x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

App of the Week: Dragon Dictation is a real thumb-saver

Dragon Dictation's voice-to-text feature offers the joys of social networking minus all the wear and tear on your thumbs.

Screen shot of Dragon Dictation by Nuance Communications.
Screen shot of Dragon Dictation by Nuance Communications.

Etymologists, lexicologists and philologists alike would tell us emphatically, and without dubiety, that the 21st century has had a deleterious, if not pernicious effect on the fettle of discourse.

And if we bothered to look up all those words, I'm sure we would agree.

Blame the Digital Age, which has somehow managed to make typing "fun". And, as any nitpicker will tell you, fun always makes a mess of things.

Before the age of SMS and Twitter, typing was hardly a desirable past time. In fact, my mother (who graduated from business college right after the Second World War) is of a generation who solely associates the QWERTY keyboard with activities that pay by the hour.

But now, your average teen willingly texts for free (or even at great personal expense) in often very un-ergonomic positions at rates that would make Shakespeare's thumbs spasm.

It can be hard to keep pace. Not all of us were wise enough to take a typing course in high school - only to learn that classmate and co-head cheerleader Margaret Benson was not as impressed with one's ability to type 65 words per minute with a 95 per cent accuracy rate as I - I mean one - would hope.

The app

But help has arrived for the thick-fingered masses in the form of Dragon Dictation (iPhone, BlackBerry), a simple, fast and free smartphone app that does a surprisingly accurate job of turning your recorded voice into text that can then be e-mailed, SMSed, Twittered, or Facebooked at the push of a button.

To use the app, simply tap "record" and start talking (it can handle paragraphs at a time) and tap "done" when done. Then it's just a tap or two away from the social networking venue of your choice, or you can hit "record" again and the app will continue transcribing where you last left off.

How accurate is it? Consider this test.

"Dragon dictation is so good in fact that I used it do dictate this paragraph which has no edits and aside from some basic typos an run on sentences that are now almost commonplace in the texting 21st-century it did a commendable job especially when you consider I had a bit of a head cold while I was speaking."

The extras

When you first open the app, it asks for access to your contacts so it will spell them correctly when you speak their names. Though it doesn't yet work in Arabic, it will transcribe German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese as well as English.

Once the text of what you said is displayed, you can tap on the erroneous words and the app will show a pull-down menu of likely alternatives, spell-check style.

It also understands punctuation commands like "period", "colon", and "begin quote", if you can remember to say them. A keyboard for manual edits is also available, as a last resort.

But for better or worse, in the frenetic universe of texting, most will decide that close is almost always good enough.

After all, it's not like we're getting paid by the hour.

Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at cbrandao@thenational.ae