Typing on a keyboard is OK, writing with a Tablet PC is better, wouldn’t voice recognition be best? Well…
First some background. All Windows PCs come with voice recognition software built in – it is part of the Microsoft operating system. If you want to use it on a desktop or laptop computer, you will need an external microphone to get your voice into the computer. Most Tablet PCs have built-in array microphones that allow you to use the computer without having to plug in an external mic although you can do this. While the voice recognition that is built into the Windows operating system has the same level of recognition as Dragon Naturally Speaking, you will find that the Windows version does not have very robust tools for correcting errors, navigating around documents or for teaching and improving the ability of the software to recognize your voice. This is the biggest disadvantage of the Microsoft voice recognition and why I don’t recommend it unless you just want to dabble for free.
A better solution is to get Dragon Naturally Speaking. They are the 800-pound gorilla and just dominate the market. The training tools are very good in Dragon, but please recognize that you still have to spend several hours doing the initial training to have success. After that, the more you use the software, the better it recognizes your voice. I can’t stress enough that you can have excellent results if you use it at least several times a week. Think about it – it is like any other skill. The more you use it, the more proficient you will become. Another advantage of Dragon over Windows is the ability to navigate around documents. Especially for spreadsheets or forms, it is necessary to “tab around” documents in order to fill out all the fields. Dragon has good tools to do this while Windows requires you to tap on the field with your tablet pen or mouse before you can speak data into it. For voice recognition to be successful, you will need to have a peaceful environment. In a car, you can have the engine running and the radio turned on low and have good results but eliminating as much extraneous noise as possible is the best of all possible worlds. My bottom line opinion is that for the narrative sections of a report or for dictating letters, voice recognition can work well. It takes more practice to use it for filling out individual fields and pulling down menus.
To get array microphone support, you’ll need to purchase the Professional Edition. If you intend to use a wired or wireless microphone, that is supported by the other versions. Here is a link to the Dragon Feature Comparison Matrix. The Professional version lists at $899 while the Preferred ($199) is much less. Refer to the comparison matrix to make sure you are getting the features you need.