Should You Use a Mac or a PC for Dictating with Dragon?


We are all grown-ups here, right?

Of course we are. The “platform war” thing has been done to death a million times with no clear victor. Some people love using a Mac, some people love using a Windows PC. That’s just how it is and how it always should be – after all, huge faceless corporations don’t care about any of us anyway, right? Why should we treat our choice of a computing platform as if it’s some kind of good or bad personality trait, anyway?

Things are a little different when it comes to using the best tool for the job, however. I’ve flipped and flopped between the Mac and Windows several times over the last 20 or so years. I’m old enough to remember when people hated Windows with a passion. I also remember when the Mac wasn’t so hot, either (I’m looking at you, OS 9). But that was a long time ago and both platforms now have excellent operating systems in the form of OS X (soon to be called macOS) and Windows 10.

But Dragon is a strange beast as, despite sharing the same brand name, the products are very different on the Mac and the PC. I highlight in some detail in “The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon” how Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows is, in many ways, a far superior product to the product formerly known as Dragon Dictate (now simply called Dragon for Mac). I stand by that opinion still, despite currently dictating this blog post using Dragon for Mac 5.

I’m in the lucky position of being able to use both – if you have a Mac, after all, you can run the Windows version of the software in a virtual machine or via Boot Camp. If you have a PC, then you arguably already have the preferred version of the software. Really, the best option is to choose based on what computer you already own.

But Mac users do have a quandary and the last thing anyone should do is switch platforms based on one piece of software. After the last few years of being firmly entrenched in the PC camp (I tried to love you, Surface Pro, I really did), I am firmly a Mac user once again despite my reservations that Dragon is a compromised piece of software on the platform. But I simply prefer OS X and several pieces of software I use (mainly Final Cut Pro, Ulysses and the deep integration with their iOS devices) make it a better platform for me.

If you are in the market for a brand-new computer and, frankly, don’t mind whether you use a Mac or PC, then I would be inclined to steer you towards Windows if Dragon is going to be a major (if not the main) part of your workflow. If, on the other hand, you are set on owning a Mac, just know that Dragon for Mac will get the job done, despite the horror stories. For purely dictating into TextEdit, it works just fine and the recognition engine is exactly the same as the Windows version, so your accuracy shouldn’t suffer.

When it comes to tweaking and refining your profile over time, however, Dragon for Mac cannot compete and transcribing files, while convenient, is vastly superior in Dragon NaturallySpeaking as you can make corrections to the transcribed text once it has appeared on your screen. That, bizarrely, is something the Mac version simply cannot do and will result in a cap on your accuracy on the transcription side of things. You can always correct it later with the keyboard, of course, but that kind of defeats the purpose of speech recognition software that is supposed to improve over time, no?

Your other choice, of course, is to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking on your Mac using virtualisation software such as Parallels or VMware Fusion – both have modes which make it appear as if the program is running natively on your Mac desktop and Windows simply gets out of the way. This option, however, means slightly more expense – you will need a Mac capable of running Windows in a virtual machine (anything from the last three years will do, but 8 GB of RAM is probably a prerequisite and an SSD wouldn’t hurt either) and you will also have to buy a Windows license.

Neither option is right or wrong and both Mac or PC will get the job done, for the most part. But before you drop a lot of money on one or the other, think hard about both the platform you will be most comfortable with in the long run and whether you will be using Dragon purely to get words on a page or for more advanced dictation usage. If, for example, your mobility is impaired and you want to use Dragon to control your computer I can only truthfully recommend sticking with a PC and NaturallySpeaking.

There. I’ve said it. I, Scott Baker, hereby declare as a happy Mac user that the Windows fans have it best when it comes to dictation software. See? It’s not so hard to get along. After all, isn’t choice a wonderful thing?


24 thoughts on “Should You Use a Mac or a PC for Dictating with Dragon?”

  1. Hi Scott,

    Loved your book, I’m all in!
    I am dictating this message, as you suggested, to get used to dictation.

    I have a question. I currently have a Surface Pro 3 but it only has an i3 core. Is it worth the cost to upgrade to a Surface Pro 4 with i5 core to use with the Dragon Premium version in order to start off with the best footing for learning to use dictation for my writing? I also intend to use my iPhone 6s Plus for dictation to be transcribed with Dragon.



    1. I’ve used both the i3 Surface Pro 3 and i5 Pro 4 and the i5 is only marginally better in some circumstances. Both devices only have 4Gb RAM so (unless you upgrade to the midrange i5 with 8Gb) there’s little difference there. For simply dictating into, say, Notepad you will likely see very little difference – certainly not enough to justify the expense. If, however, you are the type to dictate directly into Word or Scrivener with 20 Chrome tabs open, then the i5 will obviously be an improvement.

      A big word of warning though – the Surface Pro 4 has some serious hardware/quality control issues. I had FOUR faulty devices in 5 months before finally giving up and returning it for good. There are also well-documented bugs which may have now been fixed, but my experience of the Pro 4 is that the battery life is terrible and the whole device is generally less stable than the Pro 3. It may be worth sticking with what you have for now and waiting to upgrade to the Pro 5 instead.


  2. Thanks, Scott. So between the time of making your first video on the video training and now, you switched back to Mac, eh? I’m still deciding which way to go with Dragon.


    1. Yup, although I’d never really left either platform – our house has a mix of Macs and Windows PCs. Several months with a Surface Pro 4, however, proved a tipping point for me – I love the concept of Microsoft’s “one-size-fits-all” approach but it is, without question, the most unreliable piece of tech I’ve ever owned. So much promise and such shoddy delivery. There are only so many multiple restarts per day you can take (plus crashing, freezing, sleep issues, terrible battery life, screen scaling issues…the list goes on). I’m also finding Windows 10 to be incredibly buggy across all our devices.

      Macs aren’t perfect, either. But none of the above ever seems to happen, although I am still using DNS under Parallels. Dragon for Mac still has far less functionality (although, since the 5.0.5 update, it is now stable at least).


      1. Thank you. Really appreciate your work. Still struggling with what to buy, and I need to figure it out; not least because I feel confident that dictation will enhance my productivity and health considerably. I prefer my Mac Air over my HP laptop, but to be fair I haven’t given the HP a legit test. I like using Scrivener. And I’m not sure my Mac Air has enough juice: 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, and 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 memory. I fit perfectly into what you’ve written in that I purchased Dragon a few years ago, was not able to get it to work properly, got very little useful help from Nuance and quit in frustration. I’m more focused on my writing now, and very much want to write at the speed of talk and write while on the go.


  3. Stick with it, Nathan. For just dictating into TextEdit and copying/pasting to Scrivener/Word etc, your Macbook Air will be just fine. It may be sluggish running DNS in a Windows virtual machine, though.


  4. Hi Scott, has anything changed with the introduction of “the all-new Dragon Professional Individual for Mac, v6”?

    Addendum: I just read about the woes of v6.0 through to 6.06. Let’s just assume I’m coming to this with no background knowledge of all that.


  5. HI SCOTT Thanks for your valuable content. i was in sending to buy a mac mini and then set up parallels( I need MS for work but iI am very happy with Mac for my other life. once i had installed the latest MS (10 I think in Feb 18) and parrallel i intended to buy Dragon for MS and run it in parrellel. is this the correct thing to do


    1. Yes, this will work but bear in mind your Mac Mini will need to have at least an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and preferably an SSD. The more powerful the better, obviously, but you will be allocating resources to Windows while running under Parallels so a well-specced machine is essential. The current Mac Mini lineup has not been upgraded since 2014 and the standard 5400rpm hard drives included are a major weak spot, resulting in pretty poor performance. This will be made much worse when running Windows in a Parallels environment.


      1. maybe I will just buy a new windows enabled laptop ; to will be cheaper!. thanks for your comments : most helpful


  6. This is probably answered elsewhere, but I can’t seem to find it.

    I currently have an iMac, and I was considering installing Dragon for Windows through Parallels. If I’m running Dragon in the Windows version, will I be able to dictate into, say, Scrivener for Mac? Or do I need to also purchase Scrivener for Windows?

    Thank you! And, if this is answered elsewhere, feel free to simply point me to the right spot. 😀


  7. Boy, I wish I had read this before investing in a 27 inch iMac because they finally had DD for Mac 3.0! It is so different than the NaturallySpeaking product I had used for years on PCs! A great read Scott, thanks.


    1. Scott, your writing has been incredibly informative. Thank you.

      I need to dictate in the field, but I’m regularly out of range of cell towers.
      Now, in August 2018, I’m just about to go with Dragon Professional Individual 15 and a Microsoft Surface Go, the new lower-end machine. The specs meet Nuance’s minimum requirements for the software but I’m really curious as to whether or not it actually works reasonably well for at least dictating text into a text file. Any experience or thoughts? Again, I really appreciate your time and help.


      1. I haven’t used the new Surface Go but have happily used Dragon 15 on the low-end base model M3 Surface Pro. It works without any issues – recognition is even reasonably snappy due to the ability for the processor to boost when needed – despite only 4 GB RAM. I don’t see there being a significant difference in performance with the new Go.

        Bear in mind I try to use Dragon on a machine like this as the only program running, dictating into Notepad. When used in this way, it’s perfectly fine.


      2. Fantastic, Scott. Thank you. After I get it running, I’ll post results to the group. It sounds as if the Microsoft Surface Go might very well end up being a good dedicated field dictation machine. If anyone else has any other suggestions on a small dedicated Windows tablet for field use without cell tower/internet access, please don’t hesitate to say so. Otherwise I’ll pull the trigger on the 10 inch, 8GB/128GB Surface Go and report back to all.


      3. The Samsung Galaxy Book is looking a pretty great portable option, too. Slightly pricier, but you step up to a Super AMOLED screen with Core M or i5 processors, plus the pen and keyboard are included. I believe Best Buy also throw in a free 128Gb microSD card. The battery is the killer feature though – up to 10.5 hours (estimates are pegging the Go at 4-6 hrs depending on usage).


  8. I think Nuance should have to reimburse people for the software expenditure. That’s like buying a car new and the dealer no longer services that year make and model.


  9. Hi from Covid 19, US. With lots more time for writing, I’ve just re-read your book TRAINING YOUR DRAGON, and am trying out a new idea. I’ve just downloaded the Speech Recognition Software app on my iPhone and it seems very accurate. But….where and how can I transfer this text from my phone to a computer?

    Also, I’m seriously considering dividing a hard drive on my Mac in order to run Dragon as a PC. This is a new MacBook Pro running Catalina. What’s the best way to do this? Bootcamp? Another approach? And….is it possible that new software with Catalina intended for use by disabled people unable to type is a way to go?


    1. Not sure which app you are referring to, but your best bet would be to copy and paste any text you generate within it to another app that will work with your Mac (e.g. Notes).

      The most seamless way to run the Windows version of Dragon on your Mac is with a virtual machine in Parallels Desktop. Unfortunately, the new Voice Control in Catalina is a big disappointment from a dictation standpoint and does not compare to Dragon in accuracy or customisability.


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