I have never been a very fast typist (or a fascist type for that matter), in fact I operate a keyboard in a fashion that might be called “touchhunting”. Lately if I’m writing something that runs more than 300 or 400 words I feel my shoulders and neck tighten up and I get more headaches than I used to. For the last several months I thought about getting some kind of voice-activated typing software but the prices seemed rather high and it was one of those things that I couldn’t justify buying because I didn’t actually need it.
A stumbling point for me was that Mac users are excluded from the apparently state-of-the-art Dragon voice recognition software, NaturallySpeaking. Last year though, MacSpeech licensed the NaturallySpeaking engine for its Dictate software.
After coming across another review of MacSpeech Dictate I thought to myself “It probably won’t get much cheaper and I’m probably going to buy it eventually.” Why not do it before the headaches get any worse and before my hands start to hurt? Hey, some rationalizations require more creativity than others do. Still, I was excited about my rationalization.
(BTW, IBM ViaVoice is another voice activated software option for Mac with a free trial and about the same price point as Dictate. I didn’t try it, but I’d love to hear opinions of it. I also looked for cheap or free voice recognition software for Mac but I didn’t find any.)
The base price for Dictate is about $199, but Amazon knocked about $30 off that. I recently got a MacBook Air (no, I’m not a fanboy, and that will have to be a different review) so the installation wasn’t as simple as it would have been if I could have loaded it right from the disk. Still, using the Remote Disk functionality worked entirely without problems for me.
Training the software was as easy as advertised as well, taking less that five minutes, and I was amazed at how, in my normal speaking voice and a pretty rapid clip, the software seemed to have no problems transcribing what I was saying immediately.
After a couple of days using Dictate, my honest impression is that it is physically easier for me to bang out 500 to 1000 words, but I don’t necessarily do it any faster than I do typing manually. Alas, the software I need to help me think faster may not have been invented yet.
I am impressed at how easy it is to make corrections verbally, on-the-fly, without ever touching the keyboard. The documentation actually encourages you to use verbal commands for corrections and punctuation, because actions like changing the location of the cursor and using the delete key can and do lead to unpredictable results.
Also, while I don’t have to try very hard to speak clearly, if I do make an effort to speak clearer, errors are a reduced to almost zero. Having said that, my wife points out that I say the “forget that” and “scratch that” commands quite a bit, so far.
I’ve used Dictate only with TextEdit up to now, doing blog posts. Obviously I plan to use the software to write e-mails and other applications too. Having read a few reviews on the net about voice dictation software, I see a general absence of information on users’ impressions with software of this kind after the first flush of enthusiasm with it. I think I will report back to Digital Media Minute readers after a couple weeks and maybe a month out.
Yes, this post was created with Dictate voice dictation software, and creating it did feel a lot more like a relaxed conversation than an editing session. Stay tuned.
(This was not a paid review.)