Talking to yourself may be a sign of madness, but talking to your computer is a sign of progress. Speech recognition software has come a long way over the years. Microsoft Vista users can find it built into the OS. It's fairly intuitive once you make it through the tutorials, and accuracy is pretty decent, making it an easy choice for Vista users on a tight budget.
Nuance Communication's Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 is the latest version of the gold standard speech recognition program. Pricing starts at $99 for the Standard Edition, which handles basic dictation needs; power users, however, will want to look to the $899 Professional Edition with included headset microphone. Users should be prepared to spend some quality time with Dragon to train the program, get accustomed to the interface and learn the commands. Once you get going, you'll be dictating, formatting, opening programs, surfing the net and navigating documents with your voice.
Dragon offers the most functionality when used with major programs like Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word. You won't get access to all the features if you use it with the OpenOffice.org Writer word processing program. With support for a variety of accents, Dragon lives up to its high accuracy pledge. For entrepreneurs who need to give their typing hands a break or just want to boost their words per minute, Dragon is up to the task. If you're looking to get your feet wet, test out the capabilities of Vista. Dragon will still be there if you need to move up to a solution with a little more oomph.
—By Amanda C. Kooser, a freelance writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who specializes in technology.
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