Get a taste of Siri on OS X with Nuance’s Dragon Express

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Nuance, the maker of industry-leading voice-recognition tech, released Dragon Express via the Apple App Store on Thursday. The app is basically a streamlined version of Nuance’s powerful Dragon Dictate software, which is as good as it gets when it comes to desktop dictation software, and it brings some features that Siri fans might appreciate to OS X computers.

Dragon Express’ main selling point is its price; right now, it’s available for $49.99 in the Apple App Store, which is listed as a limited-time introductory price. The full Dragon Dictate, by comparison, retails for $200. And for most users, the less-feature-rich Dragon Express will probably be a much better option, anyway, since it still allows you to dictate to your computer and then use the resulting text in any app of your choosing, which is likely the function most are after.

With Dragon Express, you dictate directly into the program, which you can call up any time by clicking on the menu bar item that serves as the main hub for the app. You can then start dictating, check the resulting text and tell Dragon Express to send it to the active app you are currently using. You can also search Spotlight directly to find files in Finder, search the web right from the app (opens a search in your browser of choice using Google, Yahoo or Bing, depending on what you choose) and post to both Twitter and Facebook once you supply your credentials.

Two caveats to keep in mind when using this tool: First it works much better with a USB headset, and it is pretty hard to use without, unless you’re in a nearly soundproof environment. That’s actually one of the benefits of the more expensive Nuance product, since Dragon Dictate ships with a USB mic. Second, there’s a training process you go through at launch, in order to get the best results from the speech-recognition engine. This takes between 2 and 10 minutes, depending on the quality of the mic you’re using.

Also, this is an express version, and it doesn’t contain the fancy whiz-bang abilities of its big brother, including extensive voice command libraries that let you launch apps and control commands within them. But the ability to paste to an active app and perform a select few oft-used functions like tweeting and searching is plenty for me.

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