Dictation software update.

I mentioned a while ago that I’ve been using the inbuilt dictation that comes with Microsoft Word. I think they bought some code from the guys who used to run DragonDictate. Or maybe they just bought the whole company, I'm not sure. Either way, Word’s dictation chops are not completely terrible anymore.

I had assumed that Siri probably was. She’s a bit of a Hydra-headed beast nowadays and speech recognition is just one of the things she does (or frankly doesn't do). I keep hearing that she's getting better all the time, but I can't say I noticed. Until suddenly I did.

I found myself dictating by accident into Scrivener the other day, which definitely doesn't have Microsoft’s dictation engine running under the hood, and again… it wasn't completely terrible. It was easily as good as one of the late-stage iterations of Dragon for Mac. Call it 98% accurate.

It didn't need me hooked up to wired headphones or AirPods either. I said it was an accident? It was. I must've brushed the F5 key, which in macOS triggers speech recognition. I’d been muttering to myself when I looked up and saw all of my foul-mouthed cursings on screen. I wasn't plugged into a dictation rig. The microphones on my iMac simply picked up my voice and turned it into text. It was just as accurate as any dedicated speech recognition kit I’ve used previously.

So I’ve been experimenting with it for the last couple of weeks. I bought myself an M2 Macbook Air last week in anticipation of some upcoming travel, and I wondered whether the so-called beam-forming microphones on the laptop might be even better than the ones on my relatively new desktop iMac. Spoiler, they are!

It's a pretty good native solution for a problem I used to spend a lot of money solving. There’s still some way to go, though. Every now and then it's like the software just stops listening and doesn't bother transcribing a phrase. It's also not as smooth at shuttling between dictation and the keyboard. It seems you can only be in one state or the other, which is not the case with the later versions of Dragon.

But compared with how dodgy and primitive everything was a decade ago when I broke my arm while trying to edit After America, the built-in stuff is pretty powerful and sophisticated these days. I assume it's just as good if not better over on Windows.