After a lengthy struggle trying to install “Dragon Naturally Speaking” on an ordinary Hewlett Packard laptop running Windows 10, we gave up. The next day, Joy called the company’s tech support and after their expert worked on it for an hour and a half, he got it installed.

It was not a great experience dealing with what is supposed to be the world’s premiere voice recognition software. The idea is you load it in, speak into the microphone and the program turns what you said into words on the screen. The point of that is you can then edit it — do the rewrite. To quote the advice of best-selling science fiction writer Robert Heinlein: “The whole secret of writing is in the rewriting.”

So we have spent the last three days trying out different dictation programs. We started with the best known, Dragon, and for sixty dollars bought “Home,” version 13, the latest available. That was sixty bucks down the drain. Aside from the installation problems, it was extremely slow and made more errors than a last-place ball team. The first fifty words had more than a dozen, some of them hilarious. We saw many irate comments on the web. Of course the Home version is just a small part of their business, so it may be low priority.

Compared to using Google’s free voice recognition, Dragon was a disaster, missing every other word the first time out. Using our Android phone, “Google Voice” got our dictation nearly perfectly the first time and was much faster. Dragon transcribed Bob’s words: “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna,” for example, as “Osama, Osama, Osama.” Does this even make sense? After several hours of similar drivel, we dumped it.

You might wonder why we even considered paying $60 for Dragon when Windows has speech recognition built in. But it’s far from perfect. We first tried theirs on a Windows 8 machine. (Go to “Settings” and type “speech recognition.”) It worked OK but not great. In Windows 10, it was a total failure, sputtering the same words over and over, like it was having a dictionary fit. By the way, Cortana, the built-in voice assistant, doesn’t do dictation,  just web searches and other simple queries.

Another alternative is those free programs called “extensions” that can be installed in your web browser. We liked the Chrome extension, “Voice Dictation.”  The Chrome web store, by the way, has oodles of free extensions in the form of games, productivity tools, graphics, spreadsheets, etc. Even “Open Office,” nearly identical to Microsoft Office, is a free extension. To use the one we liked best, search for “Voice Dictation in Chrome,” and when it comes up, just click “add to Chrome.” To use it, click its icon in the upper right of your screen.

A few other ways: If you own an iPad or Android tablet, try voice typing in Microsoft Word, a free download. On an Android device, start by enabling “Google Voice Typing” in settings, then just tap the microphone in Word, or “Pages” for iPhones. On an iPad, it’s already set up. Just tap the microphone and start talking.

More with Google Home and Alexa

A couple we met said they only use Amazon’s Alexa to tell them a daily joke. We use her mainly for music and weather. Here are some more ideas a reader sent in.

Babysit the kids. Tell them to ask the Echo or the Google Home digital assistant to play games with them, answer their questions, play children’s songs. Google Home will talk like Yoda or sing to you if you ask. The Amazon Echo or Echo Dot can play Jeopardy and a rhyming game, among others.

We said, “Hey Google, play a game,” and she gave us several choices. Her “Mad Libs” was fun, and got funnier with practice. If you don’t have a Google Home, go to MadTakes.com for something similar. On  your phone, try the free Mad Libs app for Android and iPhones. You can  find games for Alexa in the Amazon Skills section of Amazon.com. Click anything that interests you and then click “enable.” She didn’t do well in our Mad Libs test, but “Silly Sentences” is fun.

Google Home can be a travel agent. Say “Find me non-stop flights,” adding the date, airline and destination. This also works if you have Google Assistant on your phone or Siri on the iPhone or iPad. For Alexa, enable the “Flight Deals” skill.

For meditation, say to Google Home, “Talk to Headspace.” There are three choices: wake up, take a moment, and wind down. On the Echo with Alexa, enable a Meditation skill. Or you could just download the “Headspace” app on your phone.

Find more ideas for Google Home at Domino.com, or by searching on “9 Things You Didn’t Know Google Home Could Do.” For the Amazon Echo, search on “Things Echo Can Do.”


  • Eco-Friendly Camp in Botswana

    EurAtlas.com has lots of interesting maps, some for different time periods.

  • OpentheBooks.com tells you where taxpayer money is spent. For instance, the Ivy League colleges received $30 billion dollars in tax dollars between 2010 and 2014. Yet their endowment is already big enough to spend $2 million on each student.
  • 17 Charts Show the U.S. is not as Developed as You Think.” Search on that phrase to find some surprising statistics. For instance, eleven countries have more hospital beds per 1,000 people than the U.S. does. Japan has 13, we have three.
  • 10 Incredibly Beautiful Eco-Friendly Places to Visit.” Live with reindeer herders, for example. Our dentist said they had the best steaks he ever ate.





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