Typing on your computer or tablet is practically unavoidable, and it can often become tedious, especially for longer documents. Many people have found that dictation with speech-to-text software is faster, especially for shorter documents or first drafts of longer documents, and seek the dictation solution best for them.
Speech recognition software gives you the ability to streamline your workflow and increase productivity both at work and at home. You can dictate a document around three times the speed of typing it, and with the right software, you can do so with even more accuracy.
Disclaimer: I am a total Apple Fangirl. I have three Macs, four iPads, and I own always-the-latest iPhone. When I write about apps or systems, I am writing from that worldview. Some of the apps I discuss MAY work on Windows, but I cannot speak for that. I only deal with Mac OS and iOS.
As with anything else, there are pros and cons to using speech recognition or voice-activated apps. I have found two main benefits and two main disadvantages:
- Using dictation helps to get the words onto the paper much more quickly. Most people can type at about 80-100 words per minute, but they speak at a rate of 150 words per minute. Dictating your words can be almost twice as fast as typing. It is perfect for first drafts and shorter documents because you are not self-editing as you speak. The editing phase comes after the initial writing phase.
- Reducing your typing by speaking your text instead helps to alleviate incidents of repetitive strain problems. Additionally, many people find that they can stand up and walk around while dictating, which helps improve their overall health and movement goals.
- The error-rate percentage with speech recognition software use can be high and very frustrating, especially at first. It takes time to learn the commands, to remember to verbally insert punctuation, and to “teach” the software custom words and spelling of names. On the other hand, people forget how long it took for them to become proficient at typing, so a learning curve should be expected.
- In order for your dictation sessions to be the most effective, you need to be in a quiet space with no additional sounds and no people around who can hear you while you speak. Depending on your work/office setup, that requirement can be challenging.
One of the best and most used speech-to-text software is Nuance‘s Dragon, which has been used for years as a productivity tool for people who write for a living, from home users to medical professionals. Sadly, Nuance will no longer provide updates for the Mac version software after 10/22/2018; according to the press release the software will continue to function, but there will be no future updates. Nuance says that the reason behind this is because Apple is very strict with its APIs, and these restrictions have made things harder for developers to provide Mac users with the full capabilities the way they do on other platforms.
You have new options!
If you’re a Mac user that currently uses Nuance’s Dragon, don’t worry, there are other very good options for speech to text software!
- Google Docs Voice Typing. With this option, there’s no need to install anything extra or make any changes in your computer; you just need to get a web browser and a Google account. This software is super easy to use, you log in to your account and create a new Google Doc, then you select the “voice typing” option from the “tools” menu, your browser will then ask you to grant permission to use your computer’s microphone. Once you have set up those requirements, just click on the red microphone, start speaking, and you’ll see the words appear on the screen.
- Dictation.io is a free website app for Google Chrome that allows you to transform speech to text without downloading or installing anything. It uses the Google speech-to-text algorithm and works with all operating systems, but only on a computer. There is no tablet functionality available. Dictation.io has a clean design and user-friendly interface and you just need to click “start” and it will start translating voice-to-text. This option supports more than 120 languages and after you complete your dictation, you can go back to edit, and then copy the information and paste it anywhere.
- Apple Dictation. Apple devices have a built-in speech to text software that works along with Siri’s servers and can translate voice-to-text up to 30 seconds of speech at a time when connected to the internet. Apple Dictation has more than 70 voice commands and allows you to type, edit, and format almost any type of document. This also has an Enhanced Dictation option where you can speak for longer periods of time as well as use the function offline. On your iOS devices, you can activate the dictation function by pressing the microphone icon on the built-in keyboard.
All of the above options are free, but none are quite as good as the now-defunct Dragon Dictate for Mac. But since they are free, try them out to see which one is best for your situation. Once you get used to dictating instead of always typing as a default, you may find that your productivity will soar!
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