I didn’t expect to see it, but here it is: a freeware speech recognition software, and a good one at that.
DictationPro is a full-fledged speech-to-text software that can recognize words spoken through a microphone with a high degree of accuracy. It is ‘trainable’ such as to better recognize a particular person’s voice over continued usage.
The program also features simple voice commands that can perform various formatting tasks as well, as deleting, copying of words and phrases. It also has the ability to store and recognize user defined ‘frequently used’ or technical words and phrases.
Works on Windows 7 and Vista, and you will need a good quality microphone to use this software effectively.
How it works: once installed, the program will create a default user profile and go through microphone testing segment and a ‘training’ session, both of which involve reading some on-screen sentences aloud. The training session will familiarize you with the various formatting commands. Otherwise, when this is done, the program looks and feels like a typical word processing program, and where you can press the microphone on/off button to enable input.
More notes on this program:
- Voice commands: pressing ‘CTRL’ as you speak lets DicationPro know to listen for commands. Commands take a little bit of getting used to, and their effectiveness is acceptable but not great. I would say editing/selecting/cutting via the mouse is preferable.
- Profiles (and training): your voice and intonation will be different than another persons; DictatoinPro will let you create different profiles for different people, and allow you to ‘train’ each profile separately.
- Defining frequently used phrases: DicationPro will let you predefine a custom list of words or phrases that are atypical and/or that you frequently use (e.g. I immediately went in and defined ‘Freewaregenius’ and ‘Freewaregenius.com’
- The word processor component: is what you would expect; a fairly competent word processor which offers rich text editing, tables, spellchecking, etc; significantly, it can save in DOC, DOCX, RTF, PDF, and TXT formats.
- The learning curve: while this software is fairly intuitive and has a very good help file, a video tutorial would be very useful as well; esp. for commands (as far as I know there isn’t one at the moment of this writing).
The verdict: what I found is that switching from the keyboard to speaking into the microphone takes quite a bit of getting used to, and is far from intuitive (esp. when our brains are so used to the keyboard). But if you want to do speech to text, or if you have to do it, you will find DictationPro to be a surprisingly robust and competent software.
But you will get as much out of this program as you put into it; train the program to your voice, define all the frequently used and technical phrases that you can, and get to grips with the ‘commands’ if you need to.
I’ve been asked about freeware speech to text a number of times by friends and readers who eventually had to resort to the (paid) Dragon software (which they’ve subsequently given mixed reviews). So it is thrilling for me to have found a speech to text software that is of this quality. I can only hope is that it remains under development and free.
[Thanks to reader Panzer for tipping me off about this software]
Version Tested: 0.9 beta
Compatibility: Windows 7, Vista. Requires a good quality microphone.
Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 8.16 megs).