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The 2013 Technology That Changed My Life

Sometimes it is the little technologies that make a big difference. My great discovery from 2013 is voice-to-text technology.

I am a reasonable two-handed typist (I'm sure I'm over 25 words a minute), but find I make frequent mistakes and end up being quite inefficient. I had tried to use the Dragon Dictation app on my phone a few years ago but I found it to be too buggy.  I never found Siri to be particularly useful unless I'm desperate while I'm driving.

When I finally upgraded my RAM on my MacBook Pro last year, I felt I could afford to upgrade to the Mountain Lion OS.  One of my big motivations was the built-in voice-to-text.

When I discovered I could write emails in half the time, my joy was complete.  I save my emails for the last task of the day (see why here).  Now I'm the email slayer.  Hiyahhh!

The Mac OS software has limitations.  You can only dictate for 30 seconds.  It does not remember the things that are unique to my vocabulary.  It Is web-based software so it only works with an Internet connection.

I finally invested in Dragon Dictation for my MacBook and have found it to be worth the investment ($130 on Amazon).  Here are a few reasons…

    - It is customizable and remembers my unique names and vocabulary.
    - It is local to my hard drive so I can use it at all times.

    - It is much faster than the Mac software.

The main disadvantage of Dragon (other than the cost) is that it does not play nice with Microsoft Word. It competes for RAM, the fan goes crazy, and it just doesn't work for me. So I am forced to close all my Word files and use it only for emails.  But it is still worth the savings in time.

So, here's my advice...

1. First try voice-to-text for texting.  It is the little microphone icon on your keyboard on both the iPhone and Samsung.  You will never convince me you're faster thumb-typing then you are at speaking. 

2.  Then try using voice-to-text on your Mac (if you have one).  I have found the onboard mic to be adequate in a pinch, but if doing a series of dictations, I use earbuds for better accuracy. 

3. Invest in Dragon Dictation if you want a better solution (or you don't have a Mac). 

4. Trust, but verify.  Yes, you still have to check the transcriptions.  If you've received a text or email that just doesn't make complete sense, you can guess the culprit is someone who didn't honor this principle.  There are quite a few humorous examples of mistakes ("Can you tell everyone in the van that they're cheap?").

Every once in while you have to run the risk of a new technology in order to get the reward of a whole new way of doing things.   This is one of my themes for 2014.  Do things differently, do different things.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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