Review: Dragon Dictate 4 for Mac

Thanks to Siri, we’re all getting familiar with voice recognition. Where the technology really comes into its own, though — in a business sense — is in OS X, where Dragon Dictate is the long-time leader in converting what you say into neatly typed documents and accurately executed commands.

Most of the features have been carried over from the previous edition, which already boasted excellent recognition and zippy performance even on mid-range Macs. Transcription tools are new this time around, having previously been sold as Scribe, a separate app. Feed it a 90-second sample of your subject’s voice and it should be able to transcribe a recording. Nuance reckons this will benefit students who’ve recorded a lecture on their phone, and business users who dictate quick notes while on the go.

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We found the results to be mixed when in this mode. It performed well when transcribing one of Barack Obama’s online addresses, but it was less effective when working with a well-spoken and clearly enunciated British voice, even though we’d told it to expect an English accent.

Reverting to regular dictation proves more predictable, and lived up to our expectations. First-time setup requires you spend five minutes reading samples as they’re displayed on screen, so that Dictate can compare what it hears to what it knows for sure you’ve been asked to read. This builds a profile for it to use to decode your speech.

Neatly, if you’re upgrading from a previous edition you can also upgrade an existing profile. 
It’s a fairly time-consuming process that involves first converting your saved data file and then using it to “retrain” the app, all of which is automatic. It’s well worth the effort, as doing so allows the new version to recognize various things you taught its predecessor, such as non-standard words and various style preferences.

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You can also hook directly into Gmail and issue commands such as “Click Compose” and “Click Send” while dictating the body of your email. Doing so requires a plug-in, which to date is available for Safari and Firefox, but unfortunately, not Chrome.

Even without the extensions, you can issue commands like “search Google for MacLife” or “search Bing for Apple,” and it obeys your instructions. Naturally, you can navigate to any link by vocally directing the pointer around the screen. Spoken mouse control is of most use to anyone with a motor impairment, but telling it to switch between apps by voice is also highly beneficial for anyone suffering from RSI or otherwise wants to minimize their mouse time.

The bottom line. The transcription tools are tempting, but it’s the live dictation that remains the main draw here.

Review Synopsis


Dragon Dictate for Mac 4.0







OS X 10.8.3 or later, 3GB hard-drive space, 4GB memory


Excellent dictation accuracy. Allows for multiple profiles. Now includes transcription.


Expensive. New transcription tools a mixed bag.

4 Great

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Weekend Recap: iPhone Gains in USA, TSA Charged Up, Adobe Revel iOS Snafu

Airport Security Checkpoint 620px

Our fellow Americans: Welcome back from a three-day weekend of barbecues and fireworks! July is officially here in full force, and you won't need to feel like you missed out during that hamburger and hot dog coma, because we've rounded up all the hottest tech news from the long weekend and are presenting it here for your reading pleasure.

iPhone Gains Ground in U.S. Market Over Android

Apple received a round of fireworks ahead of the 4th of July holiday as comScore announced Thursday the latest smartphone subscriber market share numbers for May. Cupertino was the top smartphone manufacturer with 41.9 percent of the U.S. market, although Google's Android remained perched atop the top smartphone platform ranking with a 52.1 percent market share. Apple's smartphone numbers jumped only a modest 0.6 percent from comScore's February numbers, while overall the U.S. now has 169 million smartphone owners. As far as smartphone apps go, Facebook holds a commanding lead with 76.4 percent of the U.S. market, while Apple's own Maps and iTunes Radio held their own at 25.3 and 21.6 percent, respectively.

Facebook Messenger Finally Arrives on iPad

This one seems like a long time in coming, but Facebook released version 7.0 of Facebook Messenger ahead of the long weekend, finally bringing the native text and calling experience to the iPad. The update also allows videos shot within Messenger to be saved to the Camera Roll of the same device, as well as unspecified reliability fixes that are always welcome.

Charge Up That iPhone Before Flying Home from Overseas

Headed overseas anytime soon? You'll want to make sure your iPhone or other electronic device is charged up and ready to be powered on while going through security on your way back to the United States. The Transportation Security Administration (better known as TSA) announced Sunday that direct flights from "certain overseas airports" back to the U.S. will now be implementing "enhanced security measures" that could require travelers to "power up some devices, including cell phones." So what happens if your handset is out of juice? "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft," the TSA bluntly explains, while adding such travelers "may also undergo additional screening." Keep that iPhone charged up, people!

Adobe Revel for iOS Update Leaves Users Unable to Access

It's been a rough week for users of Adobe Revel for iOS, the cloud photo and video storage app. Starting with a June 29 update to version 2.3.2, the app crashes at startup — assuming it will even install completely. The botched update appears to have caught Adobe by surprise ahead of the 4th of July weekend as frustrated users filled up the app reviews and Adobe Communities with complaints. For their part, Adobe blames the glitch on "an unexpected interoperability issue" but says they're "working closely with Apple to resolve the issue as soon as possible" and have "re-submitted an update to see if this can help us narrow down the failure," although no such update has yet appeared on the App Store over a week after the issue first appeared.

Samsung Mocks iPhone Users in Latest Galaxy S5 Ad

MacRumors reported Thursday that Samsung is on the attack against Apple again with a new Galaxy S5 commercial which mocks iPhone users for having short battery life on their handsets. "Don't be a wall hugger," the ad concludes, immediately bringing to mind nearly the same comment made by BlackBerry CEO John Chen a few months back. "There they are. Clustered around power outlets, near the recycling bins, stained carpeting, and bathrooms. Tethered to the wall. Denied the freedom to enjoy even the most basic things, like grabbing a drink, or sharing a laugh with your co-workers. Or sitting with someone you know. You're stuck here until your battery says so," the narration mocks amidst a montage of iPhone users seemingly tethered to an AC power outlet.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

(Images courtesy of Wired and Fox News)


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