Free best dictation software on MacOS for 2021

Viral Tagdiwala
Viral Tagdiwala
Software Developer at VoicePing

Having spoken in English to people from multiple countries, you quickly realize that one language can have multiple variations not only in the accent in which it’s spoken but also in the way in which words are phrased – imagine writing software to accommodate all of this at a fairly reasonable accuracy.

Developing a solid dictation software is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination – imagine now having to cater to multiple languages

Luckily, Macbooks are known to have one o the best microphones out there – the base variant (Air) has three mics whereas apple claims the highest variant (Pro) has apparently “studio” grade mics – four of them to not only cancel out other audio but also their internal drivers bump your primary sound further.

Who needs dictation software after all?

Students/folks in academia can use dictation software to convert speech to text saving them time to type things out manually.

People with disabilities who physically cannot type things out can use such software.

Older people/people with a lack of grasp over technology can leverage a dictation tool in order to type things out instead of trying to manually find keys on the keyboard.

What makes a good dictation software?

1: Accurate output

Output accuracy is a rather difficult metric – accuracy is of utmost importance to people who are academics/professionals where textual accuracy matters, for other people who mainly use it for casual purposes, this may not be extremely “make or break”.

2: Realtime output

Realtime output is how quickly does your dictation software throws output. As dictation software relies on the context of what is being spoken, there is an obvious tradeoff – you can either wait to listen to the entire sentence and then transcribe it or keep transcribing it on the fly with slightly less accuracy.

3: Usable as a Background Task

Background tasks that either consumes a lot of battery or a lot of computational resources are non-usable. A dictation software that especially uses the cloud to perform these operation(s) can use little to no resources on your machine whereas something that performs everything locally will consume a lot more resources.

4: Reader-friendly output format

Does the software auto break lines with timestamps for each output or does it just throw text out? The former is much more useful to folks who are delegated to record minutes of minutes even if it comes at a slight tradeoff of additional time consumption. 

5: Automatically Translation into other languages

This may not be important at all for most users since English ends up being the primary language, however, for multi-cultural teams, this may be of good importance especially coupled with real-time transcription so people from diverse backgrounds also feel inclusive in the meetings.

6: Good interface as a desktop native app

The user interface is probably of the utmost importance in a market that is especially crowded with a lot of competitors that pretty much end up doing the same work as you do. As a result, this is probably the only way to set a software solution apart from others.

Softwares we’ll be going over in this article are – 

  1. VoicePing
  2. Apple Dictation
  3. Google Docs
  4. Speechnotes

VoicePing


VoicePing is an all-in-one solution to your virtual office woes! Live transcription & translations are a pedestal of VoicePing’s selling point since we truly believe in having multicultural teams – as a result, having this feature in our own product came only naturally to us.

In VoicePing your team-mates can enter a room together and have a call (be it audio-only or audio+video) and pretty much everything you say gets immediately converted to text – not only that our premium users have an option to also translate all this in real-time facilitating employees from various geographical locations to feel a part of the team rather than an afterthought.

Our output accuracy too is unmatched, our R&D team spent months trying to hone in the best engine from the available SaaS solutions so that you don’t have to waste your time in figuring out whether or not the transcriptions are accurate.

All the transcriptions are happening in real-time, and not only that they also get synced with slack (if you wish to have this integration) allowing for a true “real-time” experience.

This was a no-brainer especially since we have translations and in order for the folks who are non-native English speakers since only if these transcriptions are real-time can they be truly a part of the team call.

VoicePing is meant to be used as a background task, our developers have ensured that our app consumes little to no resources when sitting idle in your dock since this is essential to one of our other features – time tracking. We provide a time tracker inbuilt, that allows freelancers/gig workers to log their hours all inside a single ecosystem!

The output format is reader-friendly, all the transcriptions are logged with timestamps not only on our app but also on slack!

Our user interface provides the most straightforward experience possible and most tasks can be performed within a couple of clicks!

Apple Dictation

This would be one of the obvious choices on a mac, apple dictation is available on Apple products!

However, watching the video above, you clearly see based on our tests, it certainly doesn’t live up to its 95% accuracy standards. Accuracy is haphazard at best and based on your accent you might have a tough time getting it to work properly.

Apple dictation can be accessed directly from the on-screen keyboard on an iOS device, or via a keyboard shortcut on macOS devices. As it comes pre-installed, there is no installation or setup required—just activate the software and begin to speak.

One can dictate for short periods at a time, as a result, this software isn’t ideal for long texts or for recording minutes of meetings.

This solution is ideal for infrequent use or for those who want a purely free solution.

Google Docs

Google docs is another one of those free solutions, however as we can a trend here, this isn’t the ideal cookie-cutter solution for everyone.

The dictation accuracy was sub-par at best and in our testing, with a Japanese accent, it failed to capture a lot of the words!

Based on the official documentation this is how one would go about enabling speech to text on google docs –

  • Check that your microphone works.
  • Open a document in Google Docs with a Chrome browser.
  • Click Tools -> Voice typing. A microphone box appears.
  • When you’re ready to speak, click the microphone.
  • Speak clearly, at a normal volume and pace (see below for more information on using punctuation).
  • When you’re done, click the microphone again.

A nonspeech to text, but fun features otherwise are voice commands in docs! You can quite literally end up formatting/editing the doc via your voice!

Speech Notes

Speechnotes is an all-encompassing solution which unlike the other apps listed in the breakdown, is operable across platforms (and not just limited to the apple ecosystem)

Not only that, but it also offers chrome plugins which further increases its versatility!

As far as accuracy is concerned, just like the other apps in this list, we ran our own tests, and here’s how they turned out.

All said and done, the accuracy was pretty neat however there are caveats to this – there are, as you guessed, no timestamps to the logs. As a result, it becomes worthless for recording minutes of meetings or anything in a professional scenario.

Apart from this, the formatting, in general, is not on point, making this simply a piece of software that converts speech to text, and that’s about it -the text is nonformatted, and you’d have to spend some good time to format it on your own. 

If that latter is acceptable, then we’d surely recommend speech notes!

All in all, we would recommend you check out VoicePing – we not only provide the best in class speech to text that not only handles different accents well but also provides solid integrations that are necessary for a business scenario.

We are running a campaign in which we are offering the first 30 companies who sign up to get the enterprise-grade plan for free!

Get started at app.voice-ping.co

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