I am an avid user of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate voice dictation application. Despite the program’s quirks and misrecognitions, I use it because it relieves the stress of typing by hand, and because it also types four to five times faster than I do.
Though Nuance’s PC and Mac speech recognition programs are relatively expensive, the company provides several free mobile apps that allow users to leverage the power of voice recognition. The company’s latest release, PaperPort Notes for the iPad may be useful to students and for those who want to use their iOS device for notetaking and annotating documents.
PaperPort Notes is very similar to many other iPad note apps. It allows you to make typed and free handwritten notes using a stylus or your finger, make audio recordings, change fonts and font sizes, and much more.
But of course because this is a Nuance app, it includes a voice recognition feature that allows you to dictate your thoughts or what you read from existing text. PaperPort seems to be the only app of its type to feature text dictation.
PaperPort also includes a search feature, copying and pasting, bookmarking the pages, and the ability to capture and import selected content from the web, or entire documents from Dropbox and other sources.
Handwriting & Audio Recordings
There are a slew of free handwriting notebook apps, like Noteshelf, Penultimate, and Bamboo Paper that provide near real-life pen and paper quality when using a stylus pen.
While it’s great to see this feature in PaperPort, the digital results (see screenshot above) from handwriting are not as good and smooth as when compared to other notebook apps (see Noteshelf screenshot below).
The audio recording feature of PaperPort, however, does work very well. It will be useful for recording lectures while taking notes, or simply recording your thoughts verbally.
Audio recordings are affixed to a single page, so if you add a new page while a recording is active, PaperPort will automatically stop the recording for the previous page and start a new recording for the current one. Each individual page can be labeled and deleted, and all are kept organized in a drop-down box.
Probably the most inviting reason to download PaperPort is to use its voice recognition feature. Similar to other Nuance mobile apps you can dictate your thoughts or read them from existing text, and PaperPort will process and type out what you dictate.
The feature works fairly well (see unedited dictated note above); however, the biggest drawback is that you cannot see the results of your dictation until after you tap the Finished button. In the desktop versions of Nuance’s voice recognition programs, you see the results of your dictation nearly immediately after you pause after dictating a phrase or sentence. So as with the other mobile dictation programs, you will probably not use this feature for long extended pieces of writing.
You can use the voice recognition program in any page or document you import into PaperPort. You simply tap the Text box icon in the menu bar, and then touch-and-drag across an area on the page to either make typed notes or to start dictation by tapping the Tap & Speak button above the software keyboard.
You can edit dictated notes and add more dictations within the same note. The voice program provides the best capture when using a headphone mic or the mic installed on the iPad. It will not do a good job of recognizing and typing lectures given by someone standing in a room.
PaperPort also allows you to change the font style and size of text, as well as the type of background for added notes. You can select to have text-only, border, sticky style note, or custom image background.
A few other advanced features in PaperPort include the ability to add various styles of paper, e.g. white or yellow lined, or graphing paper.
You can also import existing documents from Dropbox, Box.net, or from your PaperPort Anywhere account—annotate them and add written or dictated notes and recordings.
In addition, PaperPort includes a feature for capturing content from its built-in Web browser and other imported documents. You can select both text and images to add to the clipboard and paste them into any document or note page.
And finally, notes and imported documents in PaperPort can be exported in PDF format (with password protection) via e-mail, Google Docs, Dropbox, direct printing, etc.
PaperPort Notes for the iPad requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available for free in the iTunes App Store. Let us know what you think of it.