Seller: Nuance Communications
Requirements: iOS 4.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
File Size: 5.4MB
Version Reviewed: 2.0.10
Age Rating: 4+
I’ve been kvetching a lot lately about all the things my iPad 2 doesn’t do as well as even the two 11-year-old Pismo PowerBooks I still have in service, let alone a recent Mac laptop. This is due in part to my disaffection with and apprehensions over Apple’s “iOSsification” of OS X in the Lion release, with which its an understatement to say I’m not enchanted. But let’s not go there right now.
Instead, I want to talk about something the iPad does really well—much better than I had anticipated. Before I bought the iPad, I knew about the free Dragon Dictation iOS app that Nuance Communications, Inc.—developer of
Dragon Dictate for Mac and Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows dictation applications—has up on the Apple App Store., but I had figured it would probably be more like a party trick performance-wise than a seriously useful tool.
Not so! In fact, it’s so good that I’m now using it nearly as much as I do the full-featured Dragon Dictate 2.5 application on my MacBook. I’ve been a moderate-to-heavy user of dictation software since the late ’90s due to chronic neurological issues that make it necessary for me to limit my keyboard time.
Dragon Dictation 2.0 is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking engine that allows you to easily speak and view text content for everything from email messages to blog posts and other long form composition on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Nuance claims using Dragon Dictation 2.0 is up to five times faster than typing on the idevice’s keyboard, which I wouldn’t dispute. I appreciate that the software keyboard is probably the best compromise for a handheld device, but it’s a clumsy place to type.
Anyway, one of the cool things about using Dragon Dictation on the iPad compared with Dragon Dictate on my MacBook is that it’s so much more spontaneous. I can just grab the iPad and dictate a few thoughts in real time as they occur, rather than sitting down at the computer and waiting for Dictate to start up and load my voice profile, which takes a couple of minutes on my not-terribly-speedy Core 2 Duo Mac. It’s a lot more spontaneous, and you can do it anywhere you have Internet connectivity.
In terms of accuracy, the Dragon Dictation app is impressive, especially considering there is no training to recognize your voice, even though I’ve never used a wired headset for dictation, which Nuance recommends for best performance. I just use the built-in microphone, holding it close to my mouth, and speak directly into it as Nuance recommends as second-best input mode, and that’s worked surprisingly well for me.
That’s right. None of the voice training you need to do with Dragon Dictate or NaturallySpeaking is necessary with the Dictation app, which makes its accuracy all the more impressive. It’s not up to Dictate’s standard, but it’s surprisingly good.
You do have to be within wireless Internet range in order for the app to work, since the actual voice processing is done in the Cloud on Nuance’s powerful mothership software, and not in the idevice itself. That’s an observation, not a complaint. Remote processing is completely necessary given the prodigious processing power required for voice recognition and transcription, and the limitations of idevice hardware.
The processing goes reasonably quickly. A niggle is that if you’re inclined to pause and think a bit in the midst of dictating, the app will often cut you off in mid-sentence, and in general has a mind of its own about when to pause and process automatically, usually after a couple of typical-length paragraphs, or when you pause speaking, even though I have the auto end-of-speech setting turned off in the Settings.
It’s not a major issue, and you can also initiate processing manually, but you do have to keep an eye on the screen to monitor what’s going on; harder to do when you’re holding the mic close to your mouth.
To compose a message or passage of prose on your idevice, launch the Dragon Dictation application. Tap the red recording button that appears in the middle of the screen to initiate the voice recognition process, and while the application is recording, speak your message.
As you speak, a graphic level meter will monitor and display the audio input levels.
If you finish before the app automatically switches to processing mode, either tap the “Done” button (if you’re using an iPhone and iPod touch) or just anywhere on the screen (if you’re on an iPad). You can also set auto end-of-speech setting to ON to detect end of speech. Tap the red recording button again to resume dictating. Dragon Dictation on iPhone will also auto-save dictated text on the scratchpad, which can be accessed after accepting an incoming call.
To edit transcribed text, tap the word you want to correct. When you touch the word, a drop-down list of alternative suggestions will appear. To correct a phrase, drag your finger to adjacent words until the entire phrase is highlighted. Dragon Dictation supports entering new text or editing text already dictated by tapping the keyboard icon. Or if you prefer, you can record a new phrase by pressing the red record icon while the original phrase is highlighted. The phrase will be replaced with the new phrase you speak.
iPad users can view and manage text for multiple documents in Dragon Dictation Notes and use it in landscape or portrait mode. Your dictated text is automatically saved in Notes, where you can review and edit any Note listed by clicking on it.
There are several options for exporting dictated text from Notes. First select the Note you want to send and tap the icon on the top right of the screen and select how you want to send your message from the following options:
- Email: Launches your email client and inserts your composed text into a new email message. This Note will be deleted from Dragon Dictation Notes. That’s one of the few criticisms I have of this app. Before I became wary, I lost passages of dictated text twice when Dragon Dictation deleted the Note on “Send Email,” but for whatever reason the message didn’t get sent. Consequently, I’ve resorted the alternate mode of copying the content of the Note I want to email via the clipboard to the iOS Notes app first as insurance before attempting an email send. Sending email from the Notes app seems fail-safe, and Notes doesn’t “helpfully” delete your data until you tell it to. Data copied to the clipboard does remain in Dragon Dictation Notes until you delete it.
- Cut: Cuts your Note to the iPad clipboard and deletes it from Dragon Dictation Notes.
- Facebook: Launches Facebook and inserts your composed text into the Facebook status bar.
- Twitter: Launches Twitter and inserts your composed text into the Twitter status bar.
I like this little app so much and find it so useful—letting me use the iPad as an efficient production tool—that I’d like to give it a full five out of five rating. However, the e-mailing data loss glitch—plus still room for improvement—”dictates” that it will have to be four out of five for now, with the qualification that it’s the best productivity enhancer I’ve yet discovered for my iPad. And it’s free!
Get this one.
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