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Speech-to-text tools

Creating text on an electronic page can be challenging for a variety of reasons, including mediocre typing skills, unfamiliarity with composing directly on a computer, accessibility issues, or a learning style that prefers verbal versus written communication. There are speech-to-text software programs available, such as Dragon, but are you aware that both PCs and Macs have their own built-in speech recognition programs that will allow you to dictate text? All you need to try Windows Speech Recognition or Apple's Dictation is a headset with a good microphone and some patience. Just as learning how to type takes time and practice, so too is there a learning curve in using a speech-to-text tool. However, with practice, you'll increase your understanding of the tool while also allowing the computer to become accustomed to your speech patterns. 

If you're working on a PC, you can use Windows Speech Recognition in Wordpad to dictate text. Speech Recognition doesn't work in Microsoft Office 2010 programs (e.g., Microsoft Word); however, you could use Wordpad to create your first draft and then paste the draft into Microsoft Word to create your final version. For more information and instructions, please see Windows' information on using Speech Recognition in Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. If you're not sure which operating system you're using, please visit RRU's Computer Services website and look in the "Your computer details" box in the bottom right corner of the page. The first item in that section identifies your operating system.

For information on using the Dictation tool on a Mac, please see Mac Basics: Dictation lets you speak text instead of typing and OS X Mavericks: Use Dictation to create messages and documents.

Once you've created your text, you can also use a text-to-speech tool to listen to your work. There are many options available, but a free option recommended by Michelle Underdown, RRU's Accessibilities Services Coordinator, is NaturalReader.

I hope you'll find these tools helpful in your writing process; if you have any writing-related questions, please contact the Writing Centre.

Theresa Bell
Writing centre coordinator

(Originally published in Crossroads October 23, 2014)