Typing is perhaps one of the most commonly-performed tasks on computers (and to some extent, even smartphones). From bloggers to novelists, everyone routinely spends a lot of time typing away on keyboards. And as necessary as it is, typing for long stretches of time can (and does) get quite tedious.
But it doesn't have to be like that. There are quite a few dictation software available out there, and they ease up things a lot. These programs use speech recognition technology to convert spoken words to text. And they're not only convenient but also speed up the rate at which text is entered.
So whether you're writing up a long business report or tired of futzing with your keyboard when it comes to sending e-mails and text messages, we've rounded up the best dictation software (and apps) for both PCs and smartphones to give your fingers a rest. Read all about them to know which one suits your needs the most.
Best Overall: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13
When it comes to speech recognition software products, Dragon is a name that needs no introduction. As it stands, the NaturallySpeaking Premium 13 is arguably the best dictation software out there.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13 lets you dictate documents naturally with up to 99 percent accuracy. You can use it to dictate, edit and format letters, articles, papers, reports, etc., all by your voice. Just speak naturally, and the software translates your words to text. It continuously learns how you speak, adapting to your preferences as it does so.
It's also possible to format documents with NaturallySpeaking Premium 13. You can simply select the text and speak what kind of formatting (e.g. bold, italic) you'd want to apply to it. The program's 'Smart Format' rules automatically adapt to how you want things like numbers and abbreviations to appear. You can easily switch between voice input and typing to make fine-tuned adjustments. It's even possible to have voice notes recorded on a digital voice recorder transcribed by the software.
Best Overall, Mac OS: Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6.0
Just because you don't use a Windows-based PC doesn't mean you can't take advantage of Dragon's speech recognition programs. If you want a solid dictation software for Mac OS, look no further than Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6.0.
The software is powered by an all-new, next-generation speech engine. It utilizes 'Deep Learning' technology for a more accurate dictation and transcription. Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6.0 adapts to your voice and environmental variations. You can use your voice to dictate and edit reports, send e-mails and notes, and even fill out forms. The program optimizes accuracy for speakers with accents and supports latest programs like Microsoft Word 2016 and Apple Pages.
Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6.0 lets you transcribe voice recordings available in a variety of formats, such as .mp3 and .m4v. The batch mode lets you transcribe multiple files at a time. The program's customization features allow you to personalize it to your business's needs. You can use specific industry terms, quickly insert frequently-used text fragments and create custom voice commands to act as shortcuts for repetitive tasks.
Best With Digital Assistant Capabilities: Braina
A computer that can convert your speech to text is great, but what if it could do a lot more, such as playing your favorite music and doing mathematical calculations? That'd be pretty cool, right? Well, that's exactly what Braina is.
Braina lets you transcribe spoken words to text, but that's just one of its many capabilities. It's a multi-functional AI-based (artificial intelligence) software that provides you with a single-window environment to control your computer. With Braina, you can use your voice to look up information on the Internet, open/search files on your computer, set alarms and reminders, create notes, automate various tasks and even read eBooks. It's basically similar to virtual assistants like Siri, but with a lot more features.
Speaking of dictation features, Braina lets you convert your voice to text in any website and software (e.g. Microsoft Word, Notepad). It supports over 100 languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian, etc.) and accents. It can accurately convert most of the accents and be used by multiple users without the need of separate profiles. The program can be further customized to recognize custom words and create canned responses. Interestingly, Braina can recognize unusual vocabulary and understand most medical, legal and scientific terms.
Best For Ease Of Use: Express Dictate
NCH's Express Dictate is proof that a program can be both powerful and intuitive at the same time. An expansive feature set and a simple UI make it the easiest to use dictation software out there.
Express Dictate is essentially a voice recording software that works like a dictaphone. It records video with enhanced signal processing quality and can record to multiple formats, including .wav, .mp3 and .dct. The software supports automatic non-destructive editing, with multiple recording modes like record-insert, record-overwrite and record-at-end. Voice-activated recordings mean long silences are not included, and you can assign priority to individual dictations. You can directly send recordings via e-mail or FTP, and also save them for later use.
HIPAA-compliance ensures all recordings are encrypted, which makes Express Dictate perfect for recording secure client and patient data. You can also dock analog or digital handheld dictation recorders with the program, and transmit recordings made when you're away from the computer. It's possible to attach additional notes and files to the recordings for better transcription, and built-in compression technology reduces the size of recording files for easier transmission online. Express Dictate lets you use hand controllers and foot pedals, and can even be controlled via system-wide hotkeys. The software is available for both Windows (XP and above) and Mac (OS X 10.5 and later).
Best For Online Dictation: Google Docs Voice Typing
Online productivity suites like Google Docs are getting more and more popular by the day. That's not exactly surprising, given that they offer features like cloud synchronization and real-time collaboration. What's more, they can even convert speech to text.
Yep, you read that right! If you do most of your typing work online, Google Docs is the best dictation software you can use. Among other features, Google's cloud-based word processor program also offers speech typing functionality. The best thing is that you don't need to install any extra software or make any system-wide changes to take advantage of it. All that's required to get started is a Web browser (preferably Google Chrome) and a Google account.
To use voice typing, log in to your account and open up a Google Doc. Now, select "Voice typing..." option from the "Tools" menu. When you use voice typing for the first time, the browser will ask for your permission to use your computer's microphone. Once that's done, you'll see a Red-colored microphone icon on the left. Simply start speaking naturally, and see your spoken words appear on the screen. For a free program, Google Docs voice typing works quite well. Just make sure you have a good-quality Internet connection.
Best For iOS: Built-In Voice Dictation
Millions of people around the globe use Apple's iPhones and iPads for their productivity needs. If that includes you, you don't need to look for any third-party dictation app, as iOS already has one.
The voice typing features of iOS have significantly improved over the last few generations (specifically, version 8.0 and above) of the OS. Now, it's better than ever.
What's best is that iOS's voice typing feature is integrated directly into the on-screen keyboard, so it's always available. All iOS apps that support text input through the on-screen keyboard, support voice typing as well. This means that you can use your voice to write e-mails, create notes, reply to text messages and more. Simply tap on the microphone key on the keyboard, and start speaking. You can also speak keywords like "Period" and "New Paragraph" for a better dictation experience.
Best For Android: Gboard Voice Typing
Android is all about choices, so if you use an Android smartphone and/or tablet for all your typing needs, there are a lot of dictation apps that you can choose from. Of these, Google's Gboard is certainly the best.
Gboard is an on-screen keyboard app developed by Google. It has many features such as text prediction, GIF support, and of course, voice typing. To get started, you just need to have Gboard selected as the default keyboard app (this can be changed under "Language & Input" in Android's settings) and have the voice typing option enabled.
Once that's done, things get pretty straightforward. Launch the app (e.g. Microsoft Word, Google Docs) in which you would like to enter text, tap the microphone key on Gboard and start speaking.
What Is Dictation Software?
Dictation software, also referred to as text-to-speech software, is a program or app that quickly and accurately converts spoken words to text, eliminating the need to type lengthy pages of content. Dictation software can be used for various functions, such as writing reports, preparing speeches, drafting lecture notes, composing essays or emails, and even writing a book. It’s also commonly used on smartphones instead of typing text messages.
How Do Dictation Software Programs Work?
Dictation software programs work by using speech recognition algorithms to convert spoken words to text. It’s typically faster than typing and much more convenient. Some software programs have additional features such as mobile dictation and advanced speech recognition tools as well as dictation into other languages.
How Much Do Dictation Software Programs Cost?
Dictation software programs vary in features and therefore also in cost. Newer model iPhones and Android smartphones have free built-in dictation software, but they need a stable internet connection to work properly. Other software ranges in price from about $100 to $200, paid as a one-time purchase fee.
Are Dictation Software Programs Worth the Cost?
If you’re spending the money to purchase a new smartphone, you might as well use the features that come with it, including text-to-speech functions. However, if you’re not typing a novel or generating daily reports, you probably don’t need to purchase dictation software. If you’re a slow typer, hate to type, or have a career that requires it, then dictation software will be worth it. It will save you time and you’ll be free of hand cramps, too.
How We Chose the Best Dictation Software Programs
We researched the most popular dictation software programs and after thoroughly reviewing them, we decided on our top choices. Our picks for best dictation software programs were chosen based on their expansive features, compatibility with devices, cost, and more.