I’ve been using MacSpeech Dictate for a week now and I have two things to report that I didn’t know when I did my initial review of this voice activated typing software.
On about day three I was sitting while holding the headset that is included with the Dictate software as I spoke into it. (I wore the headset on my head for about a day until I got tired of the way it felt and simply started holding it like a microphone.) I had read reviews of dictate that warned that the MacBook Air default microphone was not of high enough quality to run voice recognition software, so I had not even tried to use it without the headset.
Well lo and behold I removed the headset from the USB port and started talking again and I saw no difference at all in my results. It was a quiet afternoon in my room with only the sound of the air conditioner as ambient noise. Still I was surprised: I spoke no louder and at the same speed.
So what difference does this make? Well since I’m using this voice recognition typing software in conjunction with an ultra-portable laptop, my little content creation machine just got a little more portable. Less to carry, faster to set up. The whole experience is cleaner. If the computer is sleeping I simply open it, hit one button and start talking. As rarely as I’m hit by inspiration I can’t afford to fool around.
By the way I haven’t changed any of the default microphone settings to try and improve the performance of the software. Indoors, when it’s quiet, I haven’t really had to. Now that I don’t have to wear an obnoxious headset while I’m dictating I feel more inclined than I did before to see how this works in public, in a reasonably quiet place I assume.
Is this such a big victory when the end product is no more than I could create by typing? It’s probably too early for me to really judge whether writing this way produces content that is of a different quality than I create when I’m typing, good or bad. But my initial feeling is that it is a lot less effort to write this way, and I don’t just mean physically. On some subjects it’s very easy to just talk and talk quite easily, and I have never had so little barrier between thinking and getting words down as I do now. As someone who does not touch type I can’t say that the ease of speaking isn’t matched by the quick competence of a touch typist for whom typing is akin to breathing. I can say that not having to sweat over getting a thought down before I forget it is a huge improvement, for me. The process of getting it all down feels practically unmediated, with no pen, keyboard or anything else involved.
With voice typing software I suppose I am seeing the actual speed at which I can create, as the process now happens via an entirely unobtrusive technology. It’s the speed at which I can talk. If the keyboard has always been a bottleneck for my thoughts, I am pretty sure I don’t think any faster than I can speak. For me there is something that feels like liberation in all this.