Dragon for Mac Goes from Zero to Hero – But Is It Too Late?

Well, it took them long enough. After six updates to the current version of Dragon Professional Individual for Mac (including one that was subsequently pulled after it turned the program from a crashing, buggy mess into an even worse crashing, buggy mess), it appears Nuance may finally have delivered a stable version of the product.

The 6.0.6 update that was recently released appears to – shock, horror! – fix many of the terrible problems that have plagued this version of the software. Out of my many years of using Dragon both on the PC and Mac platforms, Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6 has been the worst performing version of the software I have ever come across. I don’t say that lightly, by the way – the Mac version has never exactly been a bastion of well-written software. But this latest release has been nothing short of a disaster.

Something tells me that it wasn’t meant to be like this. This seemed to be the release where Nuance finally unified the branding across both versions of the software, bringing Dragon for the Mac in line with its more mature, feature rich Windows counterpart. Instead, we got a piece of software that promised much (including the new, improved “Deep Learning” speech engine) and instead delivered tear-your-hair-out frustration in spades. Even getting the thing to launch could be a challenge – keeping it stable long enough to deliver any form of accurate recognition was even more problematic.

A familiar sight for Mac users of Dragon Professional Individual 6.

It’s hard not to feel like Mac users have been paying to be beta testers since its release. That’s pretty unacceptable for any company, but I wonder whether the sheer level of instability in this version took even Nuance by surprise. That’s no excuse, of course; it should never have been released in the first place. The 6.0.6 update, however, belatedly seems to fix an awful lot of the problems that have plagued Mac users this time around.

The crashes, for the most part, seem to have stopped. The whole thing now feels relatively stable and dictation into Word, Pages and even Google Docs seems a lot smoother (I haven’t yet had a chance to test it in Scrivener, however). It still seems to have the odd problem with the famous “wandering cursor” though, so I still recommend dictating into TextEdit just to be safe and cut-and-paste into your word processor of choice.

While it’s undoubtedly good news for Mac users of Dragon, I have to wonder whether Nuance have done some irrepairable damage to their reputation. The Mac community has been a pretty patient bunch of customers over the years, putting up with a consistently flaky version of the product while Windows users enjoyed everything the Mac version should have been. This time, however, the backlash seems different. It seems like Mac users’ patience has run out and some of the comments in Nuance’s own forums and the Amazon review section have been nothing short of vitriolic.

Although version 6.0.6 is now usable, it doesn’t change the fact that people paid good money to put up with six months of sheer misery from a program that simply wasn’t fit for purpose. If that’s not enough, it’s Professional Individual in name only – the equivalent PC version (and even Naturally Speaking 13 Premium, which was released in 2014) is still significantly more feature rich and customisable. The transcription functionality, for example, is incomparable between the two (the Mac version still cannot make corrections to transcribed output, never mind learn from it).

What’s a Mac user to do? Buy a separate PC just for dictation? Go the Parallels route on their Mac? Or simply accept that the software isn’t as good but is at least finally stable? If you go for the latter choice, at least you’ll be able to significantly increase your word count without worrying whether the program is going to crash on you several times an hour any more.

For those who want to give Dragon 6 another try on their Mac (and I know of plenty of people who gave up, reverted to version 5 or switched to the Windows equivalent), I recommend following Graham Snook’s excellent post here which outlines the “nuclear option” of completely removing any trace of Dragon from your system before installing version 6. Once that’s done, head to the Dragon menu and download the 6.0.6 update, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

While it’s great news that Nuance has finally delivered the version of Dragon that people paid for in the first place, it’ll be interesting to see how quick Mac users are to cough up more hard-earned cash for the inevitable release of version 7. Maybe a free upgrade would be a valuable gesture in restoring some goodwill. That, at least, would demonstrate some acceptance on Nuance’s part that they got things very, very wrong this time around.

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