Not everyone likes writing – tapping away at a keyboard for what seems like hours on end.
Which can make voice to text software seem attractive: you speak into a microphone and your computer types out the words for you.
Windows has some built-in voice to text software. They don’t seem overly proud of it but you can get it set up if you follow the instructions Microsoft give.
The big bonus here is that the software is free, so you can find out whether or not voice to text is for you.
Since almost all of us speak faster than we type, theoretically it should be a lot quicker to talk our content and let the computer transcribe it.
There are a few things that get in the way (at least initially).
- Training the software. To get best results, you need to train the software to your voice. This involves reading out some pre-set paragraphs and letting the software match how you speak with the words it knows you should be saying. It’s one of those boring but necessary tasks if you’re to stand any chance of getting reliable results. Even with training, it may take quite a bit of watching and checking as you start to create content to make sure that the software gets your words right.
- Adding punctutation, etc. For me, this is the show stopper. I haven’t experienced dicatation since a geography teacher used it at school – we were supposed to write down what he way saying (instead of taking notes about it) – and the idea of speaking out commas and full stops (periods) and line breaks breaks my flow. I can hit the correct button when I’m typing easily enough. But I find that saying a complete word rather than just pressing a key semi-automatically messes with the flow of the content.
- Proof reading. Computers don’t always get things right at the best of times and voice to text software is no exception to that. In my early days of using computers, I tried using OCR software to scan in a page of printed text and turn it into content that a computer could display. The software claimed high accuracy rates – somewhere around 98% to 99% although it neglected to mention that was achieved with perfect conditions – but I quickly learned what that really meant. Which is that there were errors everywhere you looked. We had modems instead of modern things, all sorts of issues. Which meant that scanning, processing and then proof reading took almost as long as typing the content in. Until you get used to it – or maybe never – voice to text can be the same.
- Reducing external noise. In an open office environment, voice to text software will get distracted and confused by all the other voices in the room. The same goes for a coffee shop if that’s your preferred “office”. Personally I often like listening to music as I create content and that messes with the things the software is trying to understand.
If you’re hyper-organised in your thoughts and can keep yourself from being distracted then it’s maybe worth at least trialling voice to text software.
But there are other options which I think are better
- If you really hate writing content, don’t do it! Go for videos or audios instead. Plenty of people like to receive content via those options.
- Pay someone on a site like Fiverr to transcribe your spoken articles. You don’t have to tell a human transcriber where to put in punctuation or paragraph breaks – they do that automatically and most of them do quite a good job.
- Just learn to type! Keyboard skills are needed everywhere and – like everything else – the more you practice typing, the better you get. High typing speeds aren’t essential. It’s been a long time since I timed myself writing content but I manage somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 words per hour. The precise quantity depends on the distractions I allow myself to follow when I’m typing (for instance, the earlier Wikipedia link on OCR accuracy) and how much organisation my thoughts need as I’m typing. But the more you type, the faster you’ll get.
- Use predictive text. It’s not just for phones, although much like phones it will pay to check that what’s predicted is what you intended. I’ve not tried it but this software claims to do a good job and there’s doubtless other software out there that does a similar job.
Saying that using voice to text is cheating is probably an over-reaction.To my mind, any labour saving device is potentially useful.
But whatever you use to create your content, the important thing is you keep creating.