Dragon Dictation App vs. Dragon NaturallySpeaking – What’s the difference?

I am a user of Dragon Dictation on my iPhone (no Siri unfortunately) with good success using the manual ability to correct the mistakes prior to copy/pasting or emailing the produced text. I believe the Dragon Dictation provides a great writing support for students with learning disabilities and a quick means of creating speech to text with some physical editing required. Recent experiences with middle school students using Dragon Dictation and PaperPort on the iPad with Wi-Fi  resulted in fairly good accuracy given the minimal to no training required (basic instructions for punctuation, new line, enunciation, microphone positioning and environmental controls – quiet area) and fluctuating quality of  middle school male voices! Used with students who significantly struggle with literacy, Dragon Dictation can be a boon for production of written expression when support is provided by others with the editing process. Physical access to the iPad or iPod/iPhone is required for the recording, editing and production (email/copying/printing) process.  Using the Dragon Dictation in the PaperPort app further provided the ability to dictate their response and listen to their recognized speech to text using the iOS 5’s speak selection enabled to assist in students with the editing process.

A recent evaluation of an individual with mobility impairment brought  questions about the use of Dragon Dictation on the iPad. Although a powerful app, how does Dragon Dictation compare with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, what are the pros and cons of each of their use and who might they be best suited for?

Here are some features when considering the use of Dragon Dictation versus Dragon NaturallySpeaking and who it might be appropriate for or what tasks each application may be best suited to:

Dragon Dictation:


  • Minimal training or voice commands required for use
  • A few basic settings available in Dragon Dictation (language selection, recognize names, detect end of speech)
  • Mobile use (with Wi-Fi or G3/4)
  • Will adapt to your voice over time
  • Capable of using some wired microphones for dictation
  • Easy use for social networking or emailing


  • Requires Wi-Fi service for transcription
  • Learns your voice over time but no correction capabilities
  • Cannot train on new words or vocabulary
  • Requires direct, physical selection to: start app, start dictation, send, print, edit, copy or paste text
  • Unable to use for voice navigation on the iDevice
  • Limited to within the app on iPad, iPod or iPhone 4 (projected to be a keyboard capability on New iPad available March 2012)
  • Limited to record up to 1 minute at a time

Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Premium) software:


  • Control of computing environment using voice commands
  • Provides ability to use with other programs (Word, PowerPoint, Internet, Outlook/email)
  • Enables ability to open applications, edit, print, send, navigate Internet using voice commands – hands free computing
  • Learns voice and vocabulary
  • Ability to learn new vocabulary, words or commands
  • Provides ability to utilize templates via voice commands and macros
  • Does not require Wi-Fi for regular use
  • Allows higher quality microphone for enhanced recognition accuracy
  • Extensive recognition capabilities on the computer operating system or applications or web based services


  • Requires some time to train voice file
  • Requires time and training to learn voice commands
  • Requires capable computer

So what’s the difference, what’s the big deal?

When considering the mobile app (excluding iPhone with Siri) for individuals who have significant mobility impairment with limited physical access to the computer, Dragon Dictation or PaperPort on the iPad/iPod provide many more physical demands than Dragon NaturallySpeaking does on a computer.   Barriers to written production or navigation on a device or computer exists when using Dragon Dictation.  Lack of multi-tasking on the iDevices limit its use to within Dragon Dictation or Paper Port app, unlike Dragon NaturallySpeaking which allows hands free navigating on most of the computer and programs when set up for the individual’s specific needs.  Accuracy of voice recognition is limited in Dragon Dictation when compared to Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s software with initial voice training, analyzing existing documents, correcting errors by voice and ability to train on new words or names. Settings in Dragon Dictation offers very limited customization for a user.  For individuals with significant motor impairment, use of a computer compatible with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium or above provides hands free access to the Internet, written production or navigation on the computer and customization for unique physical and task needs.

When would I use Dragon Dictation or PaperPort’s voice recognition? In the case of the students who have significant challenges with producing written information or recalling commands, Dragon Dictation ease of producing text with minimal training provides a motivating method and quick method of producing text, reducing some of the overwhelming demands of the writing process. Although not perfect, use of Dragon Dictation on a mobile device can increase independence and motivation in producing text using this as assistive technology by reduce some of the mechanical writing demands. Assistance with the writing process, as typically required during the writing process will be needed for many struggling writers. Dragon Dictation can also be a quick, easy method of generating short pieces of written text via voice, requiring manually editing, copying, pasting and emailing your written work.

When considering apps or software and devices, assessing the strengths, challenges, environment and tasks of the user is essential to choose  appropriate tools for the individual. Dragon Dictation/PaperPort and Dragon NaturallySpeaking provide different solutions for the unique needs of individuals with disabilities.

What has been your experience with Dragon Dictation vs. Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition applications?

Will these apps be part of your OT iTool Kit or AT tool kit?


Updated 3/10/2012

About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in App Reviews, Apps for OT's, Apps for Special Needs, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Learning Disability, Middle School, Mobility Impairment, Occupational Therapy, Special Needs, Uncategorized, Voice Recognition, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dragon Dictation App vs. Dragon NaturallySpeaking – What’s the difference?

  1. Did you hear the iPad3 has voice dictation? Will be interesting to see how accurate it it.

  2. Eileen says:

    I just downloaded Dragon Dictation onto my iPad and can’t find a way to edit manually. I also can’t find any source that gives instruction online? Can you give me a link?

  3. Lisa says:

    HI, I have just bought dragon naturally speaking for my 6 year old son who has dyspraxia, autism, adhd and cannot really write at all. We’ve been indicated for him to learn to type, but also to dictate his thoughts. Because of his young age, it is thought maybe using an easi-speak microphone would be a good way to record his stories etc, and then translate using the computer premium version 11. I know it will take training time, but have seen I could record myself reading the text, play it to him through headphones and then he could say it back to do the training text, do you think this will work? He cannot really read yet, so that is the problem. Thanks for your advice, just not sure if the easi speak will work as I have heard it matters what mic you use.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Do you have a mobile device or a laptop or desktop computer you are targeting using?
      There are many different ways to consider doing this. Dragon is a great thought but most resources suggest that it is best used with individuals 10 years or older. DNS requires a high cognitive load ( you need to know commands and voice recognition for young children is not very accurate in my experience) as well as robust computing to work. In my experience it requires savvy and willing stakeholders at school to carry this through. Also if he is in a noisy environment – such as school, the voice recognition is further compromised. I recommend it for upper elementary aged students (5th / 6th graders and above and they need support to use it. ).

      Recording his answers can be done with digital voice recorders, however the fastest way to do this often is using a scribe – an adult in the classroom to get his ideas down on paper. Depending developmentally where he is at with the acquisition of mechanical and composition components of writing there are many low to medium tech methods of writing that can be done with young students. One big question is does he read and can he understand, comprehend what he reads? Reading and writing go hand in hand together, if he can spell and read, typing words on a device might be another option (use a portable word processor, iPad or label maker) or using his creativity on the computer or iPad using a storytelling app like Educreation or a storytelling web based program. He is young, continue to work on handwriting skills but allowing alternative methods of written production may be your best option. Check to see if he qualifies for OT services for remediating the handwriting at this early age as well as finding alternative methods of being an author I believe is important at this point.
      If you have more questions please let me know or email me at otswithapps@gmail.com . Each child is different as well as what supports are available in a learning environment so recommended tools need to be suited to those needs.
      Good luck!

  4. Deb Wolke says:

    Have you used/know about using a Bluetooth microphone with Dragon D? Wondering if would improve word recognition accuracy.

    • Deb, Are you talking about Dragon Dictate for iOS I am assuming? I would use a plugged in mic if you are using it on an iPad, iPhone, iPod. Specifically, if you have the Apple earbuds with the mic, try that speaking directly into the microphone. I believe wired is always preferred for best voice recognition. Bluetooth mics due to the nature of Bluetooth, is not a good as a hard wired mic- try the Apple ear bud mic first to see if that helps.

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