Dictation is becoming a popular means of getting your thoughts and ideas down on writing. After all, why type it up — or use pen and paper — when you can go hands-free and have everything you said jotted down?
Dictation is fast and efficient. Not only does it allow you to dictate whilst carrying out other daily tasks — you could cook a meal and wash up all while taking down the notes you need — but it also ensures you don’t miss anything, meaning you’ll revisit very detailed notes.
The problem within simply recording your thoughts is transforming that recording into easily skimmable notes. You could transcribe it yourself, or you could explore one of many software solutions able to do that for you.
Here, we compare the best dictation software on the market, so you can choose the best option for your transcription needs.
The Best Dictation Software on the Market
Braina (Android, iOS, Windows)
Powered by AI, this app can dictate over 100 languages. It can automate various computer tasks, give you updates on current events, set reminders, and more. It can be used as a thesaurus and dictionary, read eBooks out loud and search files on your computer. Price: Braina offers a range of limited free software, or you can buy the full package for $239.
Speech Recogniser (iOS)
You can use Speech Recogniser to dictate and translate text into more than 26 languages. You can use it to post directly to Facebook or Twitter, copy the text you have transcribed to other apps, and text via email. It’s a quick way to jot down your notes and translate them into another language when you need to. Price: free.
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ListNote is a popular speech recognition app. Voice dictation and notepad functionality are combined, using your phone's built-in Google Voice Search to turn voice to text while recording the audio simultaneously. Each recording is saved as a searchable note that you can later organise with colour coding. You can then share the notes using email, text and to any other supported app you have installed. There are features such as ‘time to breathe’, which allows you to choose how long to wait before you stop speech input. Encryption options are also available. Price: free.
Dragon by Nuance (Android, iOS, macOS, Windows)
You can do most of the job with this app without putting your fingers on a keyboard. It uses Deep Learning technology that adapts to your specific voice, jargon and work environment, in order to create accurate documents. With this app, you can do hands-free work without leaving your favourite programs. Price: £349.99.
Google’s keyboard offering has been continually improved since it was released in 2016. Gboard allows you to dictate by pressing and holding the spacebar. It will transcribe everything you say in real time with no time limit, but you do need a connection to the internet. It is fast but the downside is that it will cut you off if you take too long of a pause, which forces the speaker to rush through text. However, its versatility across iOS and Android, and the fact that it’s free, makes it worth considering. Price: free.
Google Docs Voice Typing (Web)
Many people are now opting to use Google Docs as an alternative to other word processors due to its ease of use and sharing capabilities. It also lets you type with your voice on Google Docs, making this a great option if you’re on a budget. Google Docs also allows you to use more than 100 voice commands to edit and format your document. Price: free.
Windows 10 Speech Recognition (Windows)
If you’re a Windows user and don’t want to have to download or buy any additional software to dictate, Windows also has built-in dictation software. You are able to use this to dictate and control text on any browser, program or web application. Again, this is great if you don’t want to shell out any money on this, and it’s incredibly convenient for Windows users. Price: free.
Similarly, if you’re an Apple user, Apple Dictation can be found on both iOS and macOS so there’s no need to download any additional apps. Apple Dictation uses Siri’s servers to dictate up to 30 seconds of speech at a time if you are connected to the internet. This isn’t ideal for longer form content but it’s enough to conveniently getting your thoughts down on paper. Price: free.
Are transcription services better for you?
Dictation software can be great if you want to get every word, pause, and filler sound in your notes. However, this can also lead to messy dictation that takes a while to edit and clean up. Using transcription services means that you don’t have to go back through your transcripts and tidy them up afterwards.
Be sure not to use a transcription service that is on the cheaper side, as this service is most likely using automated speech recognition (ASR) software, which is what dictation software uses. It is not as accurate as using a human-based transcription service and it is likely you will still have to review whatever you are given back.
Human transcription services can provide you with an edited and accurate transcript that will save you time and effort. To ensure you get quick, high-quality transcripts from transcription services, using a dictaphone voice recorder to make your recording will help. This will help you get the exact kind of transcription you want. Make sure you know what you’re getting though, as there are several different types to choose from:
A verbatim transcript is the industry standard within transcription, as is also known as ‘intelligent verbatim’, ‘clean verbatim’ and ‘word-for-word transcript’. Every line that's recorded is transcribed but filler words, pauses, ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ are all removed. This makes it easy to read while still providing everything that was said. This is most likely the best option if you’re looking for a transcript to record your dictations, such as your thoughts and ideas, in a clear and easy-to-read way.
Full Verbatim Transcripts
Full verbatim transcripts transcribe every single word or line exactly as it is spoken by the speaker into the audio file. All sounds, filler words and pauses are included, making this the most expensive option due to how time-consuming it is to produce. You can also pay more for emotions, such as laughter, to be noted down. This option is often harder to read so this may not be the best option for your dictated thoughts.
Detailed Notes Transcripts
This kind of transcript still contains all of the important information, but omits anything irrelevant to the topic at hand. This can be great if you want a succinct transcript of your dictation where non-critical information is summarised and anything off-topic is removed. These are simpler to produce and are therefore cheaper.
What’s the best way to get your thoughts down on paper?
Each type of transcription service has its own positives and negatives and is suited to different purposes, so knowing what it’s for and the end result you would like is key.
Note that it’s also possible to add extras to transcription services so that you can change the format of them. You can add speaker identification, pauses, notes, timestamps, laughter, and even tone. This allows each job to be tailored to your transcription needs. If you are transcribing a meeting with multiple people, for example, using a dedicated transcription service will be beneficial as an app will not know when a speaker has changed. Using transcription services can save a lot of time in this regard.
Whatever kind of service you decide to use, whether transcription or app, you’ll need to know what end result you’re looking for so you can save time and hassle. If you just need something quick and easy to transcribe your own notes, then a free app could do the job just fine, save for a little editing. If you need to transcribe longer recordings which need to be made concise, or that have multiple people and you have little time for editing, a transcription service is a better option to get a higher quality transcript.
If this article about the best dictation software on the market has been useful but you still want to learn more about transcription services, our Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services is made just for you!