Oct 25

dragon

Today Nuance released Dragon version 6.02.   I’d love to be able to review Dragon version 6.02 right now but because the major problem with Dragon is stability it is something that I can’t just review in 24 hours.  I will be giving Dragon 6.02 a good workout over the coming few days and I will give you a report as soon as I can.  Hopefully it’s the version that we have been waiting for. But in the meantime, I have been playing around with version 6.01 for about four weeks and I can give you some thoughts about it.

After using Dragon version 6.01 for about four weeks, I’m almost ready to trust it.  On my desktop machine it is running almost perfectly. On my laptop it crashes occasionally.  There are some things about Dragon 6 that are very impressive.  In many ways it is the best version of Dragon yet. Nuance are excited about some of the features of version 6.  I want to be excited about it too.  But it’s not there yet in terms of stability.

I would love to recommend that everyone downloads Dragon 6, starts using it, and sends their crash reports into Dragon.  Because that is the fastest way that I will be able to get a good working version of Dragon as quickly as possible.  But that is crazy.  That is not our role.  That is what Nuance should be doing. That is what we are paying $100  for every year when we pay for the upgrade to the new version. I feel like the entire world of Dragon users is a massive beta testing zone.  If you read my earlier review of Dragon you will see that a lot of Dragon users were angry with the problems in version 6, and rightly so.  Dragon 6.0 was the most unstable piece of Macintosh software I have ever come across.

I feel like the entire world of Dragon users is a massive beta testing zone

There is no doubt about it, it doesn’t get any more complex than writing speech recognition software.  Most software that we use, like a word processor,  a web browser,  or a music player,  is fairly self-contained. Dragon is much more complex. It needs to integrate with other software at many levels. It needs to interface with OS X for audio, it needs to paste text into other applications, it needs to be aware of what windows are open and what you have just done. Combine that with the complications that come in trying to recognise what someone is saying, and there is no other piece of software is quite so complex.

There is also no other speech recognition software that comes anywhere near the quality of Dragon.  Google have a speech engine that rivals Nuance in it’s recognition, but the only way to access it is via a web browser. I doubt Google will ever integrate it into OS X.  Apple could potentially integrate Siri nicely into OS X, but their speech engine is years behind Nuance. They don’t even have any correction or personalising to your own voice.  So at the moment there is really only one viable player in the market – Nuance.

No other piece of software is quite so complex

Nuance have a good speech recognition engine.  They have a loyal user base.  But they are starting to make a habit of releasing unstable software.  This is now the 3rd major release that has had major teething issues.  Version 2.5 was a major upgrade and rife with bugs.  Version 3 was stable.  Version 4 was problematic and version 5 was so buggy that many people were reverting back to version 4.  It took Nuance until version 5.05 to iron out the bugs in that version.

One thing is for sure in this whole saga, Nuance need to revisit their software testing strategy.  They’re just too willing to release software prematurely.  With a program as complex as Dragon, Nuance need to implement  some kind of external beta testing program like Apple do, and it needs to be big.  They need to get as many people involved so that they can test new versions of Dragon on as many machines as possible. There is no way you can test a piece of software as complex as Dragon in-house.

Nuance need to revisit their software testing strategy

Imagine how much better things could have been if Nuance had done this differently.

For example,  if they’d announced on 1 September that the release date for Dragon for Mac 6 was 1 October, but, in the meantime, if anyone wanted to download a free 30 day trial version, they could, so long as you agreed  to submit crash reports to Nuance for that 30 days.  This would provide a useful beta testing program for the willing and keen but for the rest who want the certainty of a stable release the wait is just a little longer.  It would allow all kinds of people to have a trial run of Dragon.  It would get rid of the anger of people who have parted with good money to be disappointed by an unstable piece of software.

Nuance also need to revisit their marketing strategy.  What Nuance have done with the last 3 releases of Dragon is  almost criminal. They have advertised the purchase price of the new Dragon as $300-$400 and then they have offered a special limited time ‘pre-release’ price of $100 or less for people to upgrade beforehand. ( Offer expires in 30 days and so on.)  So even though some people would prefer to wait for a review of the software to see if it will be worth upgrading to,  they are forced to purchase the software straightaway, otherwise they will need to fork out an extra $200.  So they purchase the pre-release version to find out that it is full of bugs.  Now Nuance do offer a 30 day money back guarantee.  But if the user takes the 30 day money back guarantee,  they lose the chance to upgrade for $99 should they want to upgrade when a stable version comes along.  Users are stuck. I think this is the reason for all the anger on the Nuance forums. And people are angry. What Nuance need to do is offer an upgrade path that allows users to upgrade in their own timing, at a set price, like most other software companies do.  It’s not that hard. $99 for an upgrade or $299 for a new user. It’s that simple! This would be much better than  threatening users who want to wait for a stable version with rising prices and 30 day bargain deals.

 Nuance need to offer an upgrade path that allows users to upgrade in their own timing and at a reasonable price

Anyway, what of version 6.01?

I have installed Dragon 6.01 on my main work computer which is a Mac mini and it is running, for the most part, beautifully. In terms of accuracy, feel, and integration with other applications it is fantastic. It woks better in some apps compared to others.  For example it works really well dictating into Safari, and Apple mail,  but it’s still a little painful with Apple Pages. Dragon 6 seems completely compatible with OS X Sierra. I’m to the point where I’m using it confidently for all my dictation.   My main test for speech recognition is, if I’m just wanting to do a 3 or 4 word reply to an email,  what is my  intuitive reaction –  to dictate it or to type it?  With Dragon 6.01 I’m dictating practically everything.  I’m even dictating filenames!  That means I’m currently pretty confident with Dragon 6.01 on my desktop computer.

But it’s  still struggling on my MacBook Air, and I don’t mean slow, I mean crashing.   So it’s possible that you will download it and it will be the best version of Dragon that you’ve ever had. It’s also possible that you will download it and it will crash a lot.  And judging by the complaints that are still appearing on the Nuance help forum, I’m not the only one having these kind of problems.

Nuance are right about it having some major improvements under the hood. If you do have Dragon 6 definitely upgrade to 6.01 and now to 6.02 – it will fix most of your problems.  What’s more,  the technical team at Nuance keep an eye on all the crash reports that come in and from there they prioritise what bugs to work on, so if you are having problems with Dragon be sure to submit your crash reports.

Nuance are right about version 6 having some major improvements under the hood

But should you upgrade from version 4 or 5?

If you’re frustrated with the accuracy of version 4 or version 5 I’d recommend an upgrade to 6.01. But it may not be as stable as you want. So if the need to revert back to a previous version would be a problem for you then wait to see how stable 6.02 is.

I’m pretty confident that 6.02 is the one we’ve waiting for.  I will keep you updated in a few days as to how it goes. If you have tried version 6.02 I’d love to hear your feedback below.

5 Responses to “Dragon 6.02 – some thoughts on Nuance’s release and testing of Dragon professional”

  1. Wayne, since I have a Macbook air, I’ll wait for your report on 6.02. I’m really eager to install Dragon. I’m a writer with arthritic fingers.

  2. Malcolm says:

    Thanks for your article Wayne.

    It says what many of us feel about Nuance. Particularly your comments about their upgrade program. It’s so cynical. They just seem to not care about building goodwill with their customers. And I suppose they justify it in their boardroom by saying, ‘Oh well, we’ve got no competition. What are are customers going to do? Go elsewhere? Ha ha… they can’t!’

    And it’s true – we can’t.

    But, in fact, Nuance do lose out with their attitude because customers like me don’t recommend the product enthusiastically to others. And I’m an enthusiastic endorser of all kinds of products. I don’t have a disability and I can touch type. So, I don’t actually need Dragon – I just use it when I’m under pressure with a writing deadline. But if the product experience were fantastic and reliable I’d be endorsing it cheerfully to many – to people like myself who just like a little extra convenience in their work flow.

    I would imagine that eventually Apple will build an elegant and tailored service for individuals into iOS and OSX. With the amount of pressure coming from Google this can’t be that far away. Bring it on.

    • Wayne says:

      I think you are right Malcolm. Nuance probably won’t lose us, but they do lose our enthusiastic recommendation of their product to others. We are not going to recommend a product if we know it will cause problems.

  3. DrKat says:

    Wayne,
    Sorry to hear I am not alone but joining the ranks of disgruntled abused customers.
    I have used dragon sinceI have used the Nuance Mac dictation application since version 2.0 and, while it has crashed occasionally, the benefits far outweighed the advantages. The new version 6.02 has a problem that is daunting and discouraging. After paying $150 for an upgrade and spending 45 minutes online with tech support, I thought the problem was resolved only to discover it had not been. The problem is I cannot select words and delete them without a lot more than I selected being deleted and then version 6.02 being unable to recognize words that remain. Therefore as long as I make no mistakes while dictating I’m good – yeah like that happens NOT
    So no matter how I try to cut, correct text, I can only do it one word at a time. Otherwise far more text than I have selected is deleted and the remaining text is invisible to version 6.02. AWFUL. Maybe MAC Sierra OS dictation will be an attractive alternative since 6.02 is so vexingly irritating

  4. Robin says:

    I bit the bullet and updated to 6.02 which resulted in a crash. It took me a few days to figure out that a simple procedure of dragging the dragon app to the trash and replacing it with 6.01 from my time machine backup solved my downtime problem. Unlikely that I will update to 6.02.

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