If you’re in an important meeting or lecture, it can be pretty hard to capture every single word the speaker says by using a pen. That’s where dictaphones and voice recording apps come in handy. Unfortunately, when you need to transfer this information to paper, things aren’t quite so simple.
Transcribing recordings by hand is not only a lengthy and mundane task, but it can also do more damage than good. It’s easy to mishear words and end up writing down inaccurate things. Clearly, that wouldn’t be good if you’re working on an important business task or project.
However, speech recognition software can solve such problems. Underpinned by computational linguistics, it identifies spoken language and turns it into text. These systems differ in capabilities, with some only able to recognize a selection of words and phrases. But the most advanced dictation software can understand natural speech.
While speech recognition isn’t a new phenomenon, it has undergone a great deal of transformation over the years. Previously, this technology was only accessible on computers, but recent advancements in the field mean there are now dictation applications for smartphones and tablets. Many of these are cloud-based and can be linked to a computer, giving you the ability to access transcribed files wherever and whenever. We've rounded up the best of this software.
- Also take a look at the best voice recognition software
When it comes to productivity software, Evernote has dominated the scene for years. Not only is it a great app to take and organize conventional notes, but it also offers a nifty voice note feature. Using the speech-to-text functionality on your device, it allows you to dictate notes straight from the app.
Although you’re able to create notes with your voice on the app, there isn’t the option to convert audio recordings into text and you aren’t able to search for specific words or phrases inside a recording. Either way, you can use the feature on both Android and iOS devices, and Evernote is still a powerful note-taking app in general.
In terms of other features, you can create searchable notes, checklists and to-do lists, and the app supports a variety of formats. These include text, sketches, photos, audio, video, PDFS and web clippings. What’s more, you can use the camera of your mobile device to scan paper documents, business cards, handwritten notes and drawings.
Plus, because the software is cloud-based, you can access your notes and lists from wherever you happen to be and any device. Evernote is free to download, but there are premium plans available. For instance, the business subscription costs £10.99 a month per team member.
If you want a dedicated dictation app, it’s worth checking out Just Press Record. It’s a mobile audio recorder that comes with features such as one tap recording, transcription and iCloud syncing across devices. The great thing is that it’s aimed at pretty much anyone and is extremely easy to use.
When it comes to recording notes, all you have to do is press one button, and you get unlimited recording time. You can also choose to record from your device’s built-in mic, AirPods or external headphones. However, the great thing about this app is that it also offers a powerful transcription service.
Through it, you can quickly and easily turn speech into searchable text. Once you’ve transcribed a file, you can then edit it from within the app. There’s support for more than 30 languages as well, making it the perfect app if you’re working abroad or with an international team. Another nice feature is punctuation command recognition, ensuring that your transcriptions are free from typos.
Like Evernote, this app is underpinned by cloud technology, meaning you can access notes from any device. You’re able to share audio and text files to other iOS apps too, and when it comes to organizing them , you can view recordings in a comprehensive file. The app is available on iOS devices for $4.99 (around £3.69).
Designed at people looking for a place where they can capture ideas and be creative, Speechnotes is yet another easy-to-use dictation app. What’s nice is that you don’t need to create an account or anything like that. You simply need to open up the app and press on the microphone icon.
The app is powered by Google voice recognition engines and can identify almost every word or phrase. When you’re recording a note, you can easily dictate punctuation marks through voice commands or the built-in punctuation keyboard. You can also type and dictate notes simultaneously.
To make things even easier, you can quickly add names, signatures, greetings and other frequently-used text by using a set of custom keys on the built-in keyboard. There’s automatic and capitalization as well, and every change made to a note is saved to the cloud. When it comes to customizing notes, you can access a plethora of fonts and sizes. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but you can make in-app purchases to access premium features.
Marketed as a personal assistant for turning videos and voice memos into text files, Transcribe is a popular dictation app that’s powered by AI. It lets you make high-quality and readable transcriptions by hitting a button.
The app can transcribe any video or voice memo automatically, while supporting over 80 languages and dialects from across the world. While you can easily create notes with Transcribe, you can also import files from services such as Dropbox.
Once you’ve transcribed a file, you can export the raw text to a word processing app to edit. The app is free to download, but you’ll have to make an in-app purchase if you want to make the most of these features in the long-term. There is a trial available, but it’s basically just 15 minutes of free transcription time. It’s only available on iOS, though.
Should you be looking for a business-grade dictation tool that can work on computers, your best bet is Nuance Dragon View. Aimed at professional users, the software provides you with the tools to dictate and edit documents, create spreadsheets, send emails and browse the web using your voice.
According to Nuance, the solution is capable of performing tasks three times faster than typing and creates notes with 99 percent accuracy. As well as creating documents using your voice, you can also import custom word lists and user profiles. There’s also an additional mobile app that lets you transcribe audio files and send them back to your computer.
The app aims to generate natural text-to-speech and audio playback, while looking out for and correcting any grammatical mistakes in your speech. Overall, the interface is easy to use, and you can dictate up to 160 words per minute. If you get stuck at all, you can access a series of tutorials. However, the software is far from cheap, retailing at £139.99 (around $189).