Which dictation software is best for you?
If you are looking for a free option: Windows Speech Recognition, Apple Dictation, and Google Doc Voice Typing are all great options.
- The different features that make each software unique
- Why you should choose Nuance’s Dragon products
- Which free options are the best for you
- A few additional Dragon alternatives
Table of contents
- What is Dictation Software?
- Why Use Dictation Software?
- A Side by Side Comparison
- Dragon Home
- Dragon Professional Individual
- Windows 10 Speech Recognition
- Apple Dictation
- Google Docs Voice Typing
- Braina Dictation Software
- Dragon Anywhere
- So Which is the Best Dictation Program for Writers?
- Additional Information on Speech to Text Software
What is Dictation Software?
Dictation software, as it is relevant for authors, is an app or program that allows you to write a book with your voice.
It can significantly speed up the writing process, at least after you've gotten used to how it works, and is a great alternative for authors who choose not to type, or who can't type due to complications from something like carpal tunnel.
There are many different platforms on the market, but the most commonly used for dictating books is the suite of software from Nuance known as Dragon Dictation.
However, most major platforms have some kind of inbuilt technology for voice to speech, and those versions are free. In this article, we will be looking at some of the pros and cons of each, and why you might want to spend the extra money for a really good dictation software.
Why Use Dictation Software?
Why should you use dictation software? The simple answer is because you will write faster.
Now, before you come at me saying that you tried dictation software in the past, and it didn't work for you, let me just say that this is totally normal. Dictation does not work for a lot of different authors.
That said, a lot of authors have found that dictation considerably frees up their writing process, and gives them extra time to either write more, or spend more time with family, friends, and other pursuits. And just think of when the computer first became a viable upgrade from the typewriter. There were (and still are) people who refused to upgrade because of what they were used to. But technology changes, and with a little adaptation, we can use it to improve our process.
In short, dictation software allows you to do one of three things:
- increase the amount of words you are able to write
- decrease the amount of time it takes you to write
- protect your hands from carpal tunnel or general fatigue
For example, if you find you write 1000 words a day in the time that you have, imagine if you could double that each day. 2000 words a day is 730,000 words in a year, which is at least 10 books if not more.
Or imagine if you could write that thousand words in half the time, what would you do with that extra time?
Personally, I find both of those options to be very attractive. So without further ado, let's look at the best dictation software for authors, so you can get off to a good start.
A Side by Side Comparison
First, let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison of all the leading software. I didn’t pick every single speech to text platform out there, but I did pick those that were most relevant for authors.
|Logo||Platform||Price||Platform(s)||Accuracy||Best For:||Check it Out|
|Dragon Professional Individual||$500||Windows||A+||Authors who want to dictate on the go|
|Dragon Home||$200||Windows||A+||Most authors who use a PC|
|Windows Speech Recognition||Free||Windows||B+||Windows users seeking a free option|
|Apple Dictation||Free||Mac||B||Mac users seeking a free option|
|Google Docs Voice Typing||Free||Web Browser||B||Authors seeking a free option|
|Braina Dictation Software||$79/year, Lifetime of $199||Windows||A-||Authors who have other needs besides book dictation|
|Otter.AI||Free version or $8.33/month||Web Browser||A-||Authors who write less and want a more accurate free version|
|Dragon Anywhere||$14.99/month||iOS and Android||B||Mac users, or authors on the go|
Accuracy Score: A+
Best For: Most authors who use a PC
- Works in browsers, Word, and any text field
- Boasts 99% accuracy (and that's about right)
- Has a playback feature
- Easy to add new words, specific jargon, to tailor to your needs
- Very pricey
- Takes time to adjust to your voice
- Missing some key features in Dragon Professional
- Does not support Mac
Dragon Home (formally Dragon NaturallySpeaking) is my go-to recommendation for most authors. It's not cheap, but it's the best accuracy and value that money can buy, with just a few missing features that can only be found in Dragon Professional Individual.
However, most authors will not need Dragon Professional Individual, or won't want to pay the additional $300. In all truth, Dragon Home provides you with everything you need for enhanced dictation.
Dragon provides a high degree of accuracy, and one of its best features is the way you can train it to understand your pronunciation, your voice, and even specific words that might not be common in your language. For example, if you use unusual names in your book, you can train Dragon to recognize what it sounds like when you speak those names, so that it will accurately use them in the text.
Once you get used to it, you can easily speak at a normal, conversational rate, and Dragon will have no trouble with it.
Unfortunately, Dragon is not available on Mac, so you will have to use another alternative, which I get into below.
But when it comes to quality, there really is nothing better.
Dragon Professional Individual
Accuracy Score: A+
Best For: Authors who want to dictate on the go
- All the same pros as Dragon Home
- An incredible accuracy rating
- The ability to transcribe recordings
- Extremely pricey
- Like Dragon Home, it can take some time to learn your voice
- Not available on Mac
Dragon Professional Individual is the cream of the crop, it is your best option for dictation. Period.
The problem, though, is the hefty price tag. It used to be that Dragon Professional Individual cost about $300. Now that cost has increased to $500.
That’s a steep price to ask of anyone who just wants to dictate a book.
That is why I recommend Dragon Home for most authors, but Dragon Professional Individual for a select group of authors that have specific needs or desires.
The one feature that sets this program apart from Dragon Home, in my opinion, is the ability to transcribe audio recordings.
The reason this is such a big deal is because it allows you to be mobile. You can take your phone, or whatever audio recording equipment you want, with you on a walk, on a road trip, or literally wherever you want. Then you can take that audio recording, plug it into Dragon, and it will do the transcription for you.
This is also effective, if you are a podcaster, YouTuber, or have any other need to transcribe audio files.
In short, this is the one reason why I might suggest getting Dragon Professional Individual over Dragon Home.
There are a few more advantages, such as the ability to sync your customizations with the Dragon Anywhere mobile dictation app, but most authors will not need these types of extras.
All that being said, I can understand that the price is a hang up. That is why, for the next few suggestions, I've picked completely free options.
Windows 10 Speech Recognition
Accuracy Score: B+
Best For: Windows users seeking a free option
- Possibly the most accurate free version
- Learns and adapts to your voice
- Has custom language models for different dialects and terminologies
- Does not need the cloud to operate
- Not as accurate as Dragon
- Can take a long time to train
- Doesn't have the advanced adaptation of Dragon
The three free options that I have listed here are all very similar to each other. The question of which you use will likely be dependent on what platform you have.
That said, of all the free options, Windows Speech Recognition is possibly the best. The reason for this is that Microsoft owns Nuance, the creators of Dragon software, so you can expect it to share some technology. That's not to say that the free version of Windows Speech Recognition is just as good as Dragon, or the same technology as Dragon. Instead, it uses similar machine learning to understand what you're saying, but lacks the advanced adaptation and AI to really be a competitor with Dragon.
This tool has a substantial advantage over Dragon in that it is free, which for most authors is a huge selling point.
And for a free program, Windows 10 speech recognition does a great job.
I tested it briefly, and can accurately say that it did the job. It was not as accurate as using any of the Dragon products, but a little bit of editing would fix that up neatly.
So if you are a Windows user, and you do not have the funds to spend on the Dragon products, then I highly recommend giving this one a shot.
Perhaps you do not even know if you want to dictate your books, which is another reason why you might want to use a free program like this one. It's a great way to at least start out learning how to dictate.
Then perhaps, once you have mastered the basics, and are sure that voice recognition is right for you, then you can move on to Dragon Home or Dragon Professional Individual.
Accuracy Score: B
Best For: Mac users seeking a free option
- Is available for free
- Has decent accuracy for a free program
- Is available for Mac users
- Does not need an Internet connection (unless you're using an iOS app)
- Is not as accurate as the Dragon software, or even the free Windows version
- The iOS app can only handle 40 seconds at a time
- Lacks the advanced adaptation features of Dragon
The Mac equivalent of Windows Speech Recognition is Apple Dictation or Siri if you’re using an iPhone.
On the whole, it does about as well as any other free feature, but since Dragon is owned by Windows, the Apple version has to create its own speech to text software, which is not nearly as accurate as the Windows product or the Dragon products.
However, if you are a Mac user, there are few better options out there. And this option is free.
So if you are a Apple user, I do highly recommend using Apple Dictation is your primary source of dictating software. It has a lot of the same features that you'll find in Windows dictation or in Google Docs Voice Typing, including voice recognition and adaptation, and an acceptable degree of accuracy.
As mentioned it will not be as good as the Dragon software, but as long as you're okay with the additional editing, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
The sad reality is, there really isn't a better option for Mac users. Dragon used to have an available software, but they have since discontinued its use.
Google Docs Voice Typing
Platforms: Web Browser
Accuracy Score: B
Best For: Authors seeking a free option
- It is free
- The accuracy is decent
- Can be used on a wide variety of platforms
- The accuracy is not perfect
- Requires an Internet connection to use
Like the other two free options above, you can use Google Docs Voice Typing with a relatively decent degree of accuracy. Voice typing in Google Docs is backed by… Google, so you know that you've got a powerhouse tech company behind this software.
Unlike the first two free options on this list, Google Docs is available on virtually any platform that has an Internet connection. That means you can use it on a Mac machine, on a Windows machine, Linux, or Chromebook.
The big downside here is that you must have an Internet connection for it to work. So if you're used to doing your writing with the Wi-Fi turned off, then you're out of luck, and I would recommend using the Windows or Mac equivalent instead.
That said, the accuracy and basic functionality of Google's voice to text software is not all that different from what Windows and Apple have.
In fact, all three of these software's could really be considered to be about the same, will with the real differentiator being the platform on which they are used.
Personally, before I switched to Atticus, I used Google Docs as my primary form of writing, so I did make use of Google Docs dictation. However I found the accuracy to be less than what I wanted to be worth all of the editing required, so I eventually converted to Dragon Professional Individual.
But Google Docs dictation is a great place to start and get a sense of what voice dictation is like, just like the other two programs about.
Braina Dictation Software
Price: $79/year, Lifetime of $199
Accuracy Score: A-
Best For: Authors who have other needs besides book dictation
- Has a variety of features to control your PC through voice command
- Allows for multiple languages
- The accuracy is pretty good
- Cheaper than Dragon
- Requires an Internet connection
- Not designed for long-form dictation
Braina dictation software is probably the second best on this list. However, it's not one that I would recommend to most authors, due to the fact that it is not designed with long form dictation in mind.
Now, you can use long form dictation, but the primary purpose of Braina is to be a virtual assistant for those that need it.
It excels at tasks such as controlling your computer, searching through music and media files, opening programs and files, and taking notes.
The degree of accuracy is second only to Dragon, in my opinion, which makes it an attractive option. Add to that the lifetime price is only $200, which is $100 cheaper than Dragon Home. So in that sense, it may be worth it to you.
However, it's only available for PC, and I would still consider it of subpar standard when compared to Dragon. If you want my recommendation, use one of the free programs until you can afford Dragon Home or Dragon Professional Individual.
Price: Free version or $8.33/month
Platforms: Web Browser
Accuracy Score: A-
Best For: Authors who write less and want a more accurate free version
- Has a free version
- Has one of the best accuracy scores for a free program
- Excellent for podcasts, business meetings, and integrating with Zoom
- Requires an Internet connection
- Not designed for writers
- Limitations on the free version
Otter.ai is a relative newcomer to the speech recognition software space, but already it's doing rather well.
The best perk about otter, is that it has one of the best accuracy scores of any software on this list, excluding the Dragon software.
It's also free, but only up to 600 minutes of transcribing a month. For some authors, that will be enough. But for authors who make a living selling books, or who write significantly each month, you will definitely need more than 600 minutes.
The Pro plan starts at $8.33 a month, which gives you unlimited transcription time.
The best part about otter, is that it is built on a similar AI/miss machine learning set up to Dragon, which accounts for much of its accuracy. I might even say that is slightly more accurate than Windows speech recognition.
So this might be a software that you might want to check out, even though it is not designed for writers. But since it does have a free option, and the accuracy is good, it might be a good one to consider.
One thing to note, though, is that otter.AI does not have verbal commands for punctuation, line-breaks, etc. It was primarily diet designed transcribed meetings and podcasts, and other similar sound files. However, it does add its own punctuation automatically, which is something that other programs do not do. However, I think you will find that a lot of its automatic punctuation is not accurate, and will require editing later on.
For that reason, I still recommend the other free options above, or the Dragon products if you're willing to spend money.
Platforms: iOS and android
Accuracy Score: B
Best For: Mac users, or authors on the go
- Easily the best mobile app for dictation
- Has the same dictation technology backing the other Dragon products
- Lets you add custom vocabulary
- Must be bought separately
- Requires an Internet connection
I had to end with Dragon Anywhere, the mobile version of the Dragon voice recognition software.
I actually used Dragon Anywhere for some time, because I wanted to take my dictation out on the go, and at the time I had a Mac and could not afford Dragon Professional Individual to transcribe audio files.
And if that describes you, then you might want to give Dragon Anywhere a try. It has the same technology and AI machine learning that you will get with Dragon home or Dragon Professional Individual, but without this deep upfront price.
If you are a Mac user, I might actually recommend this is your best paid option, because it's the only way to get that Dragon technology to work on an Apple product.
That said, it does have a few drawbacks. For one I did not find it to have the same level of accuracy that you might find in Dragon's flagship products. It also requires an Internet connection, and your phone must be open on the app the whole time.
What this means is that if you plan to take it hiking to some remote location, and you turn your screen off, or you lose your cellular coverage, then you are out of luck.
On the flipside, if you are writing from your home, in a controlled audio environment, with a decent microphone, that you are likely to see a lot more success.
One perk that actually isn't as attractive as it's cracked up to be, is the fact that it syncs with Dragon Professional Individual. What this means is that the training that you have given Dragon using its flagship product, will be transferred to the Dragon app to improve accuracy. The problem is, you need to own both software's. So if you've already shelled out the $500 it takes to get Dragon Professional Individual, you will still need to pay the $15 a month for your use of Dragon Anywhere. And you don't even need to do this, because Dragon Professional Individual will transcribe audio recordings. So if you want to record on the go, all you need is a microphone and a way to record your voice while you're out. So the need for both software platforms is completely unnecessary.
That's why I recommend Dragon Anywhere mostly for Mac users, or for someone who wants to test out Dragon's technology without paying the huge upfront cost. Just know that Dragon Anywhere is still slightly inferior to Dragon Home and Dragon Professional Individual.
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So Which is the Best Dictation Program for Writers?
If you are willing to spend the money, I recommend Dragon Home. For those who want to write on the go I recommend Dragon Professional Individual.
If you do not have the money, or use a Mac, then I would recommend one of the speech recognition software that comes with your machine. Or you could use an app like Dragon Anywhere to fit most of your needs.
But even then, I would use this as a way to test out dictation to see if it's right for you. If you decide that it is, I would still highly recommend you save up and use the money on one of the Dragon products.
Additional Information on Speech to Text Software
There are a number of specific questions that a lot of people have about the software platforms, so let me answer a few of them in quick succession.
How accurate are speech-to-text programs?
Most are reasonably accurate, but the best come with the biggest price tag. Even the best software will not be 100% accurate. Dictation requires editing afterward to make sure everything is okay.
Can you write a book using dictation?
Yes you can, in fact many do. This is especially true in the self-publishing world, where speed of writing is imperative. Voice recognition software allows authors to write their books and a lot less time, at least after they've gotten used to the new method of writing.
Are dictation programs expensive?
There are plenty of free versions, but the best speech recognition software does cost money, in some cases a lot of money.
Does Dragon Dictation Need the Internet?
Dragon Home and Dragon Professional Individual do not require an Internet connection. If you are using the mobile app Dragon Anywhere, you will need an Internet connection for that app.
Can Dragon Dictation transcribe audio files?
Dragon Professional Individual can transcribe audio files. Dragon Home and Dragon Anywhere, the other two dominant Dragon platforms, do not transcribe audio files.
How much does Dragon dictation software cost?
Dragon Home costs $200. Dragon Professional Individual cost $500. The mobile app Dragon Anywhere costs $14.99 a month.
What is the best dictation software for Mac?
The best voice recognition software solution for Mac users is the built in Apple Dictation software, but they can also use the Dragon Anywhere app to similar effect. This is the only way to use a Dragon dictation tool if you are an Apple user.