Speech recognition is one of the best use cases of computers. Speech recognition products convert the words you speak into your microphone into human-readable text. It saves a lot of effort you would otherwise have spent typing long texts and essays. It’s also very helpful for people with disabilities or temporary ailments that make typing difficult.
Dragon Professional is a speech recognition software long owned by Nuance Communications. Nuance was an independent software company specializing in speech recognition and artificial intelligence products before being acquired by Microsoft in 2022.
The first version of Dragon was developed in 1997 by an eponymous software company named Dragon Systems. The software has been through several iterations and updates and is currently at version 16.
Dragon has remained one of the most popular and best speech-to-text tools globally, and we’re reviewing it to help you decide if it’s a suitable tool for you to adopt.
Dragon Professional: Plans and pricing
Dragon Professional has simple pricing. You’ll pay a one-time fee of $699 for each license. This software works for English, French, and Spanish, and each license costs the same. But you can negotiate bulk licenses with Nuance’s sales team and get discounts.
$699 is considerably expensive, but understandable given you pay only once. You’ll keep enjoying the features of your Dragon Pro version for as long as you want. But, if a new version gets released and you want to update yours, you must pay another $349 one-time fee.
Nuance also offers a cloud-based version of Dragon Professional on a subscription basis. Pricing starts from $55 monthly or $660 annually.
Dragon Professional: Features
Dragon Professional is built exclusively for the Windows operating system. It had a macOS app, but Nuance Communications discontinued it in 2018. Mac owners can use another Nuance product called Dictate for Mac.
Dragon Professional is built for both individual and enterprise use. It provides a lot of benefits to its users. For example, people with limited use of their hands can use Dragon Pro to type with voice commands. A notable use case is assisted living facility operators employing Dragon Pro to help residents communicate easily.
This software is highly accurate and can understand words, phrases, and sentences dictated in English, French, and Spanish. However, it’s not perfect. It might occasionally make mistakes that you’ll need to correct.
Dragon Pro can recognize live speech and convert it into text in real time. It can also transcribe pre-existing audio files on your computer. You can transcribe audio files individually or use the Auto Transcribe Folder Agent (ATFA) to transcribe files in bulk.
Nuance uses deep learning techniques to make the software as good as possible. It’s constantly improving, especially as the cost of deep learning tools decreases over time.
A good thing about Dragon Pro is that you can create custom voice commands to automate your tasks. For example, you can use a unique phrase to automatically insert standard boilerplate text. You can also use custom voice commands to insert signatures into documents. Dragon Pro is interactive, so you can share your custom commands for other users to adopt.
Dragon Pro offers advanced vocabulary management, a very important feature. There are some industry-specific terminologies that speech recognition software doesn't recognize out of the box. But you can add these unique words to your Dragon Pro vocabulary. You’ll say the word clearly and specify the text for the software to write once it hears it; afterward, Dragon Pro will always recognize the unique word.
Dragon Professional Anywhere
Nuance offers a cloud-based version of Dragon Professional. This cloud-based version is called Dragon Professional Anywhere. You can access the software online from anywhere. You can log into your account from any computer if you have the correct credentials, unlike the typical Dragon Professional, where you must use the exact PC you bought a license for.
Another advantage of the cloud-based version is that it uses artificial intelligence to transcribe words into text. This feature makes the system more accurate, as it constantly learns and adjusts to your accent. You won’t be able to run an AI-based system on your local PC because of insufficient computing resources, but Professional Anywhere gives you access to AI resources online.
Nuance claims up to 99% accuracy for Professional Anywhere with no voice training needed. The platform establishes a cloud-based profile for your voice after your first use. Manual adaptations on the typical Dragon Professional, e.g., accent adjustments and microphone calibration, become automatic on the cloud-based version.
Dragon Professional Anywhere is easy to set up and install. Unlike the local version, you don’t need complex configurations to set it up initially. You can access it online and deploy new licenses as you wish. This model is subscription-based, unlike the local version, which requires a one-time payment.
Dragon Professional Anywhere is a secure tool with 256-bit encryption for your data. It's compliant with HIPAA requirements that demand confidentiality in medical settings.
This cloud-based version has a unique feature called Anchor Focus Dictation. You can dictate into a document while you have your eyes on a separate window. The document you're dictating into will be displayed as a small anchor on your screen while you focus on doing other things.
You can manage your usage from the Nuance Management Center if you're an enterprise buyer. This Management Center makes it easy for administrators to track employee usage and distribute licenses based on that usage. Administrators can also manage and share customizations from this dashboard.
Nuance provides an accompanying mobile app for its Dragon speech-to-text software. This app is called Dragon Anywhere and is available on Android and iOS for people based in the United States and Canada.
The Dragon Anywhere mobile app works like the cloud-based version but from a mobile phone. You can dictate words and convert them into text at high accuracy. There are no time limits for transcription, so you can speak as long as you want. You can add custom words as you’d do on the desktop app.
You can edit your transcribed document within the mobile app for perfection. Afterward, you can export it to other cloud-based storage platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive.
You can pay $15 per month for this mobile app or 12 months in one go at a discounted rate of $150. Enterprises with many users can also contact Nuance's sales team and negotiate discounted volume licenses.
Dragon Professional is a very helpful tool, whether you’re using the locally-hosted app, the cloud-based version, or the mobile app. It tackles a major problem of people with disabilities finding it difficult or impossible to type long documents. People in this cohort can just dictate words and convert them into text.
Of course, Dragon Professional’s transcription isn’t perfect; it can make some mistakes, so you’ll need to crosscheck the transcript before sending it out. This tool is also noticeably expensive.
Dragon Professional: Interface
Dragon Professional is a user-friendly tool. It has a simple interface that anyone can easily understand. But this platform has a steep learning curve; you’ll need some time to get used to all its features, especially the customization aspects. It’s not something you should expect to master within a short period.
If you have a non-native English accent, you'll need time to train Dragon Professional to recognize your pronunciation.
Another drawback we observed about Dragon Professional is that it consumes much of your computer’s random access memory (RAM). It’s difficult to run Dragon Professional alongside other apps, especially if you use a low-end or mid-range PC with limited processing power.
Dragon Professional: Support
Nuance Communications offers customer support through email and telephone. You can open a ticket on the official website and await an email response within 24 hours. You can also dial the technical support line when facing any issues.
You also have access to a collection of user guides, cheat sheets, and tutorials on the official Dragon Professional website.
Dragon Professional: The competition
Google Cloud Speech-to-Text is the main competitor to Dragon Professional that we’d like to highlight. This platform allows you to convert voice to text in over 125 languages, much more than the 3 languages Dragon Professional supports. It is also more accurate and easier to use.
The drawback is that Google Cloud Speech-to-Text only works online. There’s no local version to host on your PC. Pricing starts at $0.024 per minute, which can add up to a significant amount if you use it heavily. In contrast, Dragon Pro offers a fixed lifetime fee or recurring subscription that you can use for as many minutes as you wish.
Dragon Professional: Final verdict
Dragon Professional is one of the best speech-to-text tools out there. It makes life easier for people who have limited use of their hands and find it difficult or impossible to type. But, it’s not without drawbacks, such as the steep learning curve required to get used to the software.