Be more productive with dictation apps!June 3, 2020
My friend has a four-year-old daughter. He told me recently about how she plays with Alexa. She talks to Alexa and asks to play her favourite songs. She asks Alexa questions whenever she is curious about things. It is so normal for her. A true digital native!
It made me think how slow most of us are when it comes to adopting technologies to improve various aspects of our lives.
Let’s take, for example, voice and technology – there is so much more we could do with it than ask to play some music!
And this is what I am going to talk about today – dictation apps.
You can watch the video below or read the post.
So how can you use dictation software?
Dictation apps also called voice-to-text apps, or voice recognition apps are tools made to turn your spoken words into text on the screen.
If you never used them, you might not even realise how helpful they can be and how they can increase your productivity!
My adventure with dictation started with voice memos and composing emails. I soon used it to work on longer documents, to transcribe interviews recordings and instead of note-taking during the meetings, what allowed me to focus all attention on my interlocutor.
All of that came with time as I experimented with various tools and found the right ones for me.
So if you are a productivity enthusiast, you should definitely consider trying dictation app, because dictating, it’s typically faster than typing.
And you can multitask – you can write while walking or cooking. Imagine, instead of sitting in the office, going for a walk to dictate and send some emails or draft documents!
Dictation tools are also known valued for increasing accessibility. Visually impaired people or those who might find it difficult to use their fingers and hands for typing, moving a mouse, or tapping a touchscreen can easily create documents using their voice.
What do you want from a great dictation app?
The voice-to-speech landscape has changed a lot over recent years. They are definitely more accessible, easier to use and less expensive that I first started using them.
By now, I made my choice, and I have my favourite app – I will tell you later which one is it and why.
But let me start with telling you what I expect from these voice-to-speech apps. I am sure you will be looking for similar things!
So for me, the tool turning spoken words into writing should, first of all, do it accurately and secondly quickly. And I put these two things together intentionally.
Because I am not a native English speaker, it was quite a journey to find the right app to recognise my accent and pronunciation. You can have the same problem even if you are native with a distinct local accent.
The other thing was that I wanted to be able to speak continually, not stopping every few sentences. And most tools I tried in the early days, required that stopping so that app could process the text. But now there are a good few apps that process the speech quickly enough and do it in real-time.
Both of these capabilities definitely help – especially if you want to use voice-to-speech live meetings.
Another important thing was the suitability of the tool for my needs.
I used to be an iPhone user and used apple dictation on my phone, but had a Windows computer. Then I moved to an Android phone and started using a Mac laptop. I wanted to be able to move between these platforms and use the same tool without any hassle.
You might have similar issues. Consider, whether you need a standalone software programme or perhaps there are some features within apps you already use that can be exploited? For example, if you use Google Docs a lot, Google Voice Voice Typing might be the best choice for you.
One final thing I wanted to mention was the ability to access my voice memos and text notes at any time. It is a convenient feature to be able to revisit your recordings.
Below I have a list of dictation apps and voice-to-speech tools that I tried, and a few that I didn’t try, but they seem worth to look at.
I am not going to discuss them. You have to check them and make your own decision.
I will only tell you about the one I use and explain why.
My absolute number 1 voice-to-speech app is Otter.ai. It is available online and on your mobile via app.
Why Otter.ai is my favourite?
- You can use it on mobile devices and online. It is a web-based online tool which also has an iOS and Android app. When you register and create an account, you can use the same login across all the platforms
- It processes speech in real-time
- It is pretty accurate; it does your punctuation and capitalisation. When used in live meetings, it even records conversation recognising various speakers voices and adding timestamps.
- You can upload audio and video files to be transcribed
- You can add custom vocabulary, teach the app jargon and abbreviations to boost the accuracy.
- It saves your notes. You can access both your voice recordings and text ant any time, and you can edit and save the text.
- You can export your notes in several formats
- It can be integrated with other apps, e.g. Dropbox, Google calendar, or Zoom.
- It is free! The free version will give you 600 minutes of speech to text per month, with a few export options. There are obviously paid upgrades available that will give you more time, more custom vocabulary entries, more export options etc.
So Otter.ai is great. I told you about all the pros. And what about cons? Are there any?
One of the biggest shortcomings, especially if you speak and work in languages other than English is that at the moment its the only language Otter supports.
Ok. So that’s all about Otter.
As promised below is the longer list of apps and tools you can find useful if you consider voice recognition or text to speech.
Dictation and Voice-to-speech apps and tools
- Apple Dictation (iOS, macOS)
- Speech Recogniser (iOS)
- Gboard (Android, iOS)
- Dictation.io (Web)
- Dragon by Nuance (Android, iOS, macOS, Windows)
- Google Docs Voice Typing (Web)
- ListNote (Android)
- Windows 10 Speech Recognition (Windows)
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