How many times have you attempted to use the speech-to-text feature on your phone, only to have it translated into something about Larry picking up the duck? Although some native tools on devices today still leave something to be desired, the market for dedicated dictation software is improving. In fact, since the debut of the first modern dictation software in 1997, we’ve made leaps and bounds in creating adaptive tools and tech that are changing the way people handle everyday tasks, including how they “put pen to paper,” as it were.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking was impressive for its time, albeit somewhat limited in its abilities. Still, companies continued on their quest for better tools, and over time they have done well to deliver a lot more than some ever expected. Of course, there’s always going to be some training and a little bit of a learning curve, but it’s generally well worth the effort with the tools available today.
In fact, modern dictation software offers 90% accuracy or higher right from the start. And, as you hone it, you’ll get even better results. Plus, the modern apps available today even come with built-in commands that can help improve productivity all around. This technology has become so commonplace that most devices have their own native apps, but there are standalone apps available, too.
How do you choose, though, and how many different types are there? What makes a good dictation tool? Don’t sweat it, because we’ve got you covered. In the list below, we’ve covered the best of the best and what they each offer so that you can get it right the first time.
In software terms, a dictation app or tool is a program that is developed to recognize speech, learn to recognize speech, and translate that speech into text format for word processing, emailing, messaging, and other communication needs. These tools are also sometimes called several other names, including:
· Voice recognition
· Speech recognition
Basically, these all mean the same thing: your voice will be converted into text in real-time, right there in front of you on whatever device you are using. Make sure, though, that you’re paying attention to the type of “to text” solution that is offered—a lot of tools will transcribe audio files but can’t do real-time transcriptions. Some will be marketed as more of a “personal assistant” of sorts that includes a dictation feature. You might even find companies here and there that use real humans to transcribe audio and voice recordings to text.
But, for real-time speech-to-text dictation, the software available today is the best way to go. Some of the native apps do a great job of getting it right. In fact, in the list below you’ll see quite a few device-specific options.
Before we dive into the best software for your dictation needs, let’s talk a little more about how you can be successful with these tools. There's not yet a tool that’s just plug-and-play from go. Even the native phone apps you have will need to be trained to recognize your particular speech patterns, accent(s), and ways of speaking to ensure transcriptions are accurate.
Otherwise, you end up frustrated, and there’s no need for that. When you’re using this software, keep the following in mind:
· Speak naturally, for the most part. The caveat here is if you’re not getting the best accuracy, you may need to enunciate a little more. Those who have lazy speech patterns often find this software more difficult to train.
· Take advantage of commands and shortcuts. These tools aren’t trying to make your life any harder—they have shortcuts and quick commands that make things like punctuation, editing, and other navigational elements quick and easy.
· Pay attention to the mic. Sometimes, these apps can only listen for so long before they shut off and need to be reactivated. Some mobile devices only offer 30-45 seconds of listening at a time, so make sure that you’re not just prattling on without looking at the device.
· Take advantage of built-in tutorials and training tools. They're as much for the software as they are for the user, so they’ll benefit both of you. It can help you improve your use of these tools, and it can help the software better understand you and what you’re saying for better accuracy.
So, let’s take a closer look at the apps now that you have a better idea of how to make them work for you.
Dragon by Nuance is a great choice for those who are looking for the ultimate in dictation software. This platform is the latest iteration of the Dragon family of dictation products that launched the modern market. It is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, and it makes it easy for users to customize commands, shortcuts, and other features.
Dragon Dictate was released in 1990 as the first dictation software. Just 30 years, later, it’s an industry favorite that’s hardly even a reminder of its original iteration. It can handle things like industry vocabulary, audio transcription, custom dictionaries, and more. You can do so much with this tool that it’s really a great choice for those who need professional-grade dictation solutions.
You can even collaborate and share easily, and there are voice commands for emailing, saving, and more. While it’s not free, it starts out around 97% accuracy and is a full-service solution so it’s well worth the $14.99 per month for iOS or Android. You’ll also find it available on desktop for $150 to $500, depending on the package you choose.
If you’re not a die-hard speech-to-text user, this tool is a great place to start. It's only supported on the Chrome browser or Android mobile app, but SpeechTexter is limited on ads and it has voice commands displayed that make it easy for you to know what to say to get a certain result. You can select your language, hit start, and then start talking. When the text appears, it will also include a word count in the bottom right.
You can even edit just like you would in a document and there’s an Auto-Save feature that you can enable to make sure that you don’t lose valuable work. This free tool doesn’t have a lot of extra bells and whistles but for those who need a quick and easy solution that’s not the native device option, it may be the way to go.
It’s actually one of the most accurate in testing, and it’s capable of supporting as many as 63 languages, so even though it’s only great for Chrome users who occasionally need a tool, it’s still worth making the list for all that it does.
Apple Dictation is designed to deliver powerful dictation for Apple users on all devices. It’s part of the user settings under Dictation & Speech, and it’s fueled by Siri and comes standard on all iOS devices and Mac desktops alike. There’s even a keyboard shortcut for the app, making it easy to access at any time once you get it set up.
This app requires Internet access by default and only records at 30-second intervals, but you can actually use the Enhanced Dictation feature on newer devices to add a local file and dictate offline from anywhere. You can even use commands and create your own, and the tool will never cost a dime.
The default platform supports 31 languages and had one of the best scores for accuracy among native apps and tools. Most Apple users don’t bother looking for something else.
Gboard users will enjoy the accuracy of the built-in Google voice-to-text tool. It’s also available on iOS and works anywhere that you type (email, documents, or even a browser form) and then click the microphone and start speaking. This one transcribes at super-fast speeds and with impressive accuracy, It’s also good at learning speech patterns and improving accuracy over time.
Gboard has a lot of use in mobile devices and since it’s already there, you might as well try it out. Plus, some users have trained it so well that they can dictate in a loud space flawlessly and without any concerns. Since it’s coming with the device, it’s free to use. It’s great for quick talkers but some people who are a bit more deliberate could find it requires a learning curve.
This tool does support 47 languages and makes it easy to dictate text with just a couple of clicks. Plus, you’ll be able to train it to your desires and even create custom commands so that it works for you in the best ways possible.
Windows fans will tell you all about Microsoft’s own Speech Recognition tool that’s built into Windows 10. Simply open the app, either using Word or Google Docs and then using your keyboard, you can press the Windows logo key and the H key. You can also use the built-in commands and while the punctuation is somewhat bulky and incorrect at times, it does fairly well in most uses.
Plus, it’s a built-in tool which means there’s no cost involved here. If you’re trying to get the hang of dictation tools to see if they’re right for you, using a native app like this one can help. It's got a longer training period than most tools so that you can get maximum use, but again it is a free tool that’s already on your PC, so you might as well give it a try.
The biggest downfall is that it only supports a handful of different languages. For most, that’s rarely an issue, though.
Since we know a lot of businesses rely on Google’s suite of tools because of their affordability, we wanted to feature this one. While you could use an external app and get good results, Google’s done the work for you. Their dictation tool is one of the best available for Chrome users and it’s easy to access from any Chromebook or Chrome OS.
It even has commands available and you can learn about text formatting and editing shortcuts, and more. It's great at capitalizing on its own and adding things where necessary and has impressive accuracy. For Google Docs power users and Chromebook lovers, this tool is among the best and it’s available in dozens of different languages and dialects.
It does take a little while to train this tool, which is prone to picking up background noise at times. However, it’s fairly straightforward and will still impress, even if it’s not hitting the 100% mark.
Dictation software is designed to free up your hands and make your life easier. You can just chat away and have everything appear on the screen, all in real-time and with impressively high accuracy. There are tools available for all kinds of uses, including ones that can transcribe audio in addition to dictation. Remember to think about the tools and platforms out there and what they offer your organization.
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