I currently have a little Phillips hand-held digital voice recorder that came with Dragon Naturally Speaking’s transcription software (Philips DVT2700). (Note: The software is ONLY the transcription portion and it can ONLY transcribe an audio recording.)
After the initial “training” (recording myself reading 15 minutes of a specific document and letting Dragon transcribe it) I did several recording sessions just to get the hang of the whole… everything. Dictating is alien to me, and probably to a lot of other people.
My family had jokes about how much, and fast, I talked growing up but for more than a decade I’ve worked in jobs where I have little human contact on a daily basis (As in, less than 5 minutes a day in the offseason). So, I lose my voice quickly. Dictating for 15 minutes starts making my voice a little froggy. I’m sure that with practice I’ll soon be back up to my old butt-of-the-family-jokes self again.
Also, Composing anything through dictation is a different skill set from composing through typing or writing. The skills don’t transfer over. It’s a lot like when you were learning to type. Learning to touch type required drills of increasing difficulty and patience (or if you can’t touch type, it at least required practice before you got to the speed you are now). So I can expect nothing less from learning to dictate.
Since I’m pretty sure that typing drills won’t help, I started out my first few morning and evening commuting sessions with simple stream-of-consciousness chatting with myself. I treated it sort of like a journal and talked about what I was doing, why I was doing it, what was going on in the road, etc. I figure that there will be a decent learning curve to this and I won’t be dictating novels within the next month.
Here are some things I have discovered since getting the Philips DVT2700:
- Batteries. The recorder takes two AAA batteries. I only just hit the yellow after 10 hours of recording, though, so that’s not bad. But I’ll be getting rechargeable batteries (I already have the charger, yes).
- Voice Activation: The recorder has a setting for voice activation so that the recording pauses after 3 seconds of silence and then it records a constant 5-second loop that it will only save once speech resumes (so you don’t lose your first couple of words). That’s a great feature… except I can’t use it. My car cabin is noisy enough that, even if the feature is at the least sensitive setting, if I drive more than 35 mph the recorder never pauses and I get a lot of dead air that I wouldn’t get if I wasn’t in a moving vehicle. It’s not that big a deal except that I believe it is hindering Dragon’s accuracy and Dragon goes through the audio recording at speed. So it takes 40 minutes to go through a 40-minute recording even if 35 of it is dead air.
- I have downloaded Audacity and will look into cleaning out the background noise and saving the file as an MP3 again, and seeing if that helps any, but it’s not a priority right now.
- Another option is seeing if a microphone cover would be of any use.
- No mic jack. I believe I would get better use out of the voice activation feature if I had a lapel mic or something, but without a mic jack, that’s not possible. So, I have to rely on the built-in microphones (which actually work great, but are a liability in my specific situation).
- No clip! I have not yet devised a way to secure this silly thing up near my mouth. I am driving and don’t want to keep picking up the device and holding it near my mouth when I want to record. I’ve tucked it into my shirt and under my bra strap with mixed results.
Most of these things are only a problem because I’m dictating in a car, and don’t seem to be an issue if I dictate outside or in the car when it’s not moving. Dragon still does pretty well if I have the mic up close to me and I take care to speak clearly instead of going all mush-mouth. One day I may upgrade my little recorder to something with better features, but this will suffice as a training model until I get through the honeymoon phase and learn if I’m going to stick with this.
I want to point out some things for others who may follow this route:
- As of December 17, 2016, the recorder comes with the Audio Transcription portion of Dragon 2013. Again, this is the transcription only. You won’t be able to talk to Dragon directly.
- It does use some of the commands such as, “Full Stop,” “Open Quote/Close Quote,” “Comma,” “Semicolon,” “Colon,” “Open Parentheses/Close Parentheses,” “New Line,” “New Paragraph.”
- It does not seem to use “Strike That” (despite supposedly being able to?), “Tab,” or any f the bolding or bullet point commands… or I just fail at them.
- It is hit and miss on full caps commands… again, it could just be user error.
- It DOES work on Windows 10.
- It takes forever to install (seriously, it’s like… install-an-operating-system slow) and sometimes even looks like it stopped installing. Just let it be and it’ll get there.
- The Philips DVT has lousy documentation included with it. It’s literally just a bunch of pictures with no explanation. Seriously, “Push the record button” is apparently a picture of the record, stop, rewind, and fast-forward buttons, just like “Push the stop button” is. But being the resourceful Librarian that I am, I hunted up the full manual and also found information on Nuance’s website about using the transcription product. Those are both very helpful.
- Follow instructions in Nuance’s website help section to set your software to the highest transcription accuracy setting rather than transcription speed.
- Train the dragon constantly. This means that you’ll transcribe your recording into Dragon Pad, read through the document to find weird spots, select the weird spot, right click, choose “correct that” and listen to what you said and choose the closest correction
- Dragon works best with phrases. Try highlighting 3 or 4 words, right click, choose “correct that” again. If it doesn’t give you the correct options, highlight the problem word and see if it gives you the correct option then. If THAT doesn’t work, I go back and highlight 3 or 4 words (a phrase), choose “correct that” and THEN choose “Spell That” so that I can type in the correct phrase.
- The places where transcription is horrible is honestly in places where the road is super noisy or I got ridiculously mush-mouthed. Somehow I made the word “royal” literally sound like “road.” I don’t know how I did it and I can’t replicate it, but I definitely did it.
Anyway, so far I found that I like this silly little recorder, even with all of its quirks, a lot more than I thought I would. I’m already thinking of upgrading, and I’m finding my creative juices, long dormant, flowing again.