Listen on Spotify.
We all know that people can speak much faster than they can type. There have been huge advances in speech recognition technology over the years. According to a Stanford research project, dictation was almost 3 times faster than typing and resulted in fewer mistakes being made.
Not so long ago, if you wanted to dictate you had to rely on a secretary taking notes in shorthand as you spoke, to be typed in full later.
Nowadays, with a little practice to develop your speaking skills and perfect your diction, you can save days of typing over the course of a year. Shortly, we’ll look at who dictation software can help.
For now, let’s answer the question.
Using dictation software enables you to write at a much faster rate by allowing you to speak aloud to your computer and converting the recording to text. With the right software and proper training, you can help ensure a high accuracy rate — and a low error rate— by learning from your speech patterns over time. This boosts productivity. Using voice activation software can increase your productivity on-the-go and your efficiency when collaborating, all whilst helping to maximise your personal productivity.
Let’s find out a bit more about the process and the names given to it.
What is the process called?
The process of writing by dictating aloud to your computer is called voice activation. Your computer records your words and saves them as a text file, not an audio file. This is often also referred to as speech-to-text technology or speech recognition technology. The principal is like if you’ve ever spoken to your phone to send a quick message to your friends or colleagues. The same thing can work just as effectively when you want to write and edit longer documents.
Who can dictation software help to become more productive?
Anyone may benefit from learning to use dictation software. It may prove particularly helpful to those working in certain professions like doctors, those in the social care sector or those in the field of linguistics. Here are just some people who may benefit from using it.
- Anybody with a learning disability which makes it more difficult for you to express yourself I the way you wish to through writing.
- Anyone who has problems with their spine, or posture. Doing less typing may help alleviate some pain.
- People who have other chronic conditions — Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), for instance — and need to limit the amount of time they use a keyboard or mouse.
- Those with physical disabilities who cannot type.
- Those who are temporarily limited by an injury.
- Children who struggle with spelling or have poor handwriting can learn to use speech-to-text technology in combination with writing or typing.
Next, we’ll take a deeper look at the advantages of using this kind of software.
What are some of the advantages of using speech recognition software?
Here, I’ve pinpointed 3 main advantages, and broken each of them down into more detail.
- You can write a lot faster.
- This is because people generally speak a lot quicker than they can type or write-by-hand.
- Writing is usually the slowest of the three, followed by typing. Even those with a respectable typing speed of say, 80 to 90 words per minute, type slower than they speak.
- The average speaking speed for most people is around 150 words a minute.
- Increased speed is highly likely to result in an uptick in your productivity.
- Eases suffering
- This technology can ease pain in your back, and wrists and hands by reducing the amount of typing you have to do.
- If you find it takes you a whole weekend for your hands and back to recover from the amount of typing you do during the week, speech recognition technology may be just the thing for you.
- Health and exercise
- Being able to dictate gives you a measure of freedom to do other things as you write, like move around a bit if you can.
- As well as helping you become more productive, being able to move around as you type may help boost your creativity.
Later, I’ll share some tips on the best dictation software available. Next, though, let’s detail some of the limitations of speech-to-text technology.
What are the drawbacks of using speech to text software?
There are three main limitations of using dictation software. Along with highlighting them, I’ll give you some advice on how to deal with and overcome these weaknesses.
- No software is 100% accurate. Any errors you do make when dictating can be tricky to spot. The reason for this is that usually, when we’ve composed something ourselves, our brains start to autocorrect. As we proofread, we can easily read what we expect to see, rather than what we’ve really written. How can you deal with this?
- One thing you can do to help catch your mistakes is to set your computer to read back what you’ve written. That way, you’ll be able to hear and correct any errors you come across.
- If possible, you could ask a friend or colleague to read your work through and provide a pair of fresh eyes. They may see something you missed.
- When editing and correcting documents you’ve dictated, it’s a good idea to use the software to rectify mistakes with your voice too. That way, the software often learns more about your speech patterns and style. Thus, the accuracy rate improves over time.
- Speech-to-text software does take a little getting used to, especially if you’ve used a keyboard to type for many years.
- You will need to get used to speaking your punctuation. For instance, saying “full stop” or “period” at the end of each sentence. You may also need to learn certain commands to help you write and edit. This does depend on the specific software you decide to use.
- As many of you will know, Microsoft Word and Google Docs both have an in-built speech-to-text facility. So why not use what’s already there? For basic dictation, it is likely to be more than up to the job. But if inaccuracies end up frustrating you too much, using in-built software may damage your productivity in the long run. You may even become disillusioned and give up on using it at all.
- If you want to use voice activation software more often, in-built option may not prove as beneficial. Therefore, may want to invest some money in some specialized software. After all, having a higher accuracy rate will lessen your frustration and is highly likely to boost your efficiency.
- Assuming you do decide to buy some software, it could be worth paying for some specialised training so that you can get the most out of your investment. I did this when I first started using Dragon Naturally Speaking and have never once regretted it. For me, the training was easy to grasp and not as difficult or demanding as I’d feared.
- Bear in mind that some software has been designed to work optimally when used with certain operating systems — usually for Windows or Mac — so before you buy, check this out.
- Does not always recognise industry-specific terms or jargon.
- Some of the best dictation software out there allows you to add jargon to a dictionary. After the first use, enter the term into the dictionary and it will recognise that word in future.
It should be noted that the advantages and disadvantages I’ve given here are merely the ones I gave priority. Many more exist. Now, it’s the perfect time to turn to the question of which software is the best.
Which dictation software is best for me?
The answer to this one largely depends on what you wish to do with it and how much money you have at your disposal. With that in mind, I’ve tried to come up with a suggestion for most people by dividing them into categories.
Best mobile app – Dragon Anywhere.
- Fantastic for maximising productivity when you’re working on-the-go.
- Extremely versatile.
- 99% accurate.
- No limit on the number of words you can dictate, or how long you can speak for.
- Editing and formatting options available.
- Can sync with Dropbox and Evernote.
- Good customer support.
- If you do buy desktop Dragon, you have a lifetime licence, so there’re no recurring payments.
- Requires some time and effort to learn all the voice commands.
- Have to buy desktop Dragon separately.
Best AI-powered software – Otter.
- Both app and desktop support on hand.
- Good for collaboration.
- Likely to boost productivity across and amongst teams.
- Speaker ID and automatic transcription for meetings.
- Can import audio and video files.
- Limited customer support.
Best speech-to-text app for long-form recordings – Speechnotes.
- Allows longer recordings.
- Can pause and add punctuation as needed.
- In-app advertisements.
- Available only on Android or desktop.
So, now we’ve explained how dictation can do wonders for your productivity — and now you know more about the benefits and drawbacks of using this technology — I hope you’ve got the confidence to try it out. I hope that the recommendations I give here provide you with a good starting point. All that’s left now is for you to go and harness the power of your voice to boost your productivity!
If you are interested in finding more information, visit AbilityNet for more detail. This site is a particularly good source for those working with medical conditions or disabilities.