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Dragon NaturallySpeaking


Dragon (formerly known as Dragon NaturallySpeaking), now part of the Nuance group, has provided high quality speech recognition software for Windows computers since the early 1990s. As well as dictating to your computer, you can format text and control the computer. Dragon installs on the computer so you don't need an internet connection for it to work.

Newer versions of Dragon do not require any training and accuracy is much better 'out of the box'. It also seems to work better for regional accents and for some children. 

If you tried Dragon previously without success, do explore a recent  version - it's definitely much better and we have had very positive reports from learners and schools.

Which version?

Nuance, who own Dragon, are more focused on providing products and services for business and professionals, rather than education so many of their products are not particularly relevant for schools. However, Dragon Professional Individual and Dragon Home are both worth considering. If you go down the Dragon route, your purchasing decision should depend on the precise needs of the student.

Dragon Home (£179.99)

  • Has an excellent speech recognition engine that requires no training for your voice and adjusts to your voice as you dictate.
  • Allows you to dictate with a high level of accuracy into Microsoft Office, web browsers and social media programs (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).
  • Has a Playback facility that allows you to hear a recording of what you dictated. This is invaluable in helping to understand why Dragon got something wrong - did you stutter, slur words together, or do you just have to try to speak a particular word more carefully. Dragon Home does not include a text-to-speech facility that will read back your text from the screen, which is vital for many people with dyslexia. This is not a deal breaker as you can use a simple, free text-to-speech program, such as NaturalReader or Ivona MiniReader in conjunction with Dragon.
  • Provides limited control over the computer, e.g. opening, closing and switching between apps, and selecting menu items, but it doesn't provide control over the mouse.
  • Does not require access to the internet.

In summary, Dragon Home could meet the needs of most people with dyslexia, but people with a physical disability, or a visual impairment, would almost certainly need additional technology for full, independent control over their computer.

Dragon Professional Individual (£439.99)

Has all the features mentioned for Dragon Home, above, and also:

  • Can be used to dictate into a wider range of apps.
  • Can be used 'hands free', making it easier for people with some physical disabilities, and reducing the likelihood of developing repetitive strain injury (RSI).
  • Has a Read That text-to-speech facility, in addition to Playback allowing dictated text to be read back from the screen.
  • Can transcribe audio files from a digital voice recorder into text.
  • Can create a  'macro' to automate a series of frequently used commands.

Volume Licensing is available - contact Nuance for details.  This could be a reasonable option if you have a number of pupils, e.g. with dyslexia, for whom you want to provide a laptop, or if you intend to invest heavily in Dragon for your computer network, e.g. allowing pupils to use their own voice profiles to access Dragon on computers in many different locations within a school.

There is now the option of Dragon Professional Anywhere which is cloud based and is a subscription product. It is reported to be not really suitable for users with limited mobility or hands-free users as it lacks command and control functionality.

Buying Dragon

It used to be possible to download a 30 day trial copy from Nuance, but this has been changed to a "30 day money back guarantee", which is less useful for schools. Make sure you try it with a decent microphone (see below) - - otherwise you'll be wasting your time. If you have an older version of Dragon, we think it's definitely worth upgrading to the latest version, v. 15. 

As far as we understand it, if you want to buy Dragon for yourself, or for a small number of learners to use on personal laptops, you need one licence per user - you can't legally install the program on a single computer and have it used by several users - you need as many licences as you have users.

These personal versions are available either as a download, in which case you need to buy a microphone, or as a physical, boxed product that comes with a mic. The wired microphones are OK but have a jack plug connection, and we recommend using microphones with USB connections as we think they are more reliable. 

If you are an individual student, go for either Dragon Home (£179.99) for basic dictating, or Dragon Professional Individual (£439.99), if you want more features like recording and playing back.

If you are a Support for Learning department wanting to buy, say, up to ten licences for ten students to use on ten personal laptops we suggest considering the needs of the students who will be using the software and choosing from the above two options.

There is no longer any Education licences for Dragon. The Dragon Professional Group for Education which did volume purchase has now been superceded by Dragon Professional Group which is a business focussed solution but may offer some price reduction if you are buying multiple licences.

It's quite hard to find prices on the internet, so the best idea is to phone up the suppliers and get up to date costs. Before you do, look at Speech empowered computing who do give prices for the Group Education version that you can more or less understand, unlike some of the others who ether don't list prices at all, or do in ways that are quite opaque.  

Getting Started

To help you get started, refer to:

When you start Dragon the first time you must create a user profile for your voice - this only takes a few minutes. Dragon will then offer to take you through an Interactive Tutorial. Going through the tutorial is not the same as training Dragon with your voice - the tutorial is worth doing because you learn about the software and about how to use speech recognition. You don't need to go through the whole tutorial though - you can just start using it immediately. There used to be a lengthy process of training Dragon by reading paragraphs of standard text into the computer, but this is no longer required for Dragon 15, and there is no longer an option to enhance your profile by reading this text. You can improve accuracy by using the Vocabulary tools where Dragon analyses your documents or emails to add new words to it's dictionary and adapt to your writing style.

Learning to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Before you introduce Dragon to a student, learn to use it yourself - use the Demo Videos and guides above. For teaching students we suggest the procedure outlined in Speech Recognition as AT for Writing, by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key, which uses the following approach:

  1. Consider It! - Is Speech Recognition (SR) an appropriate tool for the student and the learning tasks? Not every student can use SR, and you can't necessarily use it for every learning task.
  2. Try It! - SR is not magic. You must teach the student to use SR, and to compose and dictate.
  3. Assess It! - What does SR offer compared to handwriting, typing or other writing tools?
  4. Implement It! - If SR looks like it is a viable tool, how can it be introduced into class and at home?

When teaching students, consider buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking Step by Step, by Sharon Gest and Rachel Barnes (£17.95). The authors say that it is designed to help young learners become independent writers and that you, the teacher will also learn how to use the software alongside your student. Each of the 8 lessons or steps should be achievable in 30 minutes although the authors do suggest that additional practice will help.    


The standard single user box set comes with a fairly decent microphone, but we suggest you buy a mic with a USB plug. We have found that USB mics are much more reliable. See the Dragon Approved Mics for options, and we suggest the:

  • Andrea NC 181 USB (£44.99) - we have used these a lot over the years and found them very good;
  • Logitech PC 960 USB (£20) - Chris Gerrard at Edinburgh Academy says they work very well. 

Wireless microphones free you to dictate while walking around, standing, or from a wheelchair. These include:

Dragon is also sold bundled with:

There are also Desktop Microphones such as:

Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Education