MacMost Now 82: MacSpeech Dictate Review

Gary Rosenzweig reviews the speech recognition software MacSpeech Dictate.

Video Transcript
Hello. This is Gary. Welcome to another episode of MacMost Now."
Now what I was doing during that introduction was talking into my headset. And I was using software from MacSpeech called Dictate to actually take my words and translate them into text. And you saw it in action. So let's go and take a closer look at this new software for the mac and see how good it really is.
You can find out more about Dictate from the website MacSpeech.com. You can also buy it there or from places like the Apple Store or from Amazon.com. Now I was very excited about this software. Previously, I had used something a long time ago called Via Voice from IBM, which did basically the same thing. And in fact they're both kind of related. There's Dragon Naturally Speaking for PCs. And the engine for that was licensed by Via Voice and now the new engine is licensed by MacSpeech for MacSpeech Dictate. So everything is kind of related. But this is a much updated engine and it works very well for hearing your regular speech and typing it for you.
You can speak into the application itself and it will put it in a kind of notepad type window. Or you can open up another application like Microsoft Word, Pages, BBedit, anything you like and you could talk and have it type into that as well. In addition you can also forget about the actual dictation part of the software and have it recognize commands and it execute things like opening applications, running apple scripts, that kind of thing. So it's hand for two different things: speech recognition for typing text and also command control of your mac.
So first the good news. The general speech recognition is great. If you use a standard vocabulary you can talk fairly quickly and it will recognize just about everything you say and hardly make a mistake. It's very easy to use and it's a lot less painful than previous speech recognition software. However here's the bad news.
The bad news is that it's not something that learns very well. I didn't get any sense it was really learning from anything I was doing. For instance it spelled my name wrong with an "s" instead of a "z." Well you would think after I had corrected dozens and dozens of times it would have gotten the hint. I mean after all the software is even registered to me with my name with a "z" spelled. Well it never got that and also even something like MacMost right. That's something right there, specialized spelling, it's one word with a capital "m" in the middle as well. Nope, it could never get that either. I eventually had to figure something out using some of the commands where I basically substituted my last name the way it thought it was spelled with the proper spelling of my last name. And the same thing with MacMost to get it to type those two words. I can't say doing that with an extended vocabulary, say if you're into technology or medicine or something like that.
What's worse is you can't spell with this software. See other voice recognition software allows you to go into a spelling mode. And then you can spell it each letter. So you get to a term you know it is not going to recognize and then you can spell it out. You can't do that with this, not yet. The functionality of the menu item is there, but it's not enabled yet and they promise it in a future version. Without the ability to learn anything and without the ability to spell anything means you basically have to always keep your hands on the keyboard as you talk. Otherwise you are just basically going to have to go with one or two passes of editing afterwards to get everything right and that's prone to mistakes.
But even with those limitations it's good for two things. First of all it's fast. I can actually talk into this thing and it can type for me faster than I can type and I'm a pretty fast typist. The second thing of course is to reduce strain on your hands right? If you type all day like I do it's kind of nice to take a break and not use your hands so much and go ahead and dictate something, like a response to an email or something like that, especially if it's non-critical. If I'm just going to respond to a friend in email I know I don't have to spell everything right and get everything perfect. I can basically give my fingers a rest and dictate the email. The same thing if I'm going to write a long article for something and I'm going to have to edit it anyway. It's kind of a nice rest for your fingers, but for doing serious work I still have to type.
So my conclusion is this software looks promising. I mean it's something really neat. If you're into this kind of geeky software and you really want to try it out then you will probably be pretty impressed. But if you're looking for it as a productivity boost it's probably not going to work yet. I can see a future version where it adds spelling and learns a little bit better from mistakes that it makes being very productive. So it's close and it shows a lot promise but I'd hold off right now and see where the software goes first. "Thanks for watching. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now. Thanks for watching." "Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost now." See what I mean?

Comments: 11 Responses to “MacMost Now 82: MacSpeech Dictate Review”

    Sam
    5/16/08 @ 9:54 pm

    Well done. An unbiased review with a peek at some of the positives and a few of the limitations. Sadly, MacSpeech sells Dictate at full list knowing it has issues and down right flaws that limit its usefulness. You did not cover some of the bugs and flaws such as the infamous, random regurgitation of previously deleted text. Apparently, MacSpeech was aware of problems but chose to ship the product without full disclosure. This flaw is documented in one of our YouTube Dictate tutorials filed under inetsynch.

    Those with disabilities will be frustrated by this incarnation and should, as you recommend, wait until it is ready for prime time.

    Sam
    Windows2Apples

    5/17/08 @ 12:53 am

    Yes great demo and review. The missing spelling functionality is rumoured to be coming in the next release of MacSpeech Dictate. We have already had one bug fix release, 1.0 .1 and the next release should have bug fixes as well as additional functionality.

    The random regurgitation referred to by Sam I have seen in action in his video, Sam has produced some very good videos on MacSpeech Dictate. However, I’m not sure that somebody who uses voice recognition software would cut and paste paragraphs as often as Sam did in his demo. So yes it may be a bug but I’m not sure how often you would hit it, it has never happened to me.

    This software is really great for writing e-mails, instant messaging and if you have large documents that you need to write.

    Lookout were more functionality in the near future.

    This response was written using MacSpeech Dictate :-)

    Sam
    5/17/08 @ 1:59 am

    Dave :

    Thanks for the kind review of our videos. Actually, the cut and paste in my videos was a side effect of trying to illustrate features. I have see this bug when using minimal edits. It has been verified by others and becomes more than a simple nuisance when trying to meet a dead line.

    Lets hope MacSpeech comes through soon with the fixed.

    Sam
    Windows2Apples

    5/18/08 @ 1:29 pm

    Great video Gary! That was pretty creative with the intro/closing. :D

    If you’re using it for IM, why not just start an audio chat?

    MacTipper
    My Mac-Tipping Blog

    Jeff
    1/28/09 @ 2:40 pm

    Great review Gary! Have you had a chance to look over the latest update (1.21), and does it adequately adress the issues you brought up (lack of editing control, custom spelling/phrases, etc)?

    Are you using the sw regularly at this point?

    1/28/09 @ 2:59 pm

    Jeff: Yes, since this review posted, they have made it a lot better. I don’t really use it too much because I’m a pretty fast typist anyway.

    ForrestGump
    2/10/10 @ 7:36 pm

    can you take a wav file and have it transcribed with this software?

      2/10/10 @ 7:46 pm

      No. It doesn’t work that way. You need to train it to your voice and then work with it word by word.

    Anthony
    10/24/11 @ 7:05 pm

    Gary: Are you planning to do an updated review on latest version of Dragon Dictate for Mac? Blogs seem to show people still having trouble with this speech recognition software shutting down. Thanks.

      10/24/11 @ 9:51 pm

      Probably not. I don’t use it (type too fast) and I asked for a new review copy a while ago but haven’t heard back.

    Anthony
    10/27/11 @ 12:14 pm

    Ok. Thanks. Maybe Siri will lead to good voice recognition software for Macs so we can just dictate.

Comments Closed.