AT Friday: Dragon Dictate

The AT Fellows iPad Program is underway, and students are coming in every day to pick up their shiny gadgets.  Many of these students will be using their new iPads for note-taking and dictation, so today I’d like to talk about a neat iPad app that specializes in just that.

Dragon Dictate

            Dragon Dictate is a free app which is supported on all iOS devices, and regular computers, too! Its method is simple: tap anywhere on screen, then talk for as long or as little as you want. Dragon Dictate will parse your ambiguous human lingo into the concrete world of the written word. Better, the app supports a variety of languages, including English, French, Spanish, and German.  Once it’s done (which, admittedly, can take longer than one might like), your text will appear on screen so you can copy and delete chunks of it. You can email your note as well, which is always handy. One of the annoying things about this app is that you have to be on a network for it to run, but Tufts is pretty well WiFi-ed up. If you want to increase the usability of this app, try sitting near the front of a lecture and recording your professor’s entire lecture. You can’t talk in class, but they sure can.

            I found that Dragon is eerily accurate, even in slightly noisy settings. Speaking in a quiet voice, and making little effort to TALK_LIKE_A_ROBOT, the app got almost all of my words after a slight delay. Dragon doesn’t insert punctuation, but you can insert it yourself with commands like “PERIOD.” I find that while the lack of punctuation stops lengthy notes from immediately appearing professional, it helps in one important way.

When your sentences look like something written in stream-of-consciousness sentence fragments, it behooves you to go back and make sure everything is accurate. Doing so allows you to reread your notes and organize your own thoughts better. They say that it takes about thirty seconds of batting an idea around in your head for it to stick, so if you go back frequently, ideas from class will be on your mind for longer. Granted, this is only an asset if you’re the type who cares about the punctuation of your notes, but I find it very useful.

Pros: Free, eerily accurate, simple interface, wide language support, email, copy/edit text, no robot voice needed, allows/forces you to review ideas.

Cons: Need network connection, going back to fix punctuation takes time, not 100% accurate, newest update crashes on older devices.

While this app has certain flaws, I’m constantly amazed at how far word detection software has come in the last decade. Considering it’s free, I’d say Dragon Dictate is a steal which can help your workflow in a lot of ways.

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