I have previously reviewed MacSpeech Dictate but here are some tips on how to use it well.
The software itself is fairly simple to use and it takes you through all the necessary setup, but I found one of the most important things in achieving good recognition was to have a consistent microphone setup. I have tried various microphones, headset, handheld, and while there is some small difference between the microphones, is more important that whatever the microphone you have, you use it consistently.
By consistently I mean speak with the same tone of voice, speak exactly the same distance from the microphone each time you use the software, and speak using the same volume.
For while I was using a handheld wireless SM58 to dictate into the computer and I found that when I used it properly, keeping it about 10 mm from my mouth, this achieved the greatest accuracy of any of the microphones I have used. But it became a bit unusable in that I had to hold my hand up to my mouth all the time and keep my head exactly the right distance from it. If I spoke a bit further away the accuracy would drop.
Now I use a headset microphone – a Samson airline QV. The advantage is that each time I clip it onto my head the microphone is exactly the same distance from my mouth. I can walk around the room, tilt my head, looked different directions, and the microphone stays consistently the same distance from my mouth, resulting in excellent recognition.
I can now dictate as I walk around the room using my wireless headset. The accuracy with the SAMSON microphone is incredible. Note that you have to re-train the software if you change microphones.
My suggestion would be to buy the basic Macspeech dictate with the built in microphone and get used to using it.
Then if you decide you want to go hand-free, get a SAMSON QV headset and go wireless!
TRAINING THE SOFTWARE
The built-in training of Mac speech dictate is excellent. You read into the computer for about 5 to 10 minutes and it learns from your voice.
My first suggestion is to discipline yourself to dictate into the Mac speech Dictate application itself for a week or two, taking the opportunity to train every word that the computer mis-recognises, so that it learns from its mistakes. After this you can cut yourself loose and dictate straight into pages, Safari, iWeb and so on. But I find that when I am dictating into these other programs, I tend not to use the built in correction – it’s faster just to go back and select a word and retype it in. When you are first training your computer it’s worth the effort to get it to retrain its mistakes.
Be aware that it does take a bit of training – not of the computer but of yourself – to get the full efficiency out of Mac speech dictate. You have to learn certain phrases like ‘scratch that’, ‘microphone off’, ‘cap’, ‘begin quote’, ‘end quote’, ‘full-stop’, ‘new-line’ and so on. More importantly, you have to train yourself to speak clearly. Not slowly, but clearly. Dictate can process my speech no matter how quickly I speak, problem is that when I speak fast I tend to speak less clearly. Quite often when the computer makes a mistake I playback what I spoke and the mistake was not the computer’s recognition but the fact that I did not speak clearly. Training yourself to speak clearly is probably the most important element in achieving good speech recognition.
STARTING OVER AGAIN AFTER 6 MONTHS
I found that my dictation style changed over time, so after using Mac speech dictate for a few months, I went back and created a new user and retrained it from scratch – giving be even better accuracy. I think the main reason for this is that using Mac speech dictate has trained me to speak more clearly and pronounce my letters more accurately. The problem was that when I first trained Mac speech dictate my speaking was a bit sloppy and I slurred some of my words. So going back and retraining Mac speech dictate resulted in improved accuracy because I now speak more clearly.
I use Mac speech dictate all the time. I am using it to write this article straight into my web browser. I use it to write my e-mails straight into Apple mail. I use it for all my wordprocessing in pages. Probably the limit for me is that if I was doing less than one sentence I would type it by hand, otherwise I will throw on the headset and dictate.
The accuracy is not 100%. In this particular article I have had to edit about one word per sentence. The way I do it is that I speak a sentence, then read over what I have spoken to make sure it makes sense, editing any mistakes as I go.
Overall MacSpeech Dictate a great piece of software that has revolutionised the way I use my computer. If you find yourself doing a lot of typing I would certainly recommend it!
You can buy Macspeech Dictate direct from Macspeech.
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