Update: I took McSD out for a serious spin for the first time yesterday, so I can deliver a more complete report now.
It’s not quite “there” in comparison to Dragon Naturally Speaking. The accuracy and word recognition are terrific – many times I thought, as I was speaking, that I’d muffed my pronunciation enough that the software wouldn’t be able to get the word right, and time and again it surprised me. It makes very few errors.
However, sometimes it does, and sometimes I do, and so the editing capabilities need to be good, too, and that’s where McSD seems a little underdone. For example, in DNS, when you come to an unusual name or word that you suspect the software won’t be able to recognize, you can use voice commands to send DNS into “spelling” mode and spell out the word. McSD does not yet have this capability, though the manual promises that it will in the future.
When there is an error, either human or machine in origin, McSD has only very primitive voice-activated editing capabilities. Basically, if I wanted to change the word "terrific in the second graf of this post, I need to be able say something like “select terrific” to get it to select that word for editing. I’m not sure just how this kind of software works, but apparently it needs to “memorize” the whole chunk of text dictated into it so it can search back through what’s already been dictated in order to find any word that needs to be changed.
DNS did this quickly, but McSD reminds me of iListen in that it takes much longer, and you can see the cursor ticking slowly backwards through the text (presumably also back through the sound file) looking for the word. This is a big problem. If, for example, I told it to select “terrific,” but for whatever reason it didn’t recognize my pronunciation of the word, it will search laboriously all the way back to the beginning before stopping. Now, usually the word you want McSD to correct is in the last paragraph or so, but if it doesn’t recognize the word, it keeps going and going, back and back, looking for whatever word it thinks you said. Depending on how long the document is, this can take as long as a couple of minutes, and while it’s happening, McSD seizes control of the cursor – you can’t even switch over to another program to, say, check your email. This is infuriating when you know that the thing is wrong-headed from the start. It’s a drag to have to wait around for a process that might yield some fruit, but it’s crazy-making to be forced to wait and wait for software to do something you already know is pointless.
I think I managed to abort a few of these wild goose searches, but I’m not sure how: I tried a lot of things, like saying “stop” and pressing Escape. The manual (of course!) doesn’t explain how to do it.
One aggravating thing about iListen was that you had to be very careful not to screw up the software’s understanding of where the cursor was in the text – unlike the user, it apparently can’t just look and see. If you used the keyboard to try to correct any of its many errors it could get confused and all voice-directed editing would take place at the wrong spots in the text and turn it into gibberish. I get the impression McSD is some hybrid of that method and whichever one DNS uses to keep track of the dictated text. It seems better able to handle the user resorting to the keyboard occasionally, however, so if you use it, I would recommend just correcting by hand if you can.
I use voice-rec software to dictate out selected passages from books, so that I have searchable, digital notes without having to transcribe by hand. I don’t often dictate extemporaneously (off the top of my head), so as a result, my dictations, while long, have relatively few errors and require relatively few corrections. For someone who uses it otherwise, the rudimentary editing features of McSD might well make it not ready for prime time. For me, the ease of not having to boot into Windows makes up for having to work around McSD’s current “eccentricities.” I don’t mind resorting to the keyboard often, because it’s only extended transcription that bothers my hands. Someone who found typing more difficult would, I suspect, not find it very useful – especially not until they get the spelling feature up and running.
I admit, I’ve not really tried McSD out as a way of issuing commands to my computer – say, as a way of creating, composing and sending email or IMing. I don’t really need it for that, so I can’t testify to its efficacy there. It’s possible that they skimped on the dictation/editing aspects while perfecting the computer-controlling capabilities. I feel hopeful that later updates to the software will deal with some of these deficiencies.