Speech to text programs: Are there programs available to write someone's speech?

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Are there programs available to write someone's speech?

Question

Are there any free and reliable speech-to-text applications? My mom is an avid writer, but she is finding it increasingly difficulty to type. An app that would type the text for her and convert into a word document would be incredible - does something like this exist?

Our answer

Writing is a great way to keep the mind active and can be an engaging hobby for seniors. There are quite a few speech recognition programs available to computer users, including free and commercially available programs. You may find, however, that most of the speech recognition programs available have some limitations in their writing abilities. The clarity of the speaker, as well as the speaking speed, can be an important factor for a program - often times, the program will need to “catch-up” to the user’s speech while it is typing.

Both Windows and Apple computers have speech recognition programs built into their operating systems (“Speech Recognition” for Windows; “Dictation” for Apple). Your mother may wish to experiment with these programs before seeking out the commercially available programs.

  • How to set up and use Windows 10 Speech Recognition” is an article by Windows Central that shows how to set up and use Speech Recognition in Windows. The article also includes how to “train” your program to better understand the user’s speech and provides useful speech commands for the program. “How to use Speech Recognition in Windows” on the Microsoft support website provides instructional videos for setting up Speech Recognition in Windows 8, 8.1, and 7, while also highlighting some of the advanced features of the program. The second video on this page shows specifically how to use Speech Recognition in Microsoft Word (about 30 seconds into the video).
  • Use your voice to enter text on your Mac” is a support page on Apple’s website that shows how to set up Dictation, the speech recognition program provided by Apple. The program allows a user to type using their speech and can complete advanced tasks such as controlling other programs using the user’s voice. The Diction program allows the user to create their own commands, which may assist writing and editing a document. “Dictation on a Mac” by David A. Cox (on YouTube) is a short instructional video that may help you to set up and use Dictation.

Another free option that you may wish to explore for your mother is the "Voice typing" option available on Google Docs. Google Docs is Google’s equivalent to Microsoft Word and provides the user with many of the formatting options available in Word. Moreover, a Google Docs document can be downloaded in a .pdf, .docx, or .txt format, meaning whatever is typed can be transferred to other programs or emailed to other users.

You will need a Google account to create a Google Docs document – follow this link to create a Google account. To enable voice typing, open a blank Google Docs document and select “Tools” near the top of the document and select “Voice typing”. “Type with your voice” is a support page on Docs Editors Help website that can assist setting up voice typing if you are having any issues.

These are examples of commercially available computer programs that you may want to explore for your mother:

  • Dragon Home V15 (at Nuance) is computer software that is designed to accurately transcribe a user’s voice, while also allowing the user to complete simple formatting tasks in their document. “See Dragon in Action” is a promotional and instructional video for the program that showcases some of its features. This program works for Windows operating systems 7, 8, or 10, and costs about $150 (Cdn).
  • WordQ+SpeakQ by Quillsoft (at Quillsoft) is a computer program that is designed to work for Windows or Mac computers. The WordQ program is designed for users with different levels of disabilities, but its dictation capabilities through its built-in SpeakQ program can assist a user wishing to use speech-to-text. The WordQ programs have varying license payment options, ranging from $75 for a one-year license to about $275 (Cdn) for a perpetual license. Quillsoft offers a free trial for their program if you wish to try it before purchase.

You may also want to test different microphones – such as those available on Amazon – when trying different speech recognition programs. A higher quality microphone or headset may assist the speech recognition program when listening and typing for your mother. These microphones range from about $25 to $200 (Cdn) or more, plus any additional shipping fees.

Some technologies and devices may require an in-person assessment. Speak with your health care provider for additional information and support.

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