Better voice-recognition software isn’t really something I’ve longed for. And yet, I’m unreasonably excited about the arrival of MacSpeech Dictate. There’s no honest way to gauge my real preference between typing and talking: speech has never been a real option. Who knows? Even if typing wins out for work writing, maybe speaking is to be preferred for the casual email or web post.
MacSpeech Dictate is fast and accurate, pouring correctly transcribed text into any program where you ordinarily type, as fast as you can speak. When I read a 1,000-word book excerpt, the program transcribed only nine words incorrectly — 99.1 percent accuracy. (I had read the four-minute training script and fed the program a folder full of documents I’d written, which is how you introduce special terminology and names to the program’s dictionary.)
You get a giddy feeling the first time you see Dictate in action; you can’t help contemplating how much more e-mail you’ll be able to plow through in a day, or how your aching hands will no longer have to keep up with your brain when you’re writing.
Dictate can also operate your computer. You can say “Open iMovie” or “Open Calculator,” for example. You can also speak menu commands and button names, and you can select text that you’ve already dictated earlier (“Select ‘five score and six years ago’ ”). At that point, you can delete it, format it or replace the highlighted phrase. You can also run AppleScript programs or open Web sites by voice.
All you see of the program when you’re using it are two small translucent floating windows (both of which you can hide, if you like). One contains the microphone on/off button. The other, called Available Commands, shows you what commands are available at the moment. Here’s where you discover, for example, the delightful “scratch that” command that deletes your last utterance and the “cap” command that capitalizes the next word you speak.