Dictation software makes it easy to navigate your computer and communicate without typing a single sentence.
This flexibility is great if you simply need a break from the keyboard, but it’s especially important for people with language processing disorders or physical disabilities. Sending a quick text or writing a note can be difficult, or even completely unfeasible, if you have limited manual dexterity or chronic pain, but this type of software can make those tasks relatively easy.
But the technology behind dictation software (also called speech recognition or speech-to-text software) has some flaws. These apps have difficult learning curves and the inherent bias that humans program into them means their accuracy can vary, especially for people with diverse accents, sociolects, and dialects such as African American Vernacular English or speech impediments. Still, for those who can work within the limitations of technology, our picks are the best options available for many people who need help using a word processing tool.
Apple Voice Control It comes installed with macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, so it’s free for anyone who owns an Apple device. In our tests, it produced accurate transcriptions most of the time, especially for speakers with a standard American accent. Competing tools from Google and Microsoft averaged 15 points lower than Apple’s software in our accuracy tests. Among our panel of testers, those with limited manual dexterity loved Voice Control’s assistive technology features, which made it easy to navigate the operating system and edit messages hands-free.
But while the experience provided by Voice Control was the best we found for Apple devices, it often misinterpreted words or entire phrases spoken by testers with regional or other American accents or speech impediments such as stuttering. Although such accuracy issues are expected for speech recognition modeling that has historically relied on homogeneous data sourcesother tools (specifically, Nuance Dragon Professional v16, which is available only for Windows) performed slightly better in this regard. Apple’s tool can also lag slightly if you’re running multiple processor-intensive programs at once, which our panelists said slowed down their productivity.
At $700, Nuances Dragon Professional v16 It’s the most expensive voice recognition tool we’ve found, but it’s the best option for people who own Windows PCs. Professional v16 replaces our previous selection of Windows PCs, the now discontinued Dragon Nuances Home 15. It offers additional functionality for those working in finance, healthcare, and human services, and is probably overkill for most people. (If you need a free option for PC, consider Windows speech recognitionbut i know has major flaws.)
Like its predecessor, Professional v16 involves a learning curve at first, but Dragon’s tutorial does a great job getting you started. Our panelist with language processing disabilities said that Dragon was one of the most accurate dictation options they tested and that the robust command features allowed them to quickly navigate their machine. Like our Apple pick, Dragon struggled with various American dialects and international accents; worked best for those testers with a “neutral” American accent. It also had trouble eliminating all background noise, although you can mitigate these issues by using an external microphone or headphones. Although Dragon produced the fastest transcriptions of all the tools we tested, this was not a resounding positive result: half of our panelists said they preferred slower real-time transcriptions to Dragon’s sentence-by-sentence transcription method because they encountered longer pauses. between sentences. ‘ appearance on your screen to distract.