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Summary:

When you spend most of your day at the computer, the idea of speech recognition software certainly appeals. But most of the software available for the Mac seems to have been ported over from the PC as an afterthought.

When you spend most of your day at the computer, the idea of speech recognition software certainly appeals. But most of the software available for the Mac seems to have been ported over from the PC as an afterthought. MacSpeech Dictate is one of the first speech recognition tools I’ve seen that’s built from the ground up for the Mac and it really feels at home on my machine.

Part of that is due to the fact that the software doesn’t just work with word processing software. You can use it to fill out forms in Safari, write emails in Mail and even to speak issue commands to the computer. It works with Apple applications (iChat, Keynote, etc.), as well as standards like Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXPress. MacSpeech can navigate through documents it didn’t create, so that you can edit your work without having to bash away on the keyboard.

It doesn’t hurt that MacSpeech seems to require significantly less training for your voice than other speech recognition software I’ve worked with in the past. It’s highly accurate, with only the most technical words tripping it up — and as soon as you train the software for such words, you’re good to go. I’ve seen MacSpeech in use in a noisy convention hall filled with a couple of thousand people, and it even got the punctuation correct.

You may find that getting used to working with speech recognition software takes a little getting used to. MacSpeech Dictate is fairly intuitive, though. It takes only a few minutes to learn how to control the software and there are plenty of help guides and additional information available. Pretty soon, you’ll be thinking of a dozen different uses for the software. Personally, I’ve figured out that it makes multi-tasking a little easier — I can write an email at the same time as I’m filing paperwork. Be careful about some of those household chores you might want to multi-task, though. I’ve found out the hard way that making dinner really does require my full attention.

MacSpeech works with Mac OS X Leopard through Snow Leopard (10.5.6 through 10.6). You will need a MacSpeech-certified noise-canceling microphone to use with the software, but it just so happens that one is included with purchases of the software. You can also upgrade to a premium microphone through MacSpeech. It’s worth noting that there are different flavors of MacSpeech Dictate: beyond the standard package (priced at $199), there is an international version ($249), a medical version ($595) and a legal version ($595), which include specialized dictionaries and specialties.

Do you use speech recognition software?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): How Speech Technologies Will Transform Mobile Use

  1. Matthew Krivanek Monday, March 29, 2010

    What does this offer that the built-in OS X voice recognition doesn’t?

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  2. I use this software a love it when it works. Unfortunately, it is very buggy and not very useful if you want to actually get away from your mouse and keyboard. For instance, there are no built-in voice commands for MacSpeech Dictate itself.

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  3. [...] speech-recognition, but computer-based recognition is another story altogether. Until I read this review, I did not even think people still used it. That aside, is it really worth [...]

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