Dragon Dictate for Scrivener

Anyone using Dragon Dictate or any other speech recognition software. I have seen reviews both good and also poor. Dragon claim 99.9% accuracy. Anyone using it or if not can anyone recommend any other speech recognition software?

I use it periodically. Once trained, it is very accurate (although, in my experience, nowhere near 99.9%). It does work well with Scrivener. The new companion iPhone app that turns your iPhone into an microphone for Dragon on your Mac is excellent - it worked better for me than the original USB microphone.

The downside, and it is a big one, is that Dragon doesn’t track the position of the cursor if you use the mouse (unless you are using Dragon Dictate’s own text window or “cache document” every time you make keyboard edits or move the cursor with mouse or keyboard). This makes editing difficult and, for me, frustrating since I struggle to separate my writing from editing. This is probably the main reason I only use it sporadically. The catch is, the more you use it, the more accurate it gets and the more confident you become using the built in commands and the easier everything becomes. So because I only use it occasionally, I have never fully mastered it and never used it to its full potential. Maybe next year…

I don’t know of any other decent speech recognition software for the Mac. Dragon is the best there is, and it really is very good.

I’ve used Dragon Dictate a little. I’ve been quite impressed by it, though I’d say there is a certain skill to using it successfully. I have some advantages: I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Englishman, who speaks something like what used to be called “BBC English” (some would call me a posh git, I would disagree – you should hear my neighbour). I used to be an English teacher in Italy, and I spent some of my time giving dictations to students. I naturally speak a little slowly (perhaps also the result of teaching English), and I write non-fition, so all my sentences are fairly standard (no sudden exclamations in slang or convoluted dialogues). All of these things, as well as a fairly new computer, probably make it easier for Dragon to translate speech into text on the screen. There have recently been clips on the BBC showing Apple’s “Siri” being completely foxed by a Scots accent. I imagine that Dragon would have similar problems with strong regional accents (from whatever country or language), though I haven’t tested it. I think it’s probably another of those cases in which being “average” is an advantage. (And I’m not saying you have to be English – just average from anywhere – though I’m not quite sure what an “average” American or South African accent would be like.) As for the “skill”, I think it’s probably crucial to realise that you can’t just “talk to it”. You have to dictate – which is different. You have to imagine you have a secretary there, and dictate short chunks with suitable pauses. (Others may disagree, but I can only speak from my own experience.) I’ve never used it to dictate text to anything apart from Dragon’s own scratch pad, or to TextEdit (there are extra features if you do that which you wouldn’t get if you dictated direct to Scrivener). The thing I have found difficult is going back to correct things that are wrong – sometimes you just cannot get it to detect what word you really want. For that reason, I’m tending towards correcting by hand at a later date. In summary, I’d say it works quite well, provided you are either suited to it or can adapt to it. Don’t expect to be able to chat to it nineteen-to-the-dozen in broad Geordie (apologies to those from the North-East†) and get useful results.

Cheers, Martin.

†My sister-in-law is from the North-East (though not a Geordie). I once heard someone say to her “I can’t understand a word your brother says”, to which she replied “Neither can I”.

If you are using a Mac, Dragon Dictate is really the only option for decent voice transcription. I’ve been using it for a few years, off and on, and they have vastly improved the software over the years. Make sure any reviews you consult are for the newer versions, as the early versions were truly ghastly. Dragon is indeed extremely accurate and does a good job taking down what you say. It works best when you speak naturally and in your normal speaking voice, but with exaggerated pauses at the end of phrases. If all you want to is to get your spoken ideas down on paper, it is amazing and useful.

However, it really falls down on the job when you want to use your voice to edit your writing, either because you’ve changed your mind or because Dragon got something wrong. First, you have to remember a gazillion carefully worded commands to select a particular word, change the word, spell it out if necessary, etc. Dragon (or perhaps it is me) is prone to making things worse by deleting the wrong word, changing other things you’ve written, occasionally “selecting all” and then typing, which deletes everything, etc. (Undo is your friend). I have rarely been able to make an edit properly on the first try. I’ve also tried to teach it some unique, technical words that I use following their very clear instructions, but I just can’t get Dragon to learn them. Instead, I just dictate a random word like “unicorn” or “rhinoceros” in place of my technical words and then do a find-and-replace at the end. I basically get the bulk of my writing down with Dragon (brain dump) and then edit my text by hand. This works fine and I really do enjoy using my voice. There’s something about speaking out loud that helps me get ideas down faster and more clearly than with a keyboard or pen. As long as I can edit with a keyboard later, I am very happy with the dictation side of the program.

On the other hand, my mother has Parkinson’s and arthritis, and she has tried to use Dragon when her shaking or pain gets too bad for her to type. For her, using this software is an exercise in frustration because she can’t make the editing part of the software work and is also unable to make changes using the keyboard. She feels she spends hours dictating a lengthy letter or a poem, but then is unable to fix any problems and has to wait a day or two until her hands are better to make any edits. By that time, the issue/inspiration has passed and she feels the whole effort was a wasted experience. Our solution has been for her to dictate it as best she can, then send it to me and we talk on the phone while I make the edits. Tedious, indeed. Her voice also gets shaky sometimes, and that doesn’t help, and she isn’t the best about speaking clearly to the computer either. She says lots of little words like “oh, wait, no…um…well, maybe…” that she doesn’t actually want dictated. This is just to say that your attitude, clarity, and confidence affect the quality as well.

With any dictation software, having access to a quiet room is important, and having a good quality headset and microphone is a big help. Like Martin said, having an “average” accent is probably quite helpful (I’ve got an pretty standard American one) as is having an “average” male or female voice. I imagine children’s voices are difficult, as are shaky voices, hoarse voices (Dragon gets notably worse when I have a cold, etc.). You can get headsets much cheaper than what Dragon sells elsewhere, so don’t feel obligated to buy theirs. I’ll have to look into the iPhone microphone option - I didn’t know about that.

It’s a real pity they don’t offer trial runs, but I suppose the iPhone app might be worth a whirl (it is free, after all) to see if dictation at all is helpful to you.


Just a cautionary note for those using dictation software:

Disable any program feature that might automatically switch the keyboard focus to another application. Chat programs tend to do this: someone sends you a chat message, and the chat window helpfully grabs the focus so you can answer right away.

Which, in my case, once resulted in my dictating two highly technical paragraphs at my husband because I had my back to the computer and didn’t know he was there. :blush:

I haven’t used Dragon Dictate for the Mac. I used its Windows relative several times, and found that it was quite good for dictation – even of very technical material – but much more difficult to use for editing. This was a number of years ago, one assumes the software is better now.

Dictation is extremely processor- and memory-intensive. The more limited your computer, the longer corrections will take, the more often you’ll have to pause while the computer catches up, etc.


I have to agree with what everyone has said here:

Training new vocabulary into Dragon Dictate takes a lot of work. As another poster mentioned substitution seems to be the easier solution.–cue the bananas, unicorns and rhinoceroses.

DragonDictate works better as a mind dump rather than trying to edit the work afterwards. I too managed to erase valuable sentences while “correcting them”.

Dragon Dictate(2.5) can now track where the cursor is–but only in text edit, Dragon dictate notebook, and the ever popular Microsoft Word. This means you can use combination of keyboard and voice to edit a document.

Dragon Dictate is extremely processor and memory intensive. I still get frustrated with the great big gaps between my speaking and Dragon Dictate recognizing what I had said. But, since I’ve upgraded to 16 GB of memory, it works all whole lot smoother. It almost works the way I imagined it.

Hey all;
Please pardon my naivete but I don’t understand HOW to use Dragon Dictate with Scrivener. Do I dictate into a textedit file and then copy and paste into Scrivener or do I use Dragon to go directly into it? I’m running Scrivener 2.4.1 (22817) and Dragon Dictate 2.5.2 on MacOS X 10.8.2 on my 13" MacBook Pro. Also, when I bring up Dragon I get a popup that says that 2.5.2 is not supported on 10.8 and may not work as expected (I installed Dragon before I upgraded OSX).

You likely need to upgrade. The newest version of Dragon is 3.0.2. It is much more accurate than the previous versions and worth the upgrade. When I use dragon, I “type” into the Dragon notebook and copy and paste it back into scrivener/text editor.

You can use Dragon to dictate directly into any text application, including Scrivener, but unless you use it’s own text editor you should not manually move the cursor without then refreshing the text. I used to dictate directly into Scriv, and became reasonably proficient at it, but I also like to edit (or at least correct transcription mistakes) as I go so I found the constant need to manually refresh Dragon’s cache of the text window laborious and distracting. Coupled with an ageing computer that is starting to struggle this meant that, in the end, I found it easier to simply type. However, if your accuracy is high with Dragon, your computer is up for it, and you can structure your thoughts enough to not need constant rewrites as you go, you may find Dragon and Scriv work well for your needs. Despite the problems I mentioned,I actually quite liked dictating into Scrivener.

Also, you may not need to upgrade. Although I haven’t used Dragon Dictate (v2.5.2) for a while, I believe I used it successfully on both Lion and Mountain Lion.

Thanks for the info. I’m currently going through “Scrivener for Dummies” in preparation for my ‘Great American Novel’ and when I get back into the actual writing I’ll use Dictate to enter into an outside text file that I can import into Scrivener. Whether it’s Dictate 2.5.2 or 3+ will depend on my wallet and the amount of trouble I have.

Use Apple’s build in dictation (control panel to activate) I think it is powered by the people who created dragon dictate, and is more accurate than Dragon Dictate 2.5. As long as your connection to the internet is decent, and the service is not down, it works very well for text input.

I used the latest version of DD (in Italian) to dictate most of my dissertation in Scrivener and Nisus Writer Pro. It worked great. No special devices and trickes were required, apart for a good webcam, a quiet room, clear speech.

DD is different than Apple’s Speech feature, because DD types the words while you speak, instead of waiting for the whole sentence/passage to be completed. This is invaluable, since you can check your text while it is formed; it is like having an assistant typing for you.

An added bonus, I’ve not yet used in real production, is the ability of transcribing recorded speech. As far as I can see, texts I dictated on the iPhone were transcribed very well. It should work.


I’ve recently started using Nuance Dragon Dictate for Mac (now v4), mainly to transcribe interviews rather than for writing, though might give the latter try. I’m finding it surprisingly good, and certainly faster for the transcription task than typing (even though I touch type).

A technical question though: I recently had an issue with the cursor ‘hunting’ which I took up with Nuance. They said the “program is designed and tested to work on Full Text Control applications” and apparently Scrivener is not tested in this regard (though MS Word is, strangely). They recommended using TextEdit, which I have been doing and finding faster and more reliable.

Just wondering what Full Text Control means and why Scrivener doesn’t fit. My understanding was that Scrivener uses the TextEdit engine in the editor?

I just found an explanation of Full Text Control here: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/hello-computer-speak-your-text-with-dragon-dictate-80097045492.html

It is these built-in navigation-and-edit features that stopped me from using Dictate for anything. Still a sore point with me and the Dragon.

The trouble is that Dragon is set up to respond to certain words and phrases as commands to jump back in your precious text and do something. The real problem with this is that you can trigger this with content words you are dictating. If you are not looking at your text (which they very sensibly advise, because you dictate better is you don’t watch), then at any moment, Dictate might take a notion to jump to some earlier point of text and – guess what? – you have now for some time been dictating /over/ what you wrote earlier.

This is so incredibly infuriating because it is so easily avoided. For those of use for whom voice dictation is a convenience rather than a physical necessity, the fix is simple: one just needs a way to turn off Dictates setting to respond to those voice-editing commands. I would do that in an instant, because I /never/ want to voice-edit anything (though do use the ‘scratch that’ function which just deletes the last interpreted phrase). It boggles my mind that the people in charge of this software either still have not realized the need for this or refuse to do it. Having one’s dictation software overwriting what one just dictated is a pretty serious weakness.

All I wanted to do is /dictate text/ (and use “scratch that”). Dragon does not actually have a mode where you can just be doing that. Like I said. I am still sore about this.

Okay, I feel better now.


P.S. For me it is also an annoyance that Dictate will go for a commercial brand name/product as first choice when other sensible interpretations are available (and, for me, are always what was intended). But that is more of a rolleyes problem than the grievous one above.

I’ve long looked at Dragon Dictate, but was always nervous at taking the plunge, since it could be an expensive mistake to make!..

Having said that, if it ever pops up in a bundle at a discounted price, will probably take the plunge.

I too would find the issue described by the last user as very annoying – but hopefully my subject-field, being as boring as hell and mostly containing its own vernacular, will not cause too many system/operating-function ambiguities to arise…

One thing I am curious about – I haven’t set it up, but OSX has its own dictation feature, doesn’t it? Anyone know if it works inside Scrivener?


At risk of having a conversation with myself – just tried the OSX dictation feature. It works inside Scrivener, and might be viable for some - but it clearly doesn’t like my accent! :wink:

And since I presume it doesn’t “learn” how one speaks, guess it would involve my having to alter things to suit it, rather than the other way around, which is presumably (again!) what Dragon will allow for…

source: support.apple.com/kb/ht5449

I haven’t used it much; I have too many verbal ticks to make dictation an efficient way to operate my computer vs. my decades of keyboarding. Also of note, the above quote is about enhanced dictation, which comes with Mavericks only (so far) and requires a download. More info at the link above.

Thanks for the link – I had in fact downloaded/set-up the enhanced dictation some time back, but never knew it could “learn”… This is something I will play around with a bit more now! And that is a useful set of commands to keep bookmarked!

They’re pretty vague about how it learns. How does it know it got something wrong, versus you just deciding to delete a word and use a similar one in its place? Does it read the rising frustration in your voice? Can it tell when you start drinking to dull the pain?

Typically, a word choice change will change between words that are pronounced differently. “The sky was blue” becomes “the sky was a deep azure,” for instance. Fixing a recognition error might instead change “the ski was boo” to “the sky was blue.”

Also, when I’ve used Dragon, I’ve found it more convenient to do recognition correction right away, right after I finish dictating. They provide a handy interface for doing that, which offers you a menu of similarly pronounced words that you might have meant instead. Editorial corrections are usually a completely different step.

Finally, learning is iterative. You might have to correct a word several times before Dragon consistently gets it right.