLE internal word list and while I have added “disk” and tried to train the app, it persists in using the less common form “disc” even after “training” in the recognition window.
DD does not work reliably in anything other than the its own internal dictation window – TextEdit, Bean, Word, it doesn’t matter, after about 20 minutes it slows to a crawl. Nuance has to know this fact.
But my favorite Nuance “feature” is if you submit a help request from the wrong address you get an email back with the subject: Assistance Request Denied and an irritating message:
For MacSpeech/Dragon Dictate customers, Technical Support is only available for registered users. Please register your product before sending an email to Technical Support.
Obviously it has never occurred to anyone at Nuance that some paying customers have more than one email address and may accidentally send a request from the wrong email. They could allow people to register several email addresses or they could send back a more helpful response – and one that doesn’t assume you have pirated your copy of DD.
Clearly, the management team – including PR drone Erica – at Nuance doesn’t know what their own product does. They should fire the entire QA and tech support teams and admit they don’t care how broken the product is, they have a monopoly and if you don’t like it, tough.
Nuance has joined Adobe and Skype on my Most Hated Software Company list. I can’t believe I’ve laid out several hundred bucks for their crap. I was hoping that Apple would buy them and fire everyone but the 8 engineers who actually make it work, but Steve must have bigger fish to fry.
PS – if you want to know what I *really* think, give me a call!
Stephen, thanks very much for your fine post on Dragon Dictate. I used almost every version of NaturallySpeaking until I switched to a Mac a year ago. Dragon Dictate is a clunker by comparison. It crashes regularly, it’s hard to do stuff, and it suffers from the uber-weird “Golden Rule”. Some other idiosyncrasies:
– you can’t say “cap that” (a DNS command) to capitalise the stuff that you just wrote
– when you command “Caps On” it capitalises stuff that no style manual would accept, like “And”
– it doesn’t recognise .docx documents, and it can’t add vocabulary from email (DNS does). An official Nuance document suggests you cut and paste into a text file! Huh? Seriously?
This could be GREAT software, but it needs help, desperately.
Amusing, except that we paid over $100 for Dragon Dictate… Seriously, their main suggestion is “only dictate into TextEdit” which is at odds with their advertising, packaging, and user expectation. Let’s hope our voices spur them to act and fix this clunker!
Totally agree. i cannot believe the yawning gap between the windows implementation and the experience on Mac. On Mac its like dragon was when it first came out.
G Fielden says
I have the same frustration as you, I have both products, the Windows version 11.5 and the Mac version 2.51. The difference between the 2 products is amazing. The Windows version accuracy and ease of use is far superior to the Mac version. The Mac version is cumbersome, inaccurate, and we’ve after voice training still has major issues. Upgrading from one person to another, still has not fix the voice training issues in the product that have been there for over a year. I do think it’s time that Dragon, spent a little more time converting the Windows version, to Mac. In truth, I would not recommend anyone from the United Kingdom using the DragonDictate version for Mac.
At least you were able to get in contact with someone in customer service. I’ve been trying to get help with a different product, MacSpeech Scribe, about a registration issue. Emailing, calling and filling out their help form return the same canned answers.
I choose Scribe because I do a lot of training videos and need to create transcripts and/or captions. Scribe did an OK job at this. But after my work refreshed my iMac, I am unable to install Scribe on my new iMac because the code is registered to the other machine (this was clean swap). According to Naunce’s replies to my questions, I may have to pay to get an answer of how to correct this if I continue to investigate this further with them.
I’m flipping over to my XP VM to use Camtasia 7 to create these captions. Camtasia 7 has a built in speech to text component that allows me to add captions to my videos. After I’m done with captioning the video, I just export the captions and toss the project away. I then upload the captions to YouTube and/or embed them in my podcasts.
Now if Camtasia for Mac had the speech to text built in, I would be all set!
I love how Nuance sells crap like Mac Dictate 2.5 that doesn’t work, then charges you more money for support. I have experienced every problem you describe with Dictate 2.5 for Mac but, until I found your blog, I was almost beginning to think that I was crazy because Nuance has masterfully posted hundreds of stellar reviews on Amazon and other sites and apparently spends a great deal of money to scour the internet to bury negative information on the product. That is the only possible way that there could be so many identical postings describing identical problems that are so hard to find. And when you do find one, there will be some comment from Nuance that “we rarely hear anything negative about our product,” which is as ludicrous as the idea that this product has ever saved anyone a single minute of time in any context.
Steve Dondley says
Same here. The voice recognition work reasonably well, the software is utter crap. After the last “upgrade,” I can no longer use the vocabulary training feature. The program just crashes.
At the core of this product is a brilliant engine … and if only Nuance
spent as much energy on the code surrounding that engine as they do on
marketing (I have been telephoned TWICE since buying it), then maybe
myself and other friends using it would not be having these problems
(which Nuance just doesn’t seem to fix, release after release).
no mistake – it recognises text brilliantly. But then … er let’s
start it up, dictate a few lines of text and then leave it on overnight
… what happens? Every morning, my top-of-the-range uncrashable Mac
behaves like it’s swimming through slime, running at 10% of normal speed
and has to be crashed to restart. The problem – Dragon! It just does
not seem to buffer correctly. And in fact the same problem occurs in a
far shorter time if you mix manual editing with voice editing (something
most people will probably do naturally) – it slows your machine down to
the point you lose documents in other programs and windows take 10
seconds to open.
Then there’s the simple fact of the editing
commands – it’s been designed by someone who shouldn’t be in the job,
and who clearly doesn’t edit for a living. And then … can I add a new
word to the dictionary or train it on a word? Er yes – but is it easy?
Er no, it’s been designed for weird people. Why not just have a
little box you can open, you type the word in and press a dictate button
and dictate it. Job done. Or do the same for specific word training.
short, the main interface is so feature poor it feels like shareware.
There is one way of doing things in this software, and that way is
All of the above said, it does recognise my speech very
well (other programmers must have written that bit).
Such a pity, as a decent design and coding team could fix all these issues in a week.
A brilliant and eloquent summary of Dragon Dictate. Thank you for posting this!
Peter Ryan says
I agree with dodman. Using the Windows taskbar the messages that pop up would be telling me of a new update. Nuance simply popped up advertisements for sales.
The only thing that works well for me so far on my Macintosh is running NaturallySpeaking 11.5 inside parallels. The experience Stephen has gone through is a mirror image of mine.
Wow, so happy I found this post – I have tied so many times to use this program but experienced every issue posted. In particular the complete fail on being able to train words in the vocabulary editor – I had repeated works dozens of times only to find the accuracy still of less than 20% in dictation. Maybe its because I am Australian but if you are an Aussie avoid this program like the plag – waste of money. Worst still is the lack of any updates for a long time so I dont expect the issues to be resolved any time soon!
I am having the exact same experience you are having with this POS expensive software! The one bug alone that renders this unusable is the fact that it adds a weird character at the end of random sentences, causing you to spend time fixing it. Also I don’t know why it doesn’t capitalize the 1st letter of some sentences. I am using Dragon for Mac right now and just in this comment alone it has made the 2 mistakes that I mentioned 4 times already. unbelievable. See there it goes again! A
I don’t know why, but for some reason I feel the need to post a comment here as well. Wauw (A word I have been unable to train btw), did I wish I had found this blog post 48 hours earlier. With all the good reviews floating the internet, I felt pretty sure, after accepting the ridiculous price of this product, that my money was well spent. As I live in Denmark, I had to pay a whooping 376 USD for Dragon dictate and Macspeech dictation (2 programs; one for dictation and the other for dictation of pre-recorded sound. Apparently something that was to big of a deal to put in the same programme).
I have never been so disappointed with a programme in my entire life. I almost feel violated and I don’t know what to say really. As you might have guessed by now, my experience has been similar to you guys’.
Wauw.. Refund incoming…
SebastianYmanuela van Lengen says
Hi, well I am really sad that I did not read this before. I am very disappointed, too. However, the weird thing is that it almost always works perfectly, but then something happens like 3 hours ago. My wife and I, we switched profiles and then, well, you can guess it took my CPU around one hour to sort its issues out. Not funny because my workload should have been ready much sooner. Anyhow, the program does not slow me down, but it certainly does not increase writing efficiency. I appreciate the fact that I do not have to write that much, but you cannot expect it to make your jobs easier. Sad because the price certainly suggests something much different. Also the many positive reviews… I am wondering if the company did not just simply put them in, themselves.