Nuance’s iPhone apps, Dragon and Dragon Search have been available for free download for over a year now. Since then, the company has added a few other similar voice to text apps to its line of desktop and mobile applications. It’s even rumored that Nuance has partnered with Apple to infuse voice commands within the next iPhone. On top of all that, PC users have enjoyed the power and effectiveness of Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking for writing dictation for several years.
These voice recognition programs have come a long way, but before you spend the money on a computer version of Dragon Dictate, you might want to practice the art of writing dictation using one of the mobile iOS versions of Dictate, especially the app optimized for the iPad.
I’m actually dictating this article using Dragon Dictate for the Mac. However, the following are some tips and practice for learning how to dictate writing using one of the mobile versions.
Based on my own experience, I’ve found that while voice to text applications can often have a mind of their own, the biggest challenge for many users is developing dictation skills. Learning to dictate writing is almost like learning to write all over again. So lets’ explore how you can use the mobile versions of Dragon Dictate to learn dictation and significantly speed up your typing.
Typing Speed vs Dictation Speed
First off, to see just how much faster Dragon can type than you can, take a quick online typing test. When you’re done, time yourself reading and dictating that same text using a mobile version of Dragon Dictate.
Reading vs Writing
If you did the reading dictation exercise above, Dragon Dictate no doubt finished the typing for you in about the same time it took you to verbally read the text – probably less than twenty seconds. But honestly, reading existing text is always faster than writing original text.
If you have never used writing dictation, you will find the writing dictation process takes just about as long as the manual writing process, only the typing is faster. Here’s the biggest challenge for writing dictation though - when you dictate your thoughts into a computer or mobile application, you have think about what you’re going to say before you say it.
Writing dictation is not the same as holding a conversation with someone. Writing dictation requires that you be more deliberate in your thoughts. However, you can always undo what you dictate (though not in the mobile app version of Dictate) and manually edit your writing after you finish dictating it. Dragon Dictate doesn’t necessarily improve your writing skills, it just alleviates the task of manual typing.
The best way to learn writing dictation is to practice. After much trial and error over the years, I got the hang of using Dictate in a month-long online daily journal challenge, on 750 words. When I dictated journal entries, I wasn’t concerned so much about spelling or writing organization. My goal was to train my mind to formulate thoughts before speaking them.
You can use this same exercise with the Dragon mobile apps, especially if you find writing dictation a challenge. Just open the program and challenge yourself to dictate a full screen of text. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just work toward fluency in dictation. Sometimes the program will stop recording while your dictating. When that happens, simply tap the record button and continue where you left off.
For the most part, you will find that any version of Dragon Dictate will spell 98% of the common words you speak correctly. It will of course have trouble with proper nouns, names, and homonyms – words that sound the same but are spelled differently. But if you speak clearly, enunciating your words similar to how a newscaster does, Dragon’s typing will be more accurate.
Dragon also does better when you speak entire phrases and sentences at a time, instead of single words. To add punctuation, you can use commands like “period,” “comma,” “new paragraph,” and “new line.” Like any word processor, Dictate will start a new line for you as you dictate.
As for dictating numbers, Dragon will typically type numbers in the context you say them, e.g., numeric numbers for phone numbers and addresses.
In terms of dictating proper nouns, Dragon might not always perform as well. Typically you will have to manually type special names. In the computer version you can train the program to type proper nouns not listed in its vast dictionary.
Mobile vs Computer App
The most obvious difference between the mobile versions of Dragon Dictate and the computer versions is that you can’t see the words you’re dictating into the mobile app until after you tap the screen to stop the recording. This and other limitations are okay for short pieces of writing, as well as for practicing dictation, but for longer pieces of writing you will want to use the computer version.
Also, with the computer version of Dragon you can both voice dictate and manually type text using Dragon Dictate’s built-in Note Pad, Apple’s TextEdit, or Microsoft Word. In other text programs, Dragon gets confused when you mix dictation and manually typing.
If you get good at writing dictation using one of the Dragon mobile apps, then you might consider adding the computer versions to your workflow. Let us know about your experience with Dragon Dictate. The programs are not perfect, but they can be very useful for those who either can’t type because of a physical disability, or for those of us who want some relief from manual typing.