Monday, August 8, 2011

Dragon Dictate and No Hands Writing

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time working with a dictation software called Dragon Dictate (Formerly known as MacSpeech), and thought I would share my experience and how using such software will optimize my writing experience. First, I'll preface this by saying that Dragon Dictate is the mac version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, only it's more expensive and doesn't work as well. From what I've read, anyway. However, I've found Dictate to be an amazing and fun way to dictate my handwritten work to the computer, and I'm even trying to dictate directly, skipping the handwriting process.

Beginning with the training. When you first get the program, you will have to train it to recognize your voice. The training doesn't take long, though, and you're on your way. You can dictate to a lot of different programs, but I chose to just dictate in the Dragon window, then copy/paste it into my normal program (Scrivener), because it's less buggy in the dragon window. Sometimes in Scrivener it was adding random letters for no reason I could understand or find.

I began officially dictating with chapter two of my next novel project, which is the sequel to Land of No Angels. So, there are a lot of little word quirks, such demon names. Often times if the name sounds like something else, I will have to retrain it almost every time. For example, the demon name Halpas is impossible for the software to understand no matter how many times I retrain or correct it. Often times it won't even show up in the list of words to choose from when trying to correct it. Luckily, the name hasn't come up much, yet, but when it does, I'm going to lose my mind.

There was another name, one that is a normal name and was actually already in the program's vocabulary, that I had trouble with: Nadia. No matter how many times I tried to get it right, the program always changed it to Nokia. In the end, I deleted Nokia from the vocabulary and I haven't had another problem since. This can't be done with Halpas, though, because the words that pop up for that name are words like "help us" or "helpless". Basically, words I will need at some point. Even if I emphasized the 'ah' (as in autumn) and 'a' (as in at), the program changes it to 'hall pass', which, I suppose, is closer than the others, but still not right.

Strangely enough, it immediately had no issues with the name Errol the first time I spoke the name. Though, at times it will now change it to Carol. For the most part, though, it recognizes my words just fine. I enunciate pretty well to begin with, and it does worse when I'm slurring some, but it's not so bad. I correct as I go and am still doing pretty well with productivity. Reading from my two handwritten chapters took a lot less time than typing them. Usually it would take me an entire week to write them out, but this took three days.

Today I decided to try dictating straight from my brain, to my mouth, to the computer for chapter four. This was amazingly difficult to begin with because I like to write things down. Seeing the words makes them more understandable for me. At first, straight dictating felt awkward and I struggled a little, but after a while, I was much better at it. In the end, it was just as fast to dictate than it was to write by hand, and much faster than typing myself. Normally I only write for 30 minutes in an hour because I get distracted and I suffer pain in my hands and wrists. But with dictating, my hands hurt less and I was more focused and interested in what I was doing. Somehow it made me focus more. I'm not sure how, but it did. Perhaps I was more focused because it took a lot more brain power to translate the narrative into speech rather than the silent translation of narrative to my fingers.

A couple awesome things I noticed while straight dictating:
-Dialogue was a lot easier to dictate than narrative and went a lot faster.
-My dialogue felt more real because I was actually having the conversations out loud.

[READER RESPONSE] If you've ever used dictation software, how did/do you like it? Did you find it more or less useful? If you haven't ever used dictation software, would you like to? What problems could come with using such a software?


  1. I also use Dragon Dictate. It is been tremendous for my writing has allowed me to type papers for school very fast. In addition to using Dragon Dictate, I also use Scrivener. I am very excited to start working on a novel using both applications.

    The only thing that I changed in the settings when I set up Dragon Dictate is that I don't mind if it types slow, I would rather have accuracy. Ideally as close to 100% as possible. As I type this there are just a few mistakes; I can live with that since it does save me immense time in writing. I hope that you continue to have great experiences with Dragon Dictate and I'm glad to share my experiences here.

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  3. I am in a similar place as Jonathan. Been using DD for Mac for some time, & getting used to it. Had a problem using the Dragon Remote Mic app for the iPhone with the software. But going back to using the Plantronics USB headset that came with it, seems to fix it.

    Just got Scrivener as a gift from my Dad. Looking forward to learning it, playing with it, & working with it.

    This was a great article. I look forward to reading some of N.R. Wick's work, and yours too someday, Jonathan.

  4. This company keeps on working to improve their offering. That's natural, since they want to ensure that they remain the leader in this sector.

    As far as I am concerned, they are at the top when it comes to voice to text software. Most of the people who have used Dragon to transcribe material have had a good experience with it, whether they use PC or Mac.