Dragon Dictation? Maybe.

I try an iPad-based dictation tool.

Note: This blog post was dictated into my iPad. Although I’d originally hoped to display the text in two columns to show unedited and edited text (as referred to in the post), I later decided to use DEL and INS tags to show actual text edits required — places where Dragon Dictation actually got it wrong. I did not correct my failure to dictate punctuation or my poor use of words, since those are my errors and not the software’s. A few additional comments are included in square brackets in the text.

I am trying something different today. I’m writing a blog post by dictating into my iPad.

I’m using a program called Capps dDragon caps dDictation. I downloaded it for free on my iPad not long after I bought the iPad. I’ve tried it a few times, and was very pleased with the results. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to using dictation software and than simply saying what you want to say.

These first two paragraph are good example. On the left you see my dictated version. On the right you see my edited version. Notice the changes I needed to make. It’s really not bad, but not exactly perfect.

The main problem with using dictation software. See is that you have to dictate everything you want to type. That means you have to dictate your punctuation, capitalization, quotes, and any other information that you want to put in your text other than the exact words.

You also need to speak clearly directly into a microphone. On the iPad that’s not exactly convenient since the microphone is at the top of the iPad. Right now my iPad is standing up on my table with the microphone close to my mouth so that so that Dragon dictation can understand what I’m saying. Of course if you have an external microphone it will work with that as well.

You also need to be careful about what you say. Any mistakes you make will be transcribed. This makes dictation a useful tool for getting out of a first draft, but not for getting final text. You’ll still have to go through the document and make changes to it as necessary to correct errors and rephrase sentences.

As I dictate this today, I see that I’m quickly getting the hang of it. Although it’s not natural for me to do this, I don’t think it will be difficult to learn. What amazes me the most, is the way the software can recognize exactly what I’m saying. I haven’t edited any of this text other than what you sought saw at the top of this post. [Not true; read note at top of post.] Get Yet as you can see dragon dictation has managed to understand almost everything that I’ve said. This absolutely amazes me. What I don’t understand, however, is how many people reported that dragon dictation could not understand them. The overall reviews in the iTunes store for the app are very low. I can only assume that these people are not speaking slowly and clearly so that the software can understand them.

What I do find a little bothersome about this software is that it needs an Internet connection to work. As I speak it evidently records what I say and then when I’m done it sends it to the Dragon dictation website words where it’s translated and returned to me. This isn’tthe best solution if you don’t have an Internet connection all the time. But given the price of the software, which was free, I really can’t complain.

Another thing I find a little bit bothersome is the fact that it evidently has a buffer. I can’t just go on talking for a long period of time and expect the software to be able to translate. Instead it automatically cuts me off gets the translation in and puts it in the software sometimes while I’m still talking. [Boy, that previous sentence could sure benefit from some commas.] This means that I need to stop at the end of every long paragraph let it translate and then start again.

It’s interesting to me also how the software does not recognize upon a pause as a place to put a comma or period it’s also interesting to me that it probably just inserted those two forms of punctuation instead of the words that I just set. Let’s see. That’s funny it’s got the words as I said them and didn’t put in punctuation. I guess it does take a little bit of time to get used to this. [This whole paragraph is a good example of experimenting. Believe it or not, Dragon dictation made only one error; the other errors were mine.]

As a writer, it’s a dream to be able to say what you want to say and have it automatically typed for you. But the reality is and not so sweet. In reality, I can type a lot faster than I can do this dictation. I can also make a lot fewer mistakes. And I can edit as I go along.

Still, I think the thing that bothers me the most, is that I have to stop at the end of every long paragraph to let Dragon dictation catch up. I don’t type like this. I don’t think like this. I tend to type thing [I corrected myself here but DD didn’t know that.] right write a lot more a lot more fluidly. I also don’t think about the comments commas that I need to put in my documents.

Overall what do I think of this? I think it has its uses, but I can’t see using it as a normal writing tool. I’ll keep experimenting with it, but I’m not sure whether it will ever be something I use daily.

If you have an iPad or my phone iPhone I recommend giving this a try. You might like it. And if you like it a lot. You might want to buy the regular software that they self sell for your computer. They have a Windows version and a Mac version.

4 thoughts on “Dragon Dictation? Maybe.

  1. I’ve used a variety of dictation software over the years in an attempt to get things done faster. I can’t think of a single instance in which the software got the job done faster than I could have if I pulled out the keyboard and put my fingers to the keys.

    The instances that I see dictation software being useful are the instances in which it has the most difficulty working. I wouldn’t mind having a running written log of some of the incidents I’ve covered for the newspaper. Running through a forest fire with fire fighters isn’t exactly the best time to take notes and I suspect Dragon Dictation wouldn’t be too happy with that situation either. Of course that makes for lazy reporting as well.

    I also suspect that people would look at me like I was crazy if I were talking to myself in public places.

  2. @Evan
    What I think might be ideal is being able to use a small tape recorder recording device when you’re on the run to record thoughts, phrases, etc. and then feed that into some software to transcribe it as notes.

    I find the idea of dictation on the iPad attractive primarily because I’m not very good with its keyboard. On a regular keyboard, however, I’m pretty darn quick and accurate.

    Will probably keep playing with it on and off, but not sold on it as far as buying for my computer.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. @Maria Langer
    I can see an advantage to using something like this on the iPad or iPhone that has an on screen keyboard.

    I use a small digital recorder a lot of the time, but I’m always surprised how people shy away from commenting when the recorder is on. It doesn’t matter what the conversation is, they don’t want to see a recorder. Even if they want to be quoted on the matter, they generally seem more comfortable with a pen and paper.

  4. @Evan
    I have a tiny digital recorder I never use but often wish I did. It could easily hide in a pocket to take audio notes while you interviewed people with pen and paper. The idea isn’t to “spy” on them but to take better notes and make them feel more at ease. But I guess it’s all up to how you feel about doing something like that.

What do you think?