With more people working from home than ever before, having the best dictation software really can increase your productivity while giving your aching hands much-needed rest. Dictation software allows users to have their speech directly transcribed into all manner of documents and communication methods by learning your speech patterns and continually improving the dictation quality. Read on to learn more about some of the best dictation software available and how it can make your work life so much easier.
- Best overall program: Dragon NaturallySpeaking
- Best iOS/Apple program: Apple-Dictation
- Best multipurpose program: Braina
- Best Windows 10 program: Cortana
- Best Chrome/Android program: SpeechText
Best overall program: Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking
Dragon has been around conceptually since 1975 and was incorporated into systems going all the way back to DOS. Still, it didn’t really start to shine until 1997 with the release of NaturallySpeaking 1.0, its first continuous dictation product. Nowadays, Nuance offers a range of high-quality Dragon dictation products capable of advanced speech recognition and dictation. In fact, LG Smart TVs have incorporated Dragon voice-recognition technology since 2012 to let users perform voice commands. Unfortunately, none of Dragon’s offerings come cheaply — but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
One of the most well-known dictation software, Dragon Home, claims an impressive 99% speech recognition out of the box based on a “Deep Learning” speech engine that continually adjusts itself to your speech. The software also has been optimized for touch-screen devices and PC users to format, edit, and create documents with just their voices, listen to the playback of dictated text, and create emails and perform web searches via voice command. Dragon Professional and Legal feature advanced options, including automatic transcription of audio recordings into editable text, control Microsoft Excel via voice command, create custom commands for standard texts, and much more.
You may not have been aware, but the answer to your dictation needs may have been resting in the palm of your hand this whole time. If you own an Apple product, congratulations — you are the proud owner of Apple Dictation, free software that allows users to dictate messages and other text with an accuracy of around 95%. To activate Apple Dictate, go to Settings > General > Keyboard, then toggle Enable Dictation, allowing you to dictate even without an internet connection.
That said, Apple Dictation does have certain limitations. One of the biggest is that you only can use the dictation feature for a limited period of time, which can be frustrating if you’re given to long bursts of exposition. Also, for those concerned about privacy, everything you say to Apple Dictation is recorded and sent to Apple. Issues in voice-recognition also have been reported in recent versions of iOS, leading to less accurate transcriptions and requiring edits before being sent.
As an app on both Android and iOS devices, Braina offers an impressive set of dictation features. Capable of understanding more than 100 languages, including French, Italian, Hindi, and Portuguese, Braina users gain access to a powerful AI capable of transcribing your dictations into text on any website you desire. Best of all, multiple people can use the app without separate user accounts, and it even recognizes most accents, something that many dictation programs struggle with.
More than that, Braina transforms your Android or iOS device into a wireless microphone capable of controlling your PC via your Wi-Fi network, letting you stay productive. At the same time, you move about your home or workspace. Advanced features include creating customizable replies and voice commands, hotkeys, and keyboard functions, note-taking, control application windows, complex mathematics, and much more.
For anyone who has purchased a Windows 10 PC recently, the chances are good that you’ve heard the chirpy voice of Microsoft’s proprietary voice-assistant offering to help you set up your computer with verbal commands. While Cortana’s ability to make users’ lives easier by saving them time and providing accessibility options is well-known, did you know that Cortana also can record your dictations and serve as your personal transcriber? Since Cortana now comes standard as part of Windows 10, you can dictate to your heart’s content without spending a cent.
With Cortana enabled and set up on your PC, press the Windows Key + H to access the dictation toolbar and you’re free to start dictating for as long as you’d like — you can also stop Cortana recording your dictation at any time by saying, “Stop dictation.” Touchscreen and tablet users should tap the app’s microphone icon to begin dictation mode and tap it again or say, “Stop dictation,” to cease recording. It should be noted that Cortana requires an internet connection to use dictation mode and the reach of Microsoft’s voice assistant has elicited privacy concerns, but the program remains a great no-cost option for Windows 10 users to have their speech transcribed quickly and easily.
Android owners and Chrome users looking for a way to record their speech for free without being bombarded by an endless stream of apps should give SpeechTexter a try. For those who are worried about the privacy of their dictations, SpeechTexter makes it clear that while Google servers help process your text, they do not save anything themselves — whether that meets your comfort level is an individual decision. It should be noted that this program only will work for Chrome and Android users.
Users can select from 63 languages, including Afrikaans, Persian, Gujarati, and Zulu, as well as dozens of dialects, then click Start Dictating to begin. SpeechTexter has great features like the Results Confidence wheel, which displays a running estimate of how accurately your speech is being recorded in the edit ribbon, as well as a handy list of voice commands on the main menu’s right side. There’s even an autosave feature in case you suddenly lose power or internet connectivity, and once you’ve finished editing your dictations, you can export the file as a Word document or .txt file.
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