Review: Dragon Dictate 4.0 for Mac – The best speech recognition app gets even better


Using our voice to control computers has never really taken off. For many of us, using voice recognition technology wasn’t even a consideration until features like dictation and Siri arrived on our iPhones and iPads. There’s good reason too: the voice recognition features built into our devices have always had the reputation of being half-baked. They simply aren’t accurate and consistent enough to replace our tried and trusted mouse and keyboard or touchscreen. While half decent dictation features come with every Mac (and are powered by Nuance’s technology), the voice recognition features you get with latest version of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for Mac go well beyond simply dictating speech to text. 

Author Ad Placeholder
Will only appear on redesign env.

When people think Nuance and Dragon Dictate they typically think speech to text dictation features. After reading a bit of text and walking through a brief tutorial (about 10 minutes total), the app is remarkably accurate at understanding your voice and dictating speech consistently. If you haven’t tried full-blown dictation software like Dragon in recent years like myself, you’ll truly be amazed at how precise the program is at dictating error-free text as you speak naturally. There’s no need to speak slowly and carefully to make sure every word is recognized, and there’s no waiting around for the software to catch up to what you’re saying.

Dragon-Dictate-4-02So will I be writing my articles for 9to5Mac by simply speaking and having Dragon dictate from now on? Nope. Dragon Dictate won’t let you plow through a 5000 word piece nearly as quick as you’d type it, mainly because learning the commands necessary for formatting and corrections is like learning a new language. Basic commands seem easy enough to remember while dictating— Caps on, close quote, comma, ‘apostrophe ess’, insert, correct, new line— but in practice having to speak commands to properly format a sentence as you dictate takes away from the freedom of being able to capture your thoughts as you speak freely. I personally found the software much more useful for composing short snippets of text that typically don’t require much formatting or a deep train of thought that might be interrupted by formatting commands, like emails, Tweets, reminders, lists, and brainstorming sessions.

Of course, that process becomes much easier as you memorize and become more comfortable with the commands. While for me it won’t be replacing my keyboard on a daily basis for writing, that doesn’t mean with a little practice dictation in Dragon Dictate 4.0 can’t be a powerful alternative if necessary. Dragon Dictate has long been a popular product among those with medical conditions like arthritis that limit the ability to type comfortably or at all.

Admittedly your mileage with accuracy might vary depending on your accent (I was using the U.S. setting since there is no Canadian accent preference), but there are also region settings for the UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and India, as well as accent preferences for American, American- Inland Northern, American- Southern, American- Teens, Australian, British, Indian, Latino, and Southeast Asian.

For me, the real standout feature of Dragon Dictate 4.0 is the ability to control applications on your Mac using only your voice. Dragon Dictate comes with a number of built-in commands that allow you to control functions across apps like Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari, as well as commands for composing email or sharing status updates to Facebook and Twitter. It also has a powerful built-in command editor that lets you setup your own voice commands for just about anything you can think of. Launch, quit, or hide applications, search the web, open a file or folder, or create a new reminder using only your voice. I set up commands for opening new tabs and navigating to specific tabs in Chrome, switching between or launching my commonly used full-screen apps by simply saying the app’s name, initiating playback in Logic Pro, as well as opening files and folders in Finder. The command editor is easy enough for anyone to setup commands for opening apps, bookmarks, files and folders, menu items, and any keystroke either system wide or within an app, but also has the ability to use AppleScript, Automator workflow, Shell script, and text macro for more complex voice commands. Once you get used to speaking to your Mac and asking it to do things, you’ll wonder why you always haven’t been searching the web, navigating Gmail, and launching and switching between apps and folders with your voice.

What’s new in 4.0: 

Dragon-Dictate-4.0For those that have used previous versions of the software, the upgrade to Dragon Dictate 4.0 has a lot to offer on top of an overall bump in speed and accuracy. It includes the ability to transcribe from various audio formats like mp3, air, or wav files, a feature that previously required a separate $149 purchase of Nuance’s MacSpeech Scribe software. Once you select an audio file to be transcribed, Dragon Dictate immediately starts transcribing around 60 seconds of the file as best it can without any training— the accuracy of the initial text will depend a lot on the quality of the recording. After correcting or approving the 60 seconds worth of text it transcribes (I usually found a correction or two to be made every other line), the software takes a few minutes to create a profile for the audio and train itself to accurately transcribe the rest of the file. It’s not perfect, the final transcription typically had a number of errors to correct unless the audio source was the cleanest, professional voice recording imaginable with no background noise. The transcription also comes out as one big blob of text with no concern for punctuation or grammar. Don’t expect a finished product quality transcription, but since it can transcribe the text in only a fraction of the actual length of the audio and pretty accurately, it will certainly trim a lot of time off transcriptions of long audio files.

The new version also packs in a long list of commands specifically for controlling Gmail in Safari and Firefox with your voice, as well as some nice enhancements for dictating into Pages.

The biggest issue I ran into with Dragon Dictate 4.0 was background noise getting picked up. There are commands to mute the mic, put it to sleep, or have it auto sleep, but that doesn’t do much to combat background noise when you have the mic on while dictating commands. On a few occasions background noise from either my devices, pets or the street would launch apps unexpectedly or begin dictating text when I wasn’t speaking. This was mostly an issue when using my Macbook’s built in mic and of course wouldn’t be a concern in a perfectly quiet room. It’s also partly your Mac’s fault; using a standalone vocal mic positioned properly, a headset, or the Dragon Remote app that turns your iPhone into a mic for your Mac will minimize these issues.

Is it worth the cost? 

Dictation might not be faster than typing, but that’s not the point. The ability to transcribe voice memos and other audio files you’ve recorded on the go and control anything on your Mac with your voice would make Dragon Dictate an excellent value even without everything else it offers. And for those that for some reason can’t type or just don’t want to, the dictation features are worth every penny if Apple’s built-in features simply aren’t enough.

Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 usually sells for $199.99 but is currently on sale for $179. An upgrade from previous versions of Dictate is available for $149.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. Gregory Wright - 9 years ago

    Pretty nifty if it works as demonstrated.

    • Emile Tobenfeld - 9 years ago

      GET RID OF ALL COMMANDS except scratch and edit and you would have a useful product. Every time I use DD 3 it eventually jumps back in the document and types over something. WHat a bummer to have such a critical market niche dominated by Bloatware!

  2. scumbolt2014 - 9 years ago

    I’m sick of hearing about this stupid app.

    • Jordan Kahn - 9 years ago

      Yet you still clicked through the headline and took time to leave this comment.

      • Robert Martens - 8 years ago

        Clever of you to point that out. You now have taken time out of your busy schedule to tell someone that they really do care.

  3. rfgeor - 9 years ago

    Beware the poor service if you have a problem. I tried to find the link to update from v. 3 MAC and after chatting for 10 minutes, had to have someone call me and then do the order via phone. They sent an email and after installation, had a question. Couldn’t find an online answer so called during business hours only to be told that no one was currently available because of a staff meeting (really!). Used the software and there were no visible differences in the new version. I noticed that the review didn’t discuss any either, just alluded to them. Being the only game in town has evidently had its effect on customer service and I can do without software If service is poor. It would be nice if there was some competition in this area. I still use v3 cause I paid for it but would like a real choice.

    • Jordan Kahn - 9 years ago

      “I tried to find the link to update from v. 3 MAC and after chatting for 10 minutes, had to have someone call me and then do the order via phone.”

      I linked directly to the upgrade page in the review above. Works perfect.

      “Used the software and there were no visible differences in the new version. I noticed that the review didn’t discuss any either”

      The review discussed the biggest new feature, transcription, in detail. That used to be a separate $149 purchase (as I mentioned in the review.) The new Gmail and Pages support are also notable new features and are detailed in the videos above. It’s also immediately noticeable going from 3.0 to 4.0 a step up in overall performance of dictation.

  4. varera (@real_varera) - 9 years ago

    every second article on this site is now a commercial. it is time to sign off.

    • Jordan Kahn - 9 years ago

      We’ve always done product reviews and they are popular with readers. This is an honest review of the latest release of popular software. What’s the problem exactly? Reviews are always labeled as such so they should be easy to skip if you just want to read news stories. Thanks.

      • Thank you Jordan, Im grateful. Ive been thinking about dragon for ages, this will probably help. Please bring good reviews again. If someone doesnt like them, no need to read.

      • Samuel Lavoie - 9 years ago

        Great reviews of this well known OS X app. I feel you fully deserved the affiliation link. no worries, keep them coming!

  5. Victoria Wedyke - 9 years ago

    This could be highly beneficial for people with disabilities that need to be at a computer for their job, but just can’t work the keyboard anymore. If it works with the amount of accuracy the article talks about I feel that this app is going to help a lot of people.

  6. ilox101 - 9 years ago

    So if I had a Mac I would definately be thinking seriously of taking this advice…

  7. Brian Levy - 9 years ago

    I have no idea whether Dragon 4 Dictate is any good or not… because after 3 weeks of conversations with Nuance technical support (including a remote session where their technician had full access to my state of the art iMac) the software will not run. It just throws up an internal error with a message to contact technical support.

    I have literally spent hours and hours going through lengthy e-mails with line after line of instructions of things to try. Not only that but I have lost Version 3 which Nuance deleted in its futile attempts to install Version 4! When I tried to complain to Nuance that I thought that they should at least give me some of my money back or otherwise compensate me for the hours I have spent trying to help them to debug their software, the technical support manager, ‘Norman’ (he would reveal his surname) could not have been less interested.

    As things stand, I have lost Dragon Dictate 3 and Nuance are giving me no time frame as to when their development team will fix this issue (assuming that they know what they are doing which is highly doubtful).

    My recommendation would be to avoid this software like the plague until Nuance actually fix the product so that it works as described and/or they begin to demonstrate that they actually value their customers. Nuance is one of the worst companies you could possibly deal with!

  8. Diana Grueva - 9 years ago

    Does anyone have any experience on using Dragon for school recordings of professors? I am a law students and am thinking about using it to record professor lectures as we get a LOT thrown at us. Any feedback on that aspect?

  9. williebob1501 - 9 years ago

    The sheer greed of this company knows no bounds! If you buy the latest version of Dragon Dictate, you can expect to pay the full purchase price again in 12 months when you need to update your software to be compatible with Apple updates. This is a lesson in the evils of a corporate monopoly. If you value ethics, I recommend you go with an alternative. We l

  10. Seth Feldman - 9 years ago

    One of the worst companies I have ever dealt with. Product never worked, error messages. Great advertising, poor service.

  11. Michel Phillips - 9 years ago

    I recently switched to Mac and bought Dragon Dictate 4.0, after nearly 10 years of successfully using several versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows. The Mac version is a disappointment. The cursor changes locations on its own when your speech pauses, so you start dictating new text in the middle of a sentence–or even a word–that you already finished. I called Dragon customer support and was informed this is a known issue in Microsoft Word; their suggested fix (deleting the preference file) had no effect. I switched to dictating into Dragon’s built-in Note Pad, then cutting and pasting my text into Word. Even in Dragon’s own Note Pad, the dictation point keeps jumping back into the middle of previous text–not as badly as when dictating directly into Word, but still enough to be a significant problem. I switched the Note Pad format from RTF to plain text, but the cursor still jumps, resulting in jumbled dictation.

    I have installed all the latest updates for Dragon, Word, and Mac OS X Mavericks. The cursor still jumps.

    Perhaps most frustrating of all, the Dragon website seems to have no channel through which users can report feedback. Great. I hope they see this review–and others like it–and take appropriate action.

    • Arthur P. Johnson - 8 years ago

      Michelle, the same thing is happening for me, and it’s driving me nuts. Happens when I use Dragon dictate for Mac together with Microsoft Office for Mac 2011. it completely negates any time savings I would see from using the software. What a waste of money!

      • Paul Mittal - 8 years ago

        I can’t believe I got sucked in by the Nuance’s advertising again!! every time I pause speaking it erases the last keystroke and start with a capital (even if I am in the middle of a sentence and just paused for 1 or 2 seconds!!)

  12. clasgtr - 9 years ago

    What’s the difference between Dragon Home and Dictate 4.0 ?
    I went to the site to find that there’s a Home version for much less. But there’s no product comparison data.

  13. whidbeyben - 8 years ago

    Don’t believe a word of it. I have been using Dragon Dictate Medical v3.0.3 and prior versions back to MacSpeech Medical for years- not because they are great products, but simply because on the Mac Platform, there is no alternative. It took Nuance nearly 3 years to come out with a version that wasn’t incompatible with Mac OS versions that were 2-3 years old. The program crashes frequently, sometimes bringing down the entire OS- that’s hard to do with OS-X, but somehow, they manage it. It is NOT COMPATIBLE WITH MS WORD. If you make the mistake of going from their notepad ap to a Word document without turning off recognition you get a crash 100% of the time. It would also randomly select and delete passages of text from a document I was working in without any warning. Tech support is worthless, and it is clear they don’t give a (&*^*# that the software is crammed full of bugs. They had me reformatting my hard drive and doing complete reinstalls of Mac OS and then reinstalls of their software with zero improvement in the constant crashing, bugs and unpredictable behaviors. They should be ashamed to have such a buggy and poorly supported product on the market. I can’t think of another product I have used on the Mac in 20+ years that was such a poor product.

  14. openmindone - 8 years ago

    Heads up! You will need a headset that uses a USB plug-in adapter to use Dragon Dictate 4. Nuance didn’t say that in any of the advertising they sent me. They did try to sell me one of their $50.00 headsets while I was on-line ordering the software but I already have a Plantronics PLT legend so I ignored that offer. Oops. Blissfully ignorant, I bought the download version. The somewhat byzantine registration process should have put me on guard that this program is not ready for prime time. Step by stepping thru registration and set-up is when I found out that I couldn’t use my headset with Dragon Dictate.

  15. Ron Newman - 8 years ago

    Hi Jordan, I’ve read every word and like your in-depth review. The comments left by others have scared me off for the moment, especially, ‘my cursor moves on it’s own’ and ‘I’m experiencing 100% crashes’, he’s on the same machine as mine by the sound of it, the bits that are going to stop me from buying at the mo’ are the ones saying “how awful customer a & tech support is. Anyway Jordan thanks for an interesting and informative read. Ron :-)

  16. bradhadfield - 8 years ago

    you really can come here to find a wide array of ass kissing articles… Dragon NaturallySpeaking would be great if it worked as advertised. it doesn’t. its main problems are around formatting – not recognition. if you use Google Chrome for mail or chat you can count on behavior like the failure to capitalize first letters of sentences, the addition of unwarranted spaces, overwriting other text, the cursor jumping about and appearing in the middle of a sentence – unsolicited – and finally the annoying addition of odd characters every time you use punctuation.
    once the odd character appears (notice I’m leaving the beginning of the sentence as dictated) it never goes away until you shut dictate down and restart it. in short order the characters will reappear.
    so using dictate means dictating something and then deleting spurious characters. F (the F popped up when I said PERIOD)

  17. Rick Pearson - 8 years ago

    It is beta software, at best, sold at premium price. It doesn’t work in Word tables, for example. It jumps around and puts text randomly in a different cell than the one selected. It works OK if you only dictate into a Dragon NotePad, but sometimes, I click in a notepad, get the blinking cursor there, and then Dragon inserts the text in an entirely different window. It is supposed to be smart, but will not learn a new name, no matter how many times I correct what it types.

    The notepad does not let you adjust font, size, or margins… but if you paste into it from elsewhere, it adopts a tiny version of the settings in the source and cannot be changed back without restarting the program.

    This thing is more buggy than Louisiana in July. This would have been great software in 1995.

  18. Dave Hanks - 8 years ago

    October 2014… Dragon Dictate Medical for Mac (v3.0.5)

    Upgraded SIX copies almost a year ago but delayed installation hoping for a point release update based on previous experience. NONE have been posted. I finally installed the upgrades in late August and early September. The result: DISASTER. The prior version (v1.5) worked well enough. It did not crash on Macs running Lion and Mt. Lion. I upgraded the doctor’s workstations to Mavericks and installed the new Dragon Dictate Medical versions. I was ASSURED v3.0.5 was compatible with Mavericks. IT IS NOT. Within a week I had to downgrade several workstations from Mavericks back to 10.8 and downgrade Dragon Dictate Medical for Mac from v3.0.5 to 1.5 to prevent end user riots. Nuance claims that Dragon Dictate for Mac works fine with Microsoft Office and that this is the GOLD STANDARD application. THIS IS BS. The company needs to clean up its software and providing a WORKING release that works on Mac OS X 10.9.

  19. Thanks! This is very helpful. Hoping you could help me out with a little more advice. I’m researching getting 4.0. I’m a medium and I channel very long conversations with Spirit for books. They are getting to be too much to transcribe. I’m thinking, even though during the session, it’s not really easy to say all the punctuation without getting “out of the conversation”. However, I could easily go back into the conversation and add punctuation via this program. Thanks for any advice you can give me. Donna

  20. Bobby Charlton - 8 years ago

    This application does not work with MS Word 11. I got Yosemite installed, Dragon Dictate 4 with all updates installed, it works for anything else but not with the only application I need. Is there anybody who knows solution for this issue?

  21. sylvia427 - 8 years ago

    Dragon Dictate 4.06 is still just beta software. 4 versions in and the same errors still persist. It jumps all over the place particularly with MS Word for Mac.

    This is despite using the latest updates from Nuance, Microsoft and Apple. In addition I use a noise canceling headset microphone. I also own the Windows version and the same microphone works fine for that with none of the cursor jumping.

    Nuance support is abysmal on this product. This has been a known issue for multiple versions and essentially makes the program unusable.

    Dont waste you money.

    • nehaktishna93 - 8 years ago

      So can this system help me to get real time transcription? What I meant is can I get text transcription when I speek itself?

  22. Ian Cirame - 8 years ago

    I recently switched to Mac and bought Dragon Dictate 4.0, after nearly 10 years of successfully using several versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows. The Mac version is a disappointment. The cursor changes locations on its own when your speech pauses, so you start dictating new text in the middle of a sentence–or even a word–that you already finished. I called Dragon customer support and was informed this is a known issue in Microsoft Word; their suggested fix (deleting the preference file) had no effect. I switched to dictating into Dragon’s built-in Note Pad, then cutting and pasting my text into Word. Even in Dragon’s own Note Pad, the dictation point keeps jumping back into the middle of previous text–not as badly as when dictating directly into Word, but still enough to be a significant problem. I switched the Note Pad format from RTF to plain text, but the cursor still jumps, resulting in jumbled dictation. is awesome!

  23. simonhall276787781 - 8 years ago

    Compared with the last release, Dragon Dictate 4.0 does offer a quantum improvement in terms of accuracy.
    It does work … to some degree, but does not offer seamless transcribing. If you buy this software expecting to go back over the transcription and correct several times, then you want be disappointed.

  24. Bill Bulick - 8 years ago

    very helpful thread. thanks!!!

    can anyone shed more light on the compatibility of dictate v. 4.06 and yosemite (I am running v. 10.10.2) some think this is supposed to have improved the situation?

  25. whidbeyben - 8 years ago

    So, after nearly 3 years, an update to Dragon Dictate Medical for Mac v3.0.5 supposedly brings compatibility with Mac OS 10.9 and 10.10, now that Apple is on the verge of releasing 10.11. How much to upgrade from v3.0.5 to v4.0? $499!!!! Just to be able to install on 2 year old Macs. Poor Medical Mac users know what it feels like to get a full colonoscopy without sedation every 2-3 years. Any of the cursor jumping bugs fixed? I doubt it. Does it work in Word 2011 (let alone Word 2014)? You’d better prove it. Don’t you just love it when DDMM arbitrarily deletes whole swaths of your medical record without you knowing it? Somebody, ANYBODY, please come up with a competing product! Nuance- do you even care about producing a product that you could show your mother and be proud of? I spent dozens of hours trying to work with Nuance’s tech support on these bugs, until the 90 day support period expired. Then absolutely nothing and no mechanism to continue to try to find solutions to the endless bugs. Nuance doesn’t seem to care. For the retail price of $1000, it should include unlimited support. Simply shameful ;-(

    • Pianista Poetica - 8 years ago

      I purchased DD4 to use for typing psychological reports. It is a disaster!!!! I have spent hours of my time, wasted my money, and have to go back to square one – typing everything. It is after 10 am at night and I have just spent hours fighting with a randomly jumping cursor, extra letters, random formatting changes, tryiing to get commands to work well, and the thing won’t even learn words/names that are used repeatedly.

      I am stressed to the max – the whole point was to save time and that is exactly what it does not do!!!! Obviously, Nuance doesn’t give a *&^% since it seems that the same problems have been going on for a long time. I can’t believe I fell into this trap – Nuance should be ashamed to release such a buggy product. But, since they are probably making money overall, they don’t give a damn. I am tired, angry, and frustrated…and will never buy anything from them again. What a rip off…

  26. Loren James - 8 years ago

    I have OS X 10.9.5. on my Mac Book Pro. When I open Dragon, my Mac slows to a crawl, Firefox freezes and I have to close Dragon to get Firefox or anything else to work at normal speeds. Dragon also adds a “y” after periods, and often inserts text from previous paragraphs. Other than that, I do like using it, and it is reasonably accurate.

  27. Gordon Carlson - 7 years ago

    I brought the medical version of this software at the end of last year. It is extremely expensive (almost £700). Unfortunately it is also extremely poor.
    Dictating using the system might be very slightly quicker than “hunt and peck” typing with 2 fingers, but that is about it. As far as the non-medical parts of the dictation package go, they are actually considerably less accurate, in my experience, than using the free voice recognition software that comes with the MAC.

    I am afraid Nuance have not yet produced a product suitable for the market and it is very irritating to be offered, at a mere £300, an “upgrade” when the version I have just bought for almost £700 is so poor. In my view they have a bit of a brass neck and should have been offering the upgrade free to those of us daft enough to have spent that much money on their product in the first place.

    My advice – don’t bother!


Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.