Are you a writer looking for the best dictation app solution? You’re in the right place.
How did I ever come to use such an app?
It all started with pain. Productivity improvement wasn’t even the issue.
After years of keyboard grind, I got symptoms of repetitive strain injury. This made writing, my dearest passion harder than it already was.
My quest for relief included buying a vertical mouse and creating an ergonomic workspace.
But the game-changer was installing a dictation app (or speech-to-text software, if you will) on my computer.
Using this app, enabled me to work pain-free once again. It also dramatically improved my writing productivity and performance across-the-board. After all, we can speak three times faster than we can type. Did you know that?
Nowadays, writing on my keyboard seems archaic. I wouldn’t go back tapping my meat sticks on tiny pieces of plastic, even if you paid me top dollar.
The dictation app I’ve found boosted my productivity by at least 30%. I went from around 700 words per hour to a bit over 1000 words per hour.
Just keep in mind that your work may need more editing if you dictate instead of typing. But hey, isn’t editing the easier part?
In this article, I’ll give you a list of nine top speech-to-text apps you can use to shatter it as a writer.
List of the best dictation apps for writers you for professional or personal use:
1. Nuance Dragon Individual 15 – Starting at $150 for a lifetime license (it’s worth it) – available on Windows and Mac. That’s the one I’m using right now.
2. Google Docs Voice Typing – Free, web-based tool available on all platforms.
3. Apple Dictation – Free, available for Mac users.
4. Braina Pro – Starting at $49 for a 1-year license – available on Windows.
5. Windows 10 Speech Recognition – Free, available on Windows (duh!)
6. Speechnotes – Free, web-based tool available on all platforms.
7. Dragon Anywhere – the best mobile app for power users, including advanced features ($14.99 per month or $149.99 per year). Available on Android and iOS.
8. Google Mobile Voice Typing (Gboard) – the best free mobile solution for Android users.
9. Siri Dictation – the best free mobile solution for Apple users.
Now let’s leave the shallow waters and so you can learn more about each dictation app.
The 9 Best Dictation Apps For Writers
1. Nuance Dragon Individual 15
My top pick and the software I use every day as a writer.
This app is my chief recommendation, and it’s the one I use regularly (even to write this blog post).
It’s not free and you would need to pay $150 for the lifetime license for the Home Version. But it’s worth every penny.
Once I shifted from a free dictation app to Nuance Dragon, I’ve noticed a big boost in productivity. With Dragon, you get 99% voice recognition out-of-the-box, and it even improves over time.
Indeed, this is more than a dictation app. It allows you to do all sorts of tasks on your computer by using your voice. What kinds of tasks?
Mostly surfing the web, opening programs, text editing, and OS navigation.
But the biggest game-changer is that with Dragon, you can write in any text field (chats, apps, emails, social media, etc.)
The app is 100% compatible with Microsoft Word, and it has over 60 different voice commands. It has a few minor drawbacks, but all in all, I wouldn’t exchange it for any other app.
Price: $150 (Home version), $300 (Individual Professional version)
Platform: Windows and Mac
Available languages: English (all variants)
|99% voice recognition out-of-the-box.||It’s only available in English, so If you want to dictate in another language, check out option number two in this review.|
|Over 60 different voice commands that are useful for writing and editing.||The browser extension is not entirely functional yet.|
|You can use the software across all communications platforms (chat, email, etc.). This will make your workflow so much faster.||It’s not fully compatible with Google Docs.|
|You can turn the dictation on and off with a simple press of a button.||There will be no further software updates for Mac users.|
2. Google Docs Voice Typing
Best for total beginners when it comes to writing with a dictation app.
This is the best free option you can use to start your dictation journey. I used it for at least a couple of months before upgrading to Nuance Dragon. While it’s not perfect, it served me well and taught me how to write in hands-free mode.
The best thing about it is that it’s free and you don’t even have to sign up for anything. You only need to create a blank document in Google Docs, go to Tools in the upper menu and choose “voice typing.”
This will open up the dictation tool and a menu from which you can choose your preferred language. This is where it excels – the number of world languages and English variants it supports.
Platform: Web-based tool
Available languages: It has voice recognition capability in several different languages (80+). English in its various accents works best, but other languages like French or Spanish work great as well.
|It’s available in a few dozen different languages, so it’s a perfect choice if English is not your native tongue.||The app only works within Google Docs.|
|It’s free, and with ample practice, you will find it effective in converting speech into text.||The voice recognition quality is not the highest.|
|It’s browser-based, so you don’t have to install anything.||The dictation function stops automatically after a moment of silence.|
|It doesn’t have any extra commands.|
3. Apple Dictation
A free speech-to-text tool that comes with all Apple devices.
This should be your first choice if you’re a Mac user and on the hunt for something free that works. All you need to do to activate it is go to system preferences, then click “keyboard”, followed by “dictation”.
This will take you to the menu where you can turn it on (along with the enhanced dictation capability for off-line use).
One thing great about it is that you can turn it on and off by using a keyboard shortcut.
This gives you broader capabilities than the free tool from Google Docs because you can write across different platforms.
What I like about Apple Dictation is that it has many extra commands you can use to format your text. For example, it allows you to open parenthesis, quotes, or add new lines or paragraphs. This makes it convenient if you want to avoid touching the keyboard altogether.
Available languages: All in all, you can dictate in 31 different languages: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
|It’s free.||It’s only available for Mac users.|
|You can use it across many different apps and in your browser.||You cannot use it with Google Docs.|
|The app has a lot of extra voice commands you can use.||If you have an older Mac device, you can only dictate for 30 seconds before it turns off automatically.|
4. Braina Pro
Here’s an app that recognizes many languages and serves as your personal assistant.
It’s the biggest competitor of Dragon Naturally Speaking, and it lets you dictate in languages other than English.
It has a speech-to-text feature in 120 languages. It also recognizes local dialects, so you don’t have to worry that it will misspell words if you have an unusual accent. Just like Dragon, it comes with 99% speech recognition capability out-of-the-box.
You don’t even need to “train” the app by dictating loads of text so it gets used to your pronunciation. You can set it up in a matter of minutes and start enjoying increased productivity in hands-free mode.
You can even take advantage of added voice commands such as “new line” or “delete that”.
Braina will help you write in any text field. This includes your email client, social media platforms, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or any other text editors. Moreover, you can use it even in noisy environments, provided you have a decent microphone.
The app also has a virtual assistant function. It’s better than Siri or Cortana in this regard, as it’s designed for maximizing productivity, especially for writers.
For example, you could say “synonyms of joy,” and it will generate an answer. There are dozens of commands like that, and you can check them here.
Finally, the Braina mobile app lets you control your PC through your mobile device. You only need to be connected to a home Wi-Fi network.
Price: $49 for a 1-year license, $239 for a lifetime license.
Platform: Windows (there’s also a mobile app on Android and iOS, but it comes with limited capabilities).
Available languages: 120 languages in total (including regional accents).
|Available in 120 languages.||You can only use it if you have an internet connection.|
|It has a virtual assistant option that uses AI to improve your productivity.||Not available for Mac users.|
|It allows you to control your PC through a mobile app.||You might experience a few issues when it comes to punctuation.|
|It allows you to write in any text field.|
5. Windows 10 Speech Recognition
A useful free dictation app for Windows users.
If you’re reading this on a Windows PC, you can try out this free tool right now. Open “Control Panel” and click on “Ease of access” and then “speech recognition.”
Then click on “start speech recognition”. Afterward, you’ll need to go through a couple more steps (like setting up your microphone, etc.) before you’re ready. But the whole setup should take no more than five minutes.
Now you’ll be able to use speech recognition for writing, and use voice commands to control your computer hands-free.
Once the app is in listening mode, you can start using commands like “comma”, or “open quote”, and even do basic web searches.
But in the final analysis, the app lacks advanced voice recognition capabilities and commands you can find in Dragon or other apps.
Price: Free (assuming you already have Windows installed on your computer)
Platform: You’ve guessed it – Windows
Available languages: English (U.S. and UK), French, German, Japanese, Mandarin (Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional), and Spanish.
|It’s a free app you can immediately try if you’re working on a Windows PC.||The app is only available in a couple of languages.|
|It has a few useful voice commands that enable you to control your PC.||It lacks the advanced features and commands of other dictation apps.|
|It has a “mouse grid” feature that lets you click on specific objects on the screen.||The speech recognition quality is not always up to par with your expectations.|
|It doesn’t work well with web browsers.|
A free browser-based dictation app with a user-friendly interface.
This free app only works in Chrome, but you can check it if you’re looking for a free, easy-to-use speech-to-text tool. All you need to do is to open it in your browser, and you are ready to write.
Once your text is in the editor, you can use the “read it out loud” function to eliminate any typos or grammar issues.
The best part about Speechnotes, however, is that it’s also a free Chrome extension.
It’s used by over 100,000 people and has a 4.5-star rating on Chrome Web Store, so you might give it a try. It offers excellent features like autosave, exporting the text to Google Drive, printing, automatic capitalization of letters and more.
You can also spend five dollars a month to buy the Speechnotes Premium version. It will let you work in full-screen mode (great for focus and concentration), automatically count words, and get rid of ads.
Price: Free, with in-app purchases ($5 a month)
Platform: Web-based tool, Android app, and a Google Chrome extension.
Available languages: 11 Languages in total – English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic.
|It has an excellent interface that lets you start writing like a pro within a few minutes.||It’s only available in Google Chrome.|
|It lets you read any text out loud for proofreading.||It doesn’t work too well if you dictate in languages other than English.|
|It comes with a Chrome extension that lets you dictate into any text field on any website.||It doesn’t let you edit or format text.|
|It has a fast “copy to clipboard” feature that lets you transfer text to other apps.||It lacks advanced voice commands.|
7. Dragon Anywhere
The best mobile app for power users, with advanced built-in features.
This is the top choice if you’re a writer who loves to crunch out words onto your mobile screen.
Whether you’re sitting in a local cafe, shopping, or even walking in the park – it’s always there with you.
It’s nice especially if you already use Dragon Naturally Speaking on your desktop computer. In fact, it shares a lot of similar features.
It lets you dictate without any word limits, and with a 99% accuracy rate if you’re a native English speaker. What’s more, it allows you to open the correction menu to rectify any spelling or grammar mistakes.
You can also program it to understand industry-specific vocabulary, so you don’t have to hand-type it like with other apps.
Like the regular Dragon, the app uses advanced deep learning algorithms that adapt to your speech patterns. Many professional authors use this app to write complete book manuscripts, as it lets you dictate up to 5000 words per hour.
Price: $14.99 per month or $149.99 per year.
Platform: Android and iOS.
Available languages: English (all variants and accents)
|Just like Nuance Dragon but on your mobile device. It lets you format and edit text seamlessly through voice commands.||If you’ve never used the Dragon software before, it might take a while before you get completely used to it.|
|It allows quick exporting to Dropbox and Evernote.||It’s a paid app (see pricing).|
|You can add industry-specific words to improve dictation accuracy.||It’s not always 100% accurate, but it gets better the more you use it.|
|It supports “auto-texts,” which are frequently used passages you can insert into the editor with a single-word command.|
8. Google mobile voice typing (Gboard)
The best free mobile solution for Android users.
If you’re already using Gboard on your Android device, then switching to voice typing is a no-brainer.
I’m using this feature all the time for taking notes in Google Keep and composing articles in Google Docs. I also find it useful when writing emails or writing social media posts while out of the office.
Of course, voice recognition quality depends on the type of microphone you’re using.
Your built-in smartphone mic is usually enough. But if you’re seriously considering voice-writing on your phone, you should invest in an inexpensive lapel mic ($15-$20) with a 3.5 mm jack that can be plugged into your phone.
This will vastly improve your results and turn your phone into a professional writing machine.
Moreover, this app works in 120 languages, so it’s great if you’re multilingual and want to switch from one language to another fast.
And the best part? You can even type while being offline. That’s perfect if you’re exploring the wilderness or sitting on a long-haul flight.
Available languages: 120 different languages.
|It’s free and does a good job.||It doesn’t allow you to format or edit the text using voice commands.|
|It’s not as accurate as other paid tools.|
|You have to keep pressing the “dictate” button as you go along.|
9. Siri Dictation
The best free mobile solution for Apple users.
If you have an iPhone or an iPad, Siri Dictation is your best mobile dictation option.
First of all, it’s completely free, and like all Apple products, it has a slick user interface. It even displays a sound wave graph, based on what you’re saying. This gives the professional sense you won’t get when using an Android device.
Siri Dictation is also perfect for multilingual users. That’s because you can quickly switch between languages with a single tap of a button. If you have a fast iPhone, you can write up to 300% more rapidly than by tapping with your fingers.
Moreover, Siri comes with a bunch of advanced dictation commands that let you format text. For example, you can say “dollar sign” and the sign will automatically appear on the screen. With dozens of other symbols on hand, this is a huge time-saver.
If you need help in setting it up, you should check out this comprehensive guide to Siri Dictation.
Available languages: 120 languages.
|It’s free.||It takes a little bit of time to learn all of the dictation commands.|
|It has a great multilingual dictation option, and it’s available in dozens of different languages.||It’s not always entirely accurate, but it does the job pretty well.|
|It even works on Apple Watch.||The dictation tool switches itself off automatically after a few seconds, so you need to re-press the dictation button to make it work.|
|It has an offline dictation feature.||It’s not great for producing lengthy documents.|
The Top 5 Benefits of Using a Dictation App For Writing
1) It’s faster
I used to write around 700 words an hour on a keyboard. But with a high-quality dictation app, I increased my output to about 1200 words in the same amount of time. That’s a considerable boost in productivity.
2) It’s more ergonomic
I so wish that someone told me about dictation software a couple of years ago. It would have saved me from a tremendous amount of pain and frustration. By using voice to write and edit, I’ve been keeping my valuable wrists, neck, and back pain-free.
3) It lets you “write as you speak”
Now, you can put this classic writing advice into action because you’ll be talking to your computer. This makes your content much more readable and devoid of complicated terminologies.
4) It makes you a better verbal communicator
By dictating your books, articles, and essays, you become better at enunciating precisely what you want to say.
5) It’s the future
You’re probably already using voice to communicate through a variety of apps. Using your voice for writing is the logical next step.
Additional Dictation Tips For Writers
Bonus Tip #1: Use the right microphone to get the most out of the dictation software
I learned that using a proper microphone is one of the best things you can do to improve the quality of dictation.
Even if you get the best piece of software, you won’t get an optimum result if you’re speaking into a crappy microphone.
You can choose between three different popular types, depending on your needs.
First on the list is a Bluetooth headset, which you can get from anywhere between $30 and $100. It’s the most recommended option by the majority of dictation app designers.
That’s because the microphone is placed right next to your mouth. This allows the device to pick up sound waves better for a more accurate text interpretation.
This writing gadget also lets you dictate while walking around your office, which may be convenient. The only drawback here is that you won’t be able to dictate and to listen to music on your headphones at the same time.
Here’s a recommended model you can use:
- Sensors route and auto-answer calls: Smart sensor technology intuitively directs...
- Voice command: Use your voice to answer or ignore calls, check battery level,...
The second option is a podcasting microphone. This is convenient for many users because it allows you to dictate while listening to music on your headphones. On the minus side, a mic like this takes up more space and has to be fixed to your desk.
Here’s a recommended model you can use:
- Plug and Play: (Note: Not compatible with Xbox.) With USB A to B cable, Q9...
- Great Sound of Fidelity: The cardioid condenser capsule enables the Q9 to...
Option number three is the best of both worlds. A gooseneck microphone gives you all the flexibility while picking up sounds perfectly.
Yes, you still need to sit (or stand) at your desk to make it work. But at least it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it can provide a desirable dictation quality.
Here’s a recommended model you can use:
- Cardioid polar pattern with tailored response for speech
- CommShield Technology that guards against unwanted RF interference from portable...
Bonus Tip #2: How to use dictation for maximum speech-to-text efficiency
Once you have the right software and hardware in place, the only thing you need to do is to learn how to dictate accurately.
- Speak rhythmically and pronounce words clearly
- Speak in full sentences (otherwise, the software may “think” you’re starting another sentence and capitalize words)
- Speak directly into the microphone and keep it close to your mouth
- Before starting your sessions, do a couple of mouth warm-up exercises or read a paragraph from a book out loud.
If you want to learn and master the skill, you can read a book like “Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter” by Monica Leonelle.
In 59 pages, you’ll get all the info you need along with exercise prompts.
Upgrade your skills to thrive in the voice-first world. It’s the future of writing and communications.
The days of tapping your fingers on the keyboard are slowly coming to an end. I’m delighted that you are looking for an excellent dictation app to usher you into the voice-first future.
You’re probably already using apps such as Siri, Cortana, Google Home, or Alexa. Plus, you’re already sending lots of voice messages to your family, friends, and colleagues. This is simply a better, faster, and more ergonomic way to produce content.
All you have to do is take the same functionality and implement it in your writing craft. I guarantee that it will improve your productivity a lot, and you’ll never want to go back to the keyboard again.
Have you used any of the apps listed above? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.