What's the Best Speech-to-Text Software Out There?

I don’t have time to be injured.

I’m the guy in charge of keeping the wheels turning on the right tracks. This March, when carpal tunnel syndrome progressed to the point where I needed surgery, I feared that I’d have to pull the emergency brake.

On a scale of 1 to Catastrophic, the effects would be Really, Really Bad.

To minimize my recovery period, I opted to have both of my wrists operated on at the same time. Still, my hands would be all but useless for at least two weeks. When you receive hundreds of emails in one day and communicate almost exclusively by way of a computer, two weeks is two weeks too long.

Briefly, I considered forcing my co-workers to type for me. As appealing as those daydreams were, I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. So, left with no other options, I turned to a technology that we had rejected as impractical many, many times: voice recognition software.

Your basic software just wouldn’t cut it; I needed software that could send emails, create and format documents, edit spreadsheets, surf the Web, and use my company’s complex Client Management System.

So I tried the best of the best: Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking.

They’re not kidding about the “naturally speaking” part—while some programs can only interpret labored robot-speech, this program is designed to mold itself around your vocabulary, your voice, and your operating style. Over time, it can learn to insert proper punctuation just by listening to your inflection.

They’re not kidding about the “dragon” part, either—you must take the time to patiently (but forcefully) train this program. Feed it your emails. Read the pre-loaded excerpts to it. Get to know how it navigates file hierarchies. Learn which command words it responds to.

Looking back, I should have started working with this software long before my hands were bound. That way, I could have avoided a prescription-soaked, three-hour set up process and a fair bit of “Delete! Delete!

But in the end, if you take the time to romance the Dragon, it will happily walk beside you in times of need.