Dictation has become one of the topics among authors lately, ever since the Self Publishing Formula Podcast featured Scott Baker as a guest, and he extolled the virtues of Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.
I know I’ve contemplated using dictation before, but never believed that I was a good fit for it. I did not think that the software would work well with my accent. And, I also didn’t know if I could train my brain to dictate.
It turns out, dictation is really not that hard, especially for things like blog posts!
What do you need to get started? Glad you asked!
First and foremost, Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in a few different flavors. There’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home, Premium, Professional… It gets a little complicated figuring out which version to buy! Unfortunately, they don’t have trial software, like Scrivener did or some other programs do. So how do you know you should be making this kind of investment if you don’t know it will work?
Of course, you could wet your toes with dictation in one of two ways:
- Experimenting with your smart phone. I have an Android phone, and I use the Swype+Dragon app. This cost me all of $.99 (and there is a trial version of this app as well, so you can see what I mean), and it does a rather good job of basic dictation. Mind you, it’s not going to perform some of the more advanced corrections, but for the purposes of dictating something on the road, it really isn’t bad. It also gets you used to dictating into something, and seeing your words come out. For iOS users, there is Dragon Dictate which I’ve heard works well with email and other smart phone apps. There is also a “Dragon Anywhere” app in both stores, but be warned! While it says it’s free, they mean there’s a free 1 week trial, and then it’s a $14.99 a month subscription!
- Experiment on your computer. If you have a PC that runs Windows 7 and up, you can try out the Windows Speech Recognition, which comes free with Windows. You have to activate it by going to your Ease of Access settings in the Control Panel. (There’s more on this process here if you want to try it.) After it’s set up, you will then train using the dictation so that the computer can get accustomed to listening to your voice. I have to warn you, it can be a little frustrating. It does not work with any non-Microsoft applications. I’ve found it works best in an application like Word, but I’ve tried out a little dictation with Edge, too. It can also close and open applications for you, and there are some more advanced correction commands than the basic dictation you get with lower priced smart phone apps. It’s really designed for someone who is disabled and can’t use the keyboard for some reason and must use their voice.
Once you dabbled with some of these things, you may find that you want a more robust program. That is when Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in.
Rather than buy the software first, I recommend buying a microphone. My laptop has a half decent mic built-in. It’s the kind of microphone that you would use with the built-in WebCam if you are using Skype or something like that. The problem is, you have to be one or two feet away from the mic or else it’s extremely sporadic with what it will pick up.
I followed Scott Baker’s advice and bought a headset microphone that is plugged in by USB cable, not by the 3.5 mm jack. When you use the microphone jack, it involves your sound card and I think a lot of people’s sound cards are not up to snuff. For some reason, USB microphones don’t have that issue. He also advised getting a wired headset rather than wireless, especially at first. Not only do they cost a little less, they work better. The headset I ended up buying was a Logitech H390 headset. As you can see, they do not have to be very costly to work well. In other words, you don’t need the badass wireless gaming headset that will cost you way more than you need to spend and is total overkill for dictation purposes!
Then I started the shopping for the software. Of the many versions available, Scott Baker’s advice was to go with Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium version 13 for PC. He feels that’s the best version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for anyone, even people who own a Mac. If you’re running a Mac, he advises that you run Parallels and install the Windows version on your Mac, because the Dragon for Mac is notoriously bad as well as overpriced.
Why not the Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home? Because, as you will see, there’s an essential feature missing from that version, and that is the ability to transcribe your recordings. And, as it turns out, it’s not worth the savings that you might get.
There is also a professional version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but this is overkill for our purposes as authors. Apparently, there are some that need the extra features that are included in the professional version, but they are not worth the extra money.
Even when you decide to buy the PC version, there are still a lot of options, which doesn’t make much sense considering it’s all the same software. There is the version that you can find in the store, which tends to retail for $99.99. However, most of the time they will only give you that discounted price if you are a student or a teacher. Therefore, it is not worthwhile to buy it in a store like Best Buy or Staples.
I managed to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking for PC premium version 13 at Amazon. Now, Amazon offers the software as a download for $79.99, however, I was able to get it for $39.90. How did I do that? It’s offered this way as an Amazon exclusive item. While it comes with McAfee total protection software, it is not necessary to install that software if you already have virus protection. In the box, they also include their own headset, but don’t be tempted to use it. It’ll probably be fine for listening to your music, but not for dictation because it’s not a USB connection, but the 3.5 mm jack :-(. It comes as a disk only, so you’ll need to fire up your DVD drive on your computer. And don’t get freaked out if it takes a long time to install! It will install, and it will run nicely once set up. Your computer should have an i5 Intel processor or faster, and at least 4 GB of RAM. I was concerned my old, rinky dink computer would not run it, but it does.
In another post, I will explain how Dragon works best, along with how the transcription works.
Have you tried dictation? Do you think it will work for you? Let me know in the comments!