Voice-to-text software is largely about speed and accuracy. The programs vary quite a bit in price, and spending a little more typically pays off in features and overall accuracy. Though you may have to spend some time learning the program, once you’ve mastered it, you can seamlessly navigate your computer and dictate documents faster than you could with a keyboard and a mouse. And in most cases, you can mute the software without closing out of it completely to prevent it from listening to you when you don’t need it to.
The busier your lifestyle, the more you can benefit from this software that helps streamline and simplify your life. The software packages on the market lend themselves to people of all stripes, including students, professionals and homemakers. You’ll want to find the text-to-speech software with the tools and functionality that best align with your lifestyle and needs. There are also versions available for Mac users, so consider which operating system you’d prefer to use before purchasing anything. Once you have customized the settings to your liking, you simply wake your computer up with the proper command and go to work hands-free.
Dictation: Accuracy and the Ability to Edit
The most important trait of voice dictation software is its accuracy. It needs to be able to quickly and accurately translate the words you dictate into whichever program you’re using, no matter your accent or local dialect. This kind of software is meant to save you time, and programs with a low accuracy score might make you go back and spend time manually editing your document.
In addition to recognizing your voice and turning the words you dictate into text, good programs should also make it easy to edit documents and apply formatting to them. Most programs, however, are only coded for basic formatting, like underlining or bolding, so depending on which program you ultimately select, you may still have to apply any advanced formatting you need manually. Some programs have a spell-check feature, and some allow you to select a particular word or sentence and modify it.
It’s important that the voice recognition software you choose has the capacity to handle the dictation of punctuation, symbols and special characters. Many options only allow for commas and periods, but the best programs let you insert anything into your document, even graphics. The program should also be able to open, close, minimize and navigate one or more programs, windows, folders and files smoothly.
Voice Tools: Customizable Commands, Words and Profiles
Many of these programs work decently right out of the box. However, you can dictate with increased accuracy with programs that include a voice training option. This lets you record a few paragraphs of text, allowing the software to become familiar with your voice and the way you talk and pronounce words. Some programs even allow for multiple voice profiles, allowing multiple people within your business or household to have unique profiles tailored to their voices and diction. Furthermore, the best software can understand a variety of voices, accents and languages.
Another useful feature is the ability to create custom commands to perform certain operations. Many applications only have preset commands, but a few allow you to add, edit, delete and otherwise customize them, for added ease of use.
Software that can transcribe audio files allows you to capture dialogue from a college lecture or a phone call, saving you the trouble of having to do so. Additionally, programs that allow you to mute the software’s listening ability give you privacy when you need it.
Compatibility: Works with Many Programs and Devices
The best speech-to-text software will not only be available on your preferred desktop operating system, but also in other formats. Most of the applications in our comparison are available for all recent Windows versions, and a few are available for Mac OS X or Linux. Any of the Dragon products are compatible with a companion smartphone dictation app, Dragon Anywhere, made by the same company and available separately for an additional subscription cost. The benefits of the companion app include allowing you to dictate anywhere. Certain companion smartphone apps even allow mobile-to-desktop syncing and have cloud compatibility.
Some of the programs we’ve reviewed here depend on additional equipment, such as a smartphone, microphone or Bluetooth headset. Some simply offer compatibility with Bluetooth devices just to make dictating easier for you.
Aside from working with your preferred computer and operating system, it’s also important that the dictation software works with your favorite software, whether they are native applications, like Notepad or iTunes, or something more exotic. Many programs work seamlessly with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, native Apple software and even email programs like Outlook. Some allow you to open, navigate and interact with internet browsers so you can search the web, read online news stories and post to social media sites hands-free.
One of the more unique features that a couple programs on our lineup have is the ability to work with PC games. The software can help you hit keys, shoot and move your mouse for more precise gaming, or simply allow you to play a game if you haven’t been able to due to a disability or injury.
Help & Support: Answers and Information
For the most part, this kind of software is designed to be intuitive and ready to use right out the box. But in case it’s not, the software’s developers should provide you with a myriad of informational resources to answer your questions or show you how to use a particular aspect of the program. The best companies host a combination of resources on their websites, like a knowledgebase, user manuals, video tutorials and a community user forum. In case you’re short on time, or simply don’t want to waste time reading through articles and manuals, companies should also provide you with at least one way of contacting their customer support teams.