I started using dictation for entering text on my phone and computer when my wrists suddenly went really bad, but while my wrists are enough better that I can often type there are still a lot of cases where I dictate. Even people whose wrists are fine would benefit from trying it out:

  • It can be about as fast as typing on a real keyboard, which is great on a phone. I'm very good at swiping, but I can dictate faster.

  • On Android, at least, it does a good job even in noisy environments as long as I hold the phone close to my mouth. I can also speak very fast, faster than I can compose my thoughts, and it will still understand me. It even understands whispering!

  • I like having it as an option for composing thoughts, especially when I'm having trouble focusing. Sometimes it turns out I'm not in a good headspace for typing ideas out, but talking them through out loud works.

  • If your wrists do start hurting someday, being able to easily give them a break by switching some things to dictation can help them recover faster and make you less likely to hurt yourself. I suspect if I had been used to dictating as needed in 2020, I wouldn't have gotten to where I had to stop typing for a couple years.

There are some downsides, however:

  • The dictation built into Android isn't great with punctuation, and I often have to go back and fix things.

  • The error rate, in general, is higher. For note taking or casual texting where errors are no big deal this is less of an issue, but in dictating this post there were several places I needed to go back and fix something.

  • Because mistranscriptions look more plausible than typos I'm more likely to have errors that make it all the way through to posting: the mistakes are less likely to stand out as obviously wrong.

  • Fixing dictation errors is a little more annoying than when typing because you have to switch modes.

  • I like my dictated style slightly less than typed: it's just a bit too wordy. This makes it more important to go back over dictated posts looking for things to cut.

  • The dictation built into Mac isn't very good, and it's terrible unless I have a microphone right next to my mouth. If I want to dictate longer things (ex: this post) I'll dictate them on my phone and then edit on the computer.

  • I occasionally find myself saying "comma" or "semicolon" when talking to people.

Still, I do think most people would benefit from trying it out, especially on the phone. It takes a little getting used to, but mostly you talk and it writes things down. On Android it's just a matter of tapping the little microphone on the on-screen keyboard:

Comment via: facebook, mastodon

New Comment
10 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

as you've noticed, spoken word tends to contain more redundancy, likely for assisting noise and attention issues on the part of listeners, which is why it translates a bit poorly to written. I find spoken best for generation and outlining, followed by editing.

I found that when using voice dictation, I can do journalling and diary-writing much better (versus when I type). My thoughts tend to go deeper, I get better access to my emotions and I tend to have more awareness. Especially when I sit in a comfortable place with my phone (or walk), being able to look around and lift my eyes off the screen.

I suspect most people are not bottlenecked in their everyday work productivity by the power of their computer, but by their input and display devices and by ergonomics. When I bought my new laptop recently, I sacrificed $350 worth of power in exchange for:

  • A 17" laptop screen and a 17" portable second screen, each with a portable stand
  • A lightweight portable keyboard and mouse
  • A good backpack for carrying the computer around

For grad school, I work in many locations - home, the lab, class, flights, my girlfriend's house, my parents' house, her parents' house - and investing in a comfortable, portable computing interface has transformed my productivity.

A folding laptop stand (nexstand) + keyboard and mouse worked well for me.

I'm surprised that swiping on the phone is not more popular. All it takes is one thumb or finger and the speed is as good as with on-screen buttons, though you often trade typos for autocorrect errors.  Easy to switch if your main digit gets tired, too.

I don't like dictation because the error rate is higher (admittedly I have a foreign accent), and correction is cumbersome. If I need to say something, I can send a voice message, which most messaging platforms support natively.

None of these come close to the speed, accuracy and convenience of your regular touch typing.

it hurts my fingers badly. I use dictation when I can't use my hands.

Yeah, I can see that. Probably does not work all that well for coding.


What dictation tools are using the most advanced AI? I imagine that with newer models like Whisper, we're able to get higher accuracy than what the Android keyboard provides.

whisper is the strongest model I'm aware of being able to download, but it doesn't work great for real-time use or commands. talon is far better for configurable computer control and about as good as Android keyboard at dictation. there are commercial services even stronger than whisper.