Dragon Express Review

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Dragon Express top

Nuance, the manufacturers of Naturally Speaking (PC) and Dragon Dictate (Mac) have come out with a new voice recognition program for Apple: Dragon Express. Dragon Express is available through the Apple App Store for an initial price of $50.

Just 50 bucks for a voice-recognition package? Where do I sign up!

That’s what I thought anyway. Then I looked at the reviews.

Dragon Exprss App Store reviews

While there are some glowing reviews praising Dragon Express for its recognition, there are many more saying that the program crashes repeatedly and is completely unusable. According to Nuance, the problems are related to another program installed on users’ systems: Cam Twist. Nuance has a link to an updated version of CamTwist that is supposed to solve the problem and a walk-through on how to uninstall CamTwist (as a final option).

Fortunately, I did not have the CamTwist installed, so crossing my fingers, I went ahead and purchased Dragon Express… The download took some time as the program is over a gigabyte in size. However, the installation went smoothly. Starting the program, I again held my breath.

Dragon Express start

Hooray! The program started. I selected my microphone:

Dragon Express 1 microphone

And went through the 3 to 5 minute training (about 3-5 minutes)

Dragon Express 2 training

Afterward Dragon Express walked me through a quick overview of the features of the program.

Dragon Express more features3 Dragon Express 3 features

Then it was time to get down to dictation! Unfortunately, using Dragon Express with the built-in microphone on my Mac was unsatisfactory. Many words were misrecognized. You might be happy if you have to dictate 140 characters or less using the internal microphone. Anything more than that, and you’ll probably be disappointed.

I switched to an external headset microphone and went through the training again. This time, the recognition was much better!

Your last application used appears in the lower left corner of the bottom bar. For example, I am dictating this post using Dragon Express and I will be pasting the content into MarsEdit. When I’m done dictating, I simply click the MarsEdit icon and the text gets pasted into that application. Neat!

Dragon Express paste

I can also click the copy button (to paste the entire text into the copy buffer), search spotlight, run a search on Google, send the text in an e-mail, post it to Facebook, or even send a tweet on twitter.

So what do I think? I like it!

Of course, that does not mean there aren’t any issues.

Problems with Dragon Express:

No ability to train. Unlike Dragon Dictate, you cannot train Dragon Express to understand you better. If Dragon Express makes a mistake once, it is likely to keep making that mistake again.

Small dictation window. If you reach the end of the window, you can keep dictating, and the Dragon Express window scrolls. You can scroll up and down to see text you dictated earlier. However, you cannot resize the Dragon Express window to see more of your dictation.

Pasting into application errors? While dictating this post, I went on and on, dictating for several Dragon Express screens. When I went to paste the entry into Mars Edit, only part of my dictation was pasted. The rest was lost to the ether.

It seems that while you can dictate any amount that you would like (although I have not try to dictate more than a couple hundred words at a time into Dragon Express), there may be an issue with pasting into the destination application. The upshot of this is, just as you formerly used command-S, to regularly save your documents (for fear of losing everything) you may find yourself hitting the paste button in Dragon Express regularly.

Transposed letters. I suppose Dragon Express would not be a Mac voice recognition program if it did not transpose letters. I have previously written about this problem in Dragon Dictate. The new wrinkle in Dragon Express moves the first character of any dictation to the very end:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

Becomes…

he quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.T

It is not the end of the world. However, it adds a layer of correction that needs to be done when you are finished dictating.

Note: this does not happen all the time. However, once it starts, I have not found a way of stopping this error except by rebooting. Even exiting the program and restarting it did not help.

What commands are in Dragon Express? What’s out?

Understandably, Dragon express has a much more limited set of commands then Dragon Dictate or NaturallySpeaking.  However, it is perfectly usable.

Move <direction> <ordinal> word(s) Moves the dictation insertion point. <direction> is ‘forwards’ or ‘backwards’ (the ‘s’ is optional) <ordinal>is a number 1-100For example: Say Move forwards 3 words from the beginning; the insertion point will end up before ‘fox.’
Insert <position> <phrase> (<through> <endPhrase>) Moves the dictation insertion point relative to a specified word or reference phrase. <through> <endPhrase> can be substituted for <position> <phrase>. <position> is ‘before’ or ‘after’ <phrase> is a previously dictated phrase <through> is ‘through’ or ‘to’ <endPhrase> is a previously dictated phrase occurring after<phrase>and marking the end of the reference phrase.For example: Say Insert after fox to place the insertion point after ‘fox.’ Say Insert through the lazy dog to place the insertion point at the end of the sentence.
Insert <position> <relative> Moves the dictation insertion point to the next or previous word <position> is ‘before’ or ‘after’ <relative>is ‘next’ or ‘previous’For example: The insertion point is at the beginning of the sentence. Say Insert after next to place the insert point after ‘The.’
Select the <relative> (<ordinal>) word(s) Selects the next or previous units of text. <ordinal> is optional. <relative> is ‘next’ or ‘previous’ <ordinal> is a number 1-100 (optional) <units>is ‘words’ or ‘characters’ (the ‘s’ is optional)For example: The insertion point is at the beginning of the sentence. Say Select the next three words to select ‘The quick brown.’
Select <phrase> (<through> <endPhrase>) Selects the specified word or reference phrase. <through> <endPhrase> is optional. <phrase> is a previously dictated phrase <through> is ‘through’ or ‘to’ <endPhrase> is a previously dictated phrase occurring after<phrase>and marking the end of the reference phrase.For example: Say Select ‘The’ through ‘fox’ to select ‘The quick brown fox.’
Select <relative> Selects the next or previous word. <relative>is ‘next’ or ‘previous’For example: The insertion point is at the beginning of the sentence. Say Select next to select ‘The.’
Delete <phrase> (<through> <endPhrase>) Deletes the specified word or reference phrase. <through> <endPhrase> is optional. <phrase> is a previously dictated phrase <through> is ‘through’ or ‘to’ <endPhrase> is a previously dictated phrase occurring after<phrase>and marking the end of the reference phrase.For example: Say Delete ‘fox’ through ‘lazy’ to delete ‘fox jumped over the lazy.’
Delete <relative> Deletes the next or previous occurrence of the phrase last referenced by Insert <position> <relative>, Select <relative>, or Delete <relative>. <relative>is ‘next’ or ‘previous’For example: The insertion point is at the beginning of the sentence. Say Insert after next to place the insert point after ‘The.’ Say Delete next to delete ‘quick.’
Scratch that Removes the previously recognized text.For example: After dictating the sentence, you say Scratch that. Dragon Express deletes ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.’

Other Commands:

Cap Forces the next word to be capitalized
All caps Forces all letters in the next word to be uppercase. (speaker must not pause after this command)
No Caps Forces all letters in the next word to be lowercase. (speaker must not pause after this command)
No space Turns off the automatic prepending of a space before the next recognized word. (speaker must not pause after this command)
New line Starts a new line
New paragraph Starts a new paragraph
Tab key Inserts a horizontal tab
Spacebar Inserts a space character
<punctuation> Inserts a common punctuation mark (i.e. period, comma, semi- colon, etc.)
<special symbol> Inserts a common special symbol (i.e. asterisk, ampersand, etc.)
Clear (all) results Clears all text in the Dictation Panel

Tips for making Dragon Express work better for you:

  1. If you have Cam Twist installed, either update it or uninstall it! Save yourself the trouble of dealing with crashes which might make Dragon express unusable. Get the update, or remove CamTwist from your system.
  2. Get a good-quality mic. I am using “The Boom” microphone, my go-to microphone for voice recognition applications. I am using The Boom with a VXI USB sound adapter, and recognition quality is excellent. That is, Dragon Express still makes the occasional weird mistake. However, I’m quite happy with the performance overall.
  3. Change the activation hotkey. By default, Dragon Express begins listening if you press ^ ‘ (caret and apostrophe) at the same time. Perhaps I’m just stupid, but I have no idea how you are supposed to simultaneously press a shifted character and an un-shifted character.  Fortunately, you can easily remap the hotkey.

Who is Dragon Express good for?

Casual dictators. And I do not mean if you just want to run the small republic while wearing khakis. If you simply wish to quickly jot off a quick e-mail, tweet, Facebook entry, Dragon Express may be just right for you!

Curious about Dragon Dictate. If you are not sure that you want to spend the money on Dragon Dictate (the big Brother program), Dragon Express is a good way to dip your toe into the voice recognition waters, without spending a lot of money.

If you like what you see with Dragon Express, Nuance has a special offer which lets you upgrade from Dragon Express to Dragon Dictate for only $99. So, for $150, you can have Dragon Express and Dragon Dictate (a $50 savings over the regular $200 price tag on Dragon Dictate alone).

However, as of this writing, Nuance is offering both the electronic, download, version of Dragon Dictate and a boxed version for only $99 each.

Dragon Dictate is too hard! If you previously tried Dragon Dictate and were confused by all the windows, Dragon Express is much simpler. You get the essentials of voice recognition in one window without all the froo!

Go and check out Nuance’s Dragon Express in the Apple App Store.  Currently available for $49.


  • Dan H

    I guess in the OS X world the caret symbol is idiomatic for the control key. Why can’t we just call it CTL‘ or CTL+‘?