As an author, I anxiously awaited the release of MacSpeech Dictate. In this article, I'll share my experiences with setting up and using this software.
Before I get into my review, a little history. I am a longtime Mac user, but I've often been frustrated by the lack of software for the Mac that is available on the PC. A friend of mine who is a doctor uses Dragon Naturally Speaking, a PC-based program that professionals (doctors, lawyers and more) and writers rave about and use to transcribe their words into documents. One day, after hours, he invited me to try the software. Needless to say, I was impressed. This is when I started researching the price of low-cost PCs, so I could write articles and even chapters in my books and ebooks by just speaking into a microphone.
Just as I was about to make that purchase, MacSpeech Dictate was introduced. The reviews on it were fantastic. Perhaps this is because Mac Speech did not reinvent the wheel—Dictate uses the proven Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software engine.
A friend of mine who had bought the software told me that he was able to use it successfully about 10 minutes after installing it on his computer. He said there was virtually no training involved (training the software is what you need to do to make sure it can transcribe what you're saying into words.) This made me remember years ago when my husband purchased some voice recognition software—I think it was ViaVoice— and spent 3 weeks training it, but was never really able to use it successfully. I was pleased to know that this was not an issue with Mac Speech Dictate.
One thing my friend (who just happens to be a Mac guru) advised: spend the money to buy the headset that Mac Speech recommends on their site. It's made by Plantronics and it makes all the difference in the world. A good, clear headset will allow you to talk to your Mac, so it can understand easily and correctly transcribe your every word.
Enough said. With all this wise advice under my belt, I made the purchase. It took me about ten minutes to go through the software setup wizard, but after that, I was good to go. (The software wizard trains the software with your voice.) One thing I haven't mentioned is that the software allows you to issue commands to your Mac. So to get started with my testing, I said, "Open Microsoft Word" and like magic, my Mac complied.
Those who have limited success with this program are those who do not follow the directions of the manufacturer and puchase a good headset. If you decide to use the built-in microphone on your mac, your results may not be as good as mine. To me, it was worth it to purchase the headset to avoid frustration.
After one week of playing with the software, I have to admit that I am thrilled about the ease of writing now—especially when it means just speaking to my Mac! It is so much faster to talk off the cuff and have your computer transcribe your words. In addition, my writing has become warmer and more conversational. Why is it that writing can sometimes come out so stilted when you're typing your thoughts out on a keyboard?
I know—let's blame it on all those school essays that came back with the teachers' big red marks. And of course, if you're a slow typist, then buying Mac Speech Dictate is a no-brainer purchase for you.
I give MacSpeech Dictate two big, enthusiastic thumbs-up. It's a useful tool for getting that first draft down easily, whether it's a book, an essay or a short article.