How much do I have to spend for a Dragon version that works well?

Michael posted this question last night as a comment here on the site. It is a brilliant question and I know that many people have had poor experiences with Dragon NaturallySpeaking in the past and may be wondering the same thing.

I bought a low cost version of dragon speech for around $50.00 about 7 years ago or so, and it was a waste of time and money. Didn’t work well at all.
Well I decided to try it again about 3-4 years ago and bought a version that cost about $100.00 and again it didnt work well. Both versions had the headset that had microphone to speak into and the results were the same, poor.
Recently I went to a doctor appointment with my wife, the doctor there had dragon speech but it was different, he had a microphone he dictated into. It worked very well as I watched him. I asked him about it and he said he really liked it, but dont waste your time on the cheaper versions.
How much do I have to spend to get one that works well?

So here is my reply to Michael:

First of all I need to say that this question is not easy to reply to with mentioning a single amount of how much it will cost.

There are a few factors involved in getting good results with Dragon. Basically

  1. your PC needs to be up to the job (processing power, RAM memory),
  2. your microphone needs to be of suitable quality for using with speech recognition,
  3. you need to be in a relatively quiet environment,
  4. you need to pronounce your words clearly and
  5. you need to know how the speech recognition software works.

Is an expensive Dragon version better than a cheaper one?

For a doctor, it pays off to spend extra money on a medical version of Dragon, because of the specific medical words/vocabulary that a doctor uses. She or he will definitely get better recognition and fewer words to add to Dragon. That saves time and causes less friction in using the software.

However, as far as I know Dragon have always put the same recognition ‘engine’ in all varieties of a version. So in the ground, a Dragon Professional version does not have better recognition than a Home version.

Now I want to make this completely clear: I’m not implying that you should have been able to make your cheap Dragon work. However, give me a 4 year old Dragon version and a decent microphone and I will be dictating happily within 15 minutes. That’s because I’m making sure the conditions are favourable and because I am an experienced ‘dictator’.

How come your doctor has more success with Dragon than you had in the past?

Doctor using a headset to dictate with DragonAnd how come Janneke believes she’ll do all right with the old, cheap version of Dragon?

It doesn’t look complicated when you watch someone use Dragon. They are just speaking into the microphone and the text appears on the screen.

You may have been wondering, Michael… Why didn’t it work that way for me? Why did I get cr*ppy recognition results? Should the old software really have worked for me?

That depends on what – back then – was the ‘ limiting factor’ for you. The microphone? The PC hardware?

But also… When you watched your doctor dictating, you probably noticed that he knew how to dictate, how to enunciate the words correctly so that Dragon understands. He didn’t start speaking before he had thought about what he was going to say and he probably also never said a single ‘uh’ while dictating.

So while it may not seem that there’s anything particularly difficult going on while you see someone dictating successfully, there definitely is skill involved.

It’s my belief that you don’t need the most expensive Dragon version. But maybe you do need some pointers to set you up for success.

Fortunately learning to use Dragon isn’t rocket science. And I’ll try and help you and anyone who needs it to get a good start with using the speech recognition software.

How much does it cost to be successful with Dragon?

Still, it is true that you have to buy the software and a suitable microphone. So now I finally get to answering your question. How much $$$ do you need to spend to get good results?

  • – $300 Dragon Professional Individual (affiliate link). Read my article as to why I don’t recommend the current Home version. Also, you can try your earlier version and see if you can make it work after all.
  • – $50 (approx.) Jabra Evolve MS 20 mono USB headset microphone
  • – $?? Training/course/instruction… it costs nothing to get you started via the free Newsletter level in the Learn Dragon Online Academy.

Why it pays off to invest in instruction

The manufacturer tries to make Dragon as easy to use as possible. But still it’s a bit complex with the combination of right PC, microphone and user skills. And sometimes people struggle to get it right.

If you are sure you’ve got a decent headset microphone, a PC that’s powerful enough and you’re positive that you’re dictating clearly (not mumbling or speaking with a thick accent), but still Dragon doesn’t work for you… then it is easy to come to the conclusion that the software is rubbish.

Some people even decide that Dragon is rubbish when they get poor results after saying just a few sentences through their built-in laptop mic in a noisy environment.

That honestly upsets me.

Why? You’ve been led to believe that using Dragon should be that easy and self evident. “Install the software and immediately 3x your typing speed”, or a similar marketing message.

Except that for many people it doesn’t quite work out that way.

And it’s such a shame if you don’t use this wonderful software simply because you didn’t know how to make it work for you.

So rather than writing it off as a failed investment, please consider spending a bit of time training yourself and training your Dragon.

And if you also have some money to invest, getting an experienced Dragon trainer to teach you is extremely worthwhile.

I’m definitely not saying that everyone needs to pay money for Dragon tutorials or courses or one-on-one training. That wouldn’t be true. (I am 100% convinced that everyone would benefit from training, though, and make better use of their Dragon. But I am biased, I know. 🙂 )

So what are your next steps?

  1. If your Dragon version is version 13 or newer, don’t start out with immediately buying a new Dragon.
  2. Get yourself a good microphone
  3. Create a new user profile with the instructions in Learn Dragon Online’s free content
  4. If you continue to struggle, find more help. A free discovery call may point you in the correct direction for further help without costing you anything.

Happy dictating!

Janneke den Draak

Janneke den Draak

Hi, I'm Janneke and I'm your go-to person for Dragon speech recognition software help.

When I got severe repetitive strain injury issues over 20 years ago, I didn't want to give up using the computer. So I learned all about controlling the PC with speech recognition and dictating my documents and emails.

I've now been a speech recognition software trainer and consultant for almost two decades, teaching over 2000 people handsfree productivity!

My online courses offer self-paced learning and I also love running my membership for Dragon users. For those in need of an intensive training or custom speech command creation, I am available for one-on-one calls.

2 Responses

  1. Hi, I made a mistake and the Back bar took me back but erased what I had typed.
    Just wanting to know how to safely erase the oldest profiles and understand the new abbreviations given to the newer profiles (after some time of non-use).
    With the international version, I have both French and an English profile.
    Here’s my list:
    Karen Ann (v 13)
    Karine M(v13 – 1)
    Karine M (v13)
    new Karen Anne (v13 -1) and new Karen Ann (v13)
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Karen,
      I agree it can be a bit of a puzzle.
      To be totally sure, you’ll have to open each profile. If Dragon then says that this profile was made in an older version, that is your clue. Cancel the process and delete that profile.
      Having said that, I believe the (v13) profiles are the old ones and the (v13-1) profiles the upgraded ones.

      After your cleanup, I’d recommend you also try to make an entirely new profile in v15. It isn’t complicated to export your old vocabulary and import it in the new profile (check the Vocabulary menu for import/export options). It’s a good experiment to check if a ‘fresh’ profile in the newest version doesn’t perform better than a profile that has been upgraded multiple times.

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