Voice Recognition software has made impressive gains in recent years. With the advent of handheld touch screen devices, it is making its way into everyday life for a growing number of people. Moreover, voice recognition is rapidly becoming more accurate. This is great news for individuals who struggle with writing!
In this post, I’m highlighting free options that work well on a variety of platforms–iOS, Android, Mac/PC/Linux via the web browser, and on the PC whether it is online or off line. My focus is on the use of speech recognition for writing, not on using it to activate or control applications.
Cross-Platform Options (Mac/Windows/Linux)
TalkTyper is by far the best cross platform option I have tried. It is available via a site that functions only in the Google Chrome browser. TalkTyper also offers high quality text-to-speech so that the person dictating can listen to whatever he or she has written. The user must be online. I’ve recently written about TalkTyper in greater detail in another post.
Install Chrome extension Adblock Plus to automatically remove ads from TalkTyper site that may be in appropriate in a school setting
Voice Search is a purpose-specific option that is also available on multiple platforms by way of Google’s Chrome browser. Voice Search enables the user to use voice recognition to enter search terms. Voice Search works well for entering search terms, and it also functions well in many other online text boxes. Voice Search is available from the Chrome Web Store as an extension for Chrome. I’ve written more about Voice Search here.
iOS Options (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)
Dragon Dictation provides excellent voice-to-text on all iOS devices, as long as those devices are online. In iOS5, text-to-speech is available to read dictated text via the built-in ‘Speak Selection‘. Please note: text dictated into Dragon Dictation can only be copied to the clipboard if the keyboard is visible on screen. Knowing this is especially important for anyone needing to use Speak Selection to hear what he or she has written. I wrote briefly about Dragon Dictation here.
PaperPort Notes is a free multifaceted note-taking app for the iPad that includes speech recognition for dictation. This app also offers the ability to annotate PDF files, create text boxes, and more. I’ve written more about PaperPort Notes here.
Voice recognition works brilliantly on Android handheld devices. My experience has been with Android 4 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”). The default Android keyboard includes a key showing a microphone, and this brings up Android’s built in voice recognition. Voice to text can be used in any situation where you would otherwise use the keyboard.
flext9 is a free alternative keyboard for Android devices that offers four ways to input text, including voice recognition. In my experience, it works extremely well; and I have set this keyboard as the default on my Android tablet. I have written more about the flext9 here.
It is worth noting that the Evernote app for Android has recently added speech-to-text.
Windows 7 and Vista
The voice recognition built into the Windows 7 and Vista operating systems is excellent, and it is available whether or not the user is online. I have used it, and it works well for me. ars technica has written a detailed overview and review.