I was first exposed to the concept of voice type dictation as a young child viewing the original TV show Star Trek. In one particular episode involving the Enterprise travelling through time to 1960s Earth, actress Terri Garr was astonished to observe a typewriter type by itself everything she said in real-time. Even as a youngster, I thought that the concept was extremely cool and envisioned how such a device would make my school work so much easier. Over the years, I have experimented with all kinds of dictation software looking for a practical and accurate voice type dictation system to use in my legal practice.
Nuance is a leader in the development of voice to text applications for both PC, Mac and iPad. Among its products are the popular Dragon dictation voice recognition software available for PCs and Macs. It also distributes the free Dragon dictation application for iPad. Recently, Nuance introduced PaperPort Notes for the iPad. This free note taking application has handwriting, typing and audio recording capability—by itself exceptional functionality for a free App. However, what really makes PaperPort Notes special is the ability to dictate your notes in a word processing environment.
The App has a basic layout. To dictate, you select the typing mode and a small microphone appears at the top of the keyboard. Press the microphone and dictate for up to a minute. Press the microphone again and your dictation is transcribed in a matter of seconds. Then you can dictate for another minute, and so on.
As a practical matter, I have found that dictating into an iPad is somewhat awkward because you have speak near the iPad microphone for best accuracy. My solution is to use a USB headset plugged into the iPad camera adapter (you could also use a mini-plug microphone).
[NOTE: I have found that the Apple Camera Adapter also works with USB keyboards].
Using this setup, the voice dictation accuracy of the App is very good—in fact, it seems to be more accurate than my relatively expensive PC desktop version of Dragon 11 premium. This is probably explained by the fact that the processing of the dictation for the iPad App is accomplished on Nuance’s powerful servers via the internet, instead of by software on my more limited PC. The one weak area is proper names. With the PC version you can teach the program new words and proper names. There is no such capability for PaperPort Notes.
Once you have completed your dictation, you can edit your work with the typewriter feature. There are multiple export options, including emailing the dictation out in various formats, or transferring it via DropBox. (See below)
I dictated this blawg entry using PaperPort Notes. After editing, I then emailed the document to myself. Upon receipt, I cut and pasted the PDF text into MS Word. This App could really be improved by an export as Word document feature similar to that found in the Pages App. However, it is useful in my practice in its present form given its dictation capability. Since its free, why not give PaperPort Notes a try? I think you will be impressed.