Dragon Dictate in a virtual machine



Ever since voice dictation became within reach to consumer in the late 1990s, I’ve always been intrigued with the technology.  My first experience with Dragon Dictate included a massive amount of floppy disks, a bad microphone, and a very poor experience.  Not being the best typer, I was relegated to keyboarding for another 10 years.

Voice dictation renewed

Once Siri premiered on the iPhone, voice dictation transformed my use of the device.  It was easier to text, email, and communicate with others not having to use the small keyboard.  95% of the text entry on my phone is now done via voice.  The effectiveness of voice dictation on the iPhone encouraged me to look for options on my desktop computer.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows 13


Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 for Windows is truly awesome.  The software is surprisingly accurate, learns new words, and the correction experience is wonderfully simple.  Voice dictation has transformed my experience blogging making it easier to get my thoughts down on paper and as a result, I believe my voice sounds much more natural.  After a couple of months working with Dragon NaturallySpeaking on Windows, I decided to give the Mac version a try.

Dragon Dictate for Mac 4

Unfortunately, the Mac version of Dragon Dictate leaves a lot to be desired.  Actually, I’m surprised Nuance even sells it, given how poor the user experiences as well as the number of bugs.  In reading online, it appears the Mac platform isn’t near as flexible as the Windows platform for voice dictation.  On Windows, Dragon NaturallySpeaking can easily see and modify all of the text inside of a window.  On the Mac version, it has to keep track of all of the text and edits manually.  Any edits a human makes outside of the software causes the experience to go haywire.  Dragon Dictate doesn’t know where the cursor is in relation to the text anymore if you touch the cursor.  In other words, it’s like typing with a blindfold on.  Using Dragon Dictate with Microsoft Word makes things significantly better, as Microsoft Word exposes more of the document to Dragon Dictate.  I still find though, the Windows software is much better.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement.  OS X 10.9, Mavericks, has voice dictation built-in to the operating system.  The problem is, it doesn’t learn new words or your voice.  So, if you have a word like Homoto, JIRA, or GitHub the built-in dictation always gets it incorrect and it doesn’t learn over time.  Again, not near the experience available on Windows.

I really love Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows and I wanted a similar experience on the Mac.  The next step was to see if running a virtual machine was an option.

Running NaturallySpeaking on Mac OS 10.10 with VMWare Fusion
Running NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Word  on Mac OS 10.10 with VMWare Fusion editing this blog

Using Dragon in a virtual machine

Installing Windows in VMWare Fusion
Installing Windows in VMWare Fusion

Virtualization technology allows you to run one operating system inside of another.  In this case, I’m running Windows on a Macintosh computer.  At that time, there wasn’t much available online confirming or denying the ability to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking inside of a virtual machine.  I have good news!  Dragon NaturallySpeaking works great!  The bad news?  You’ll have to buy some software: VMware Fusion or Parallels, Microsoft Word for Windows, and of course, Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  I’ve used Dragon NaturallySpeaking with VMware Fusion and Parallels with good success.  I’ve not used Dragon NaturallySpeaking with VirtualBox.  I’ve had stability issues with VirtualBox in the past and didn’t want a complex virtual machine to be corrupted.

Configuring the virtual machine


Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows runs really well on Mac really well.  The first step is to install VMware Fusion or Parallels onto your Mac.  Secondly, create a new virtual machine and install Windows.  My configuration is a MacBook Pro Retina screen with 16 GB of RAM with an SSD drive.  Performance couldn’t be better.  I’ve configured the virtual machine to use four processor cores with about 6 GB of RAM.  Windows 7 was slightly more stable than Windows 8.1, but both operating systems work well.

Lastly, install Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Office.  I recommend an electronic download as many Macintosh computers don’t ship with CD-ROM drives these days.

Running the virtual machine

When connecting the headphones to your Macintosh, you’ll need to tell VMware Fusion or Parallels if the headphones should be connected to the Macintosh or Windows inside of the virtual machine.  To use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, we’ll need to connect the headphones to the virtual machine so that Dragon NaturallySpeaking can access the audio from the headset.


Once the microphone is connected to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Dragon NaturallySpeaking will walk through a simple on boarding wizard to configure audio.

Tips and tricks for running Dragon NaturallySpeaking inside a virtual machine

The most important thing is to keep the virtual machine lean.  Only install the software you really need inside of the VM that specifically needs to run under Windows.  For me, that’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Office.  All my other software remains on the Macintosh.  Virtual machine files can easily consume many many gigabytes (mine is 20GB) of space robbing your hard drive of critical space – especially if you are on an SSD.  I also run my VM on an external hard drive to minimize wear on the SSD.

The only other issue I’ve run into with Dragon NaturallySpeaking is sometimes lines will be double spaced when pasting into Mac applications.  I simply delete the extra line spacing.

So far I’ve been really happy with the setup.  I feel like I have the power of the Windows version running on the elegance of the Mac.  Voice dictation has really changed the way I generate and deliver content.

Have you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Dragon Dictate for Mac?  If so, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.


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14 responses to “Dragon Dictate in a virtual machine”

  1. Stuart Braybrooke Avatar
    Stuart Braybrooke

    Thanks for a really useful post. I have just move from a Windows machine on which I’d been running Dragon 12. I now have iMac with El Capitan and VMWare Fusion 8 running W10. Dragon 12 installed but wouldn’t register, and after a few calls to tech support I was told I’d have to buy Dragon 13 for this setup. It works well and in fact I have found I can use it without headset…..just the Mac built in mic! This is more comfortable and Dragon accuracy doesn’t seem to be affected.

    One question regarding Word in this setup. The mouse pointer does strange things. If I try to select a handle on an inserted picture, or change a table column width, it jumps all over the place as the pointer approaches the handle. Also the text selector tool is very small (almost impossible to see) although the blinking cursor and pointer tools size are ok. Have you found this problem? Many thanks!

    1. Me Avatar

      Hey Stuart,

      I’m running Windows 8.1 with VMware fusion 7 and I’m not having any issues with NaturallySpeaking 13. I will say however, I don’t do much with Microsoft Word other than dictate text. I definitely don’t use pictures and graphics. Since I’ve written this post, I’ve migrated away from the VM approach running Dragon for Mac version 5 with Microsoft Word 2016. In short, it’s not as good as the windows set up, but it’s good enough to free 20 gigs of hard drive space required for Windows.



  2. Stan Schwartz Avatar

    Dan, great post. I run Dragon Professional Individual (14) in a Windows 10 VM under Parallels 11 on an iMac 32GB 1TB SSD OS X El Capitan. Dragon works great, almost flawlessly. I connect my mike after Windows is up and running. When the option box comes up asking which machine to connect the mike to, I select Windows 10 before starting Dragon.

    My question is: what I would like to do is just dictate into Dictation Box in Windows on the VM and automate pasting into whatever I am using on the OS X side (primarily Word and Outlook for Mac). Dictation Box won’t handle a transfer to the Mac side. Any suggestions how to do this?


    1. Me Avatar

      To be honest Stan, I’m not really sure. I now use Dictate for Mac 5. It’s not as good as Windows, but I feel like it’s good enough that the overhead and cost of a VM, Windows, and Windows Office is now no longer worth it.

      Thanks for writing in!


  3. Bryan Shih Avatar
    Bryan Shih

    Thanks very much for the helpful post. I know you’re using the Mac version again, but could you tell me what you did about your microphone/headset when you used the Windows version on your Mac? The reason I’m asking is that I bought a fancy headset and USB dongle to use NS14 on my Windows Surface Pro. It is a highly accurate setup, but I prefer the simpler headphones I was able to use with Mac 5. (I’m thinking about running NS14 on my Mac through Parallels so I only have to carry around one machine.) I’m wondering if I’ll be able to ditch the fancy headset for a simpler pair of earbuds. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Me Avatar

      Hey Bryan-

      I am using the Logitech H540 USB (http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/usb-headset-h540). It’s a decent headset with ok accuracy but I’m not sure how your headset will compare as there are too many factors that go into how well the headset will work. If you do try it, let us know here :).


  4. Bryan Shih Avatar
    Bryan Shih

    Got it. Will do. Thanks again.

  5. mpartido2 Avatar

    Thank you for the post. I’m about to get a macbook pro and I’m not sure how much RAM to get. I read on other sites that 8gb of ram is enough to run windows 10 on parallels desktop along with microsoft office. Just recently, I was thinking of adding Dragon Naturally Speaking on the virtual machine to write essays and I want it to be responsive.

    I don’t want to spend the extra $200 if 8gb works well, but I don’t want to regret not getting 16gb if 8 was slow..

    I’m wondering if I need to upgrade my RAM to 16gb to smoothly run Microsoft Office, Dragon Naturally Speaking on Windows 10 using Parallels Desktop on the macbook pro or will I be fine at 8gb of RAM?

    Advice would greatly be appreciated!

    1. Me Avatar

      If it was me, I would get 16 GB of RAM regardless of this discussion. You’ll have your Mac over a number of years and memory requirements only grow over time. As of this writing, I’m using Dragon Dictate for Mac version 6 and it seems to be significantly better than version 4 was. I’m actually using Dragon dictate right now. The Mac version still isn’t as good as the Windows version, but it’s good enough for me and frees me from running a virtual machine.

      If you really plan to run a virtual machine, 8 GB only gives 4 GB for the host and less than four for the virtual machine. That just seems fairly tight. Having 16 GB has given me plenty of room to run all kinds of applications on the Mac without issue.

      1. mpartido2 Avatar

        Okay thank you, Dan. Yea, cause I’m a college student and I’ve been using the same windows laptop all throughout high school. This laptop is soon to break down and I’ve been researching all the necessities for a new macbook. I was planning to do all school-work related things on the Parallels Windows 10 side and all outside of school things on the mac side.

        I was only going to use Dragon mainly when writing papers. I don’t really plan on using it for anything else. I also noticed it is cheaper bought as a windows version.

      2. Me Avatar

        Hey Mark,

        If you’re going to be using the Windows virtual machine quite a bit, I would definitely get the extra 8 GB of money for 200 bucks. That will pay its dividends easily over the next four years.

  6. Cj Avatar

    Timely posts above- with what now appears (time wise) to be to go with thePC version 15 as I am sensing the Mac team are …. whereas there seems to be a move to commitment to the PC team. I am no expert but I can’t quite get the same “Mac” response -happy to hear this is definitely not correct. Whatever,the push seems to be to the 15 version with the term “Individual” attached.
    This brings up another matter,as now searching on Google seems to put any if these terms “down towards the bottom”
    This plus apple advancing sirI,while Google Android are on the move, means it’s a little difficult to choose a sure thing for an iPhone’s plus!!!!
    So, it comes down to deciding whether v15 “Individual” (of whatever Dragon…Nuance terminology you wish then attach) Will work efficiently under what simulation programme……..
    quite “simple” really.
    Any thoughts?

  7. Matt Avatar

    Hello everyone, I know these posts are very old. I wanted to say thank you for being willing to share your experiences. I am writing you in January 2019. I am using dictate for Mac version 6 on MacBook Pro 16 gb ram, very fast. Dictate for Mac has lost all software support from Nuance. It sounds as if my running a virtual machine is important based on the fact that the Dragon is only available on Windows

  8. Michael Avatar

    Very helpful. Thanks.

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