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


Nuance (s nuan), the maker of industry-leading voice-recognition tech, released Dragon Express via the Apple App Store (s aapl) 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 (s goog), Yahoo (s yhoo) or Bing, (s msft) 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.



Siri is more about understanding questions and providing answers (or performing tasks). Speech-to-text has been on computers for a while.


Just a heads-up from a Mac Dragon Dictate user: Nuance’s customer support is the worst I have ever had the misfortune to experience. Unless you have a real need for this kind of software I would steer-clear of this company. If you wind up having any kind of problem requiring tech support be prepared to spend hours on the phone navigating the most convoluted telephone tree ever devised.

And when you do finally get to speak with a person, it will be someone in a distant land (the Philippines) with an accent so heavy as to make them essentially unintelligible.

The last time I had the misfortune of contacting Nuance I was transferred four times (twice to the same number) and disconnected once. I then waited on hold so long that I finally gave up and figured it out myself thanks to a tip that I found online while waiting…

More horror stories can be read at

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