But until recently – very recently – it wasn’t quite as useful as it could be, unless you forked out big bucks for the likes of Dragon Dictate, which has versions for both Mac and Windows.
I upgraded my Mac to Mountain Lion more than a month ago, but it is only this past week that I discovered how good the speech-to-text ability is in this new version of the operating system.
For starters, speech-to-text is available everywhere. I mean everywhere.
If your cursor is sitting in a spot where you can use your keyboard to enter something, then you can use your voice instead.
Just tap Fn twice, and the little microphone comes up. When you’re done, just tap Fn twice again, and a second or two later, your transcribed text shows up.
So far, the accuracy has been pretty good – I would say around 98%. It only ‘misunderstood’ two words, and surprised me by spelling out a proper name correctly.
I must admit, I tend to use the keyboard much more whenever I’m composing a post.
But for things like commenting on blogs, making notes, putting together an early draft, and especially email, then the speech-to-text function is just great.
The one caveat for the built-in speech to text on my Mac, is that it sends everything to Apple before transcribing and bringing it back. This means that an Internet connection is a must if you want to use the function.
On the other hand, Dragon Dictate is entirely local. It will ‘learn’ how your voice works, its nuances etc by having you read some text so it can calibrate. Transcription thereafter can then happen, even without an internet connection.
There are some obvious advantages to using speech-to-text.
It’s faster to speak than to type, which is great if you didn’t grow up with a keyboard. I remember going to typing school when I was may be 12 as a summer thing. It was on actual typewriters, for those of you who remember what those things are …
You can work on your novel while folding laundry, or doing some other mindless activity that needs your hands, but not your brain.
You can practice ‘business’ speaking, the way you would on a webinar or training video. Since it is being transcribed, and you can take your time, it will teach you to avoid the dreaded Uhm’s.
You probably not miss words out, like you tend to do when are typing, and your hands are not moving as fast as your head.
Try speech-to-text on your favourite device, at least for two-line email responses. For iPhone / iPads, try Dragon – it’s free on the mobile devices. For Android, voice as an input device is already built-in.
And don’t forget to have a good giggle at how your device interprets what you’ve just said 🙂