Find Extra Time With Software That Types Papers for You
Make a list of the most intimidating things about college, and two things are sure to be on it: paying the bill and writing papers. Financial aid helps with the first one, but options are limited for the second problem. Software can’t write your papers for you, but technology can at least make it a little easier to whip out your assignments.
Check out speech-to-text software that types as you speak. If you were lucky to get out of keyboarding class with a speed of 25 words per minute, then a speech recognition program could save you hours of pecking away at that 10-page paper. Of course, this technology is also an excellent option for people who have a physical disability that makes typing difficult or impossible. With a little (OK, maybe a lot) of practice, you may be able to totally ditch your mouse and run your computer almost entirely by voice.
About Speech-to-Text Software
Speech recognition software can be used to operate your computer, control applications, surf the Internet, post to social networks, take dictation and more. You’ll need the special software and a microphone to make it work. The software is designed to respond to your voice and a series of designated commands. You should be able to access a command reference sheet by voice, or you can print a copy to keep handy. You can set up your speech-to-text system for very little money.
To get going with your high-tech homework solution, you’ll need a computer (of course), a microphone and the speech recognition program. You can use the built-in microphone on your computer if you’re on a budget, but the accuracy may suffer a bit since the mic will also be picking up any background noise. A desktop microphone is a slightly better choice, but the best option is a good headset. Don’t cheap out and get the $5 model with the weird puffy thing on the end. You should be able to find something decent and comfortable for $30 to $40. Look for a noise-canceling microphone to improve the software’s accuracy and minimize your frustration at having to backtrack. If you have kids in the house, consider this feature to be a requirement — unless you want to have to keep repeating yourself to be heard over the noise from the kids’ fight about whose turn it is to load the dishwasher.
A couple of products dominate this arena. If you have a newer PC, do a search for “speech recognition” to test the native program from Windows. It’s already loaded on your computer, and there’s no cost to use it. If you give it a test drive and don’t like it, you can move on to a paid option or go back to typing. Nuance is the leading manufacturer of paid software, offering Dragon Dictate for Mac and Dragon Naturally Speaking for PC in home and premium versions. If you hunt around, you may be able to find bundle pricing with a headset included or even discounted student pricing. Dragon products have great reviews and an excellent reputation for accuracy, but the price tags are higher than some other programs. Other players to check out are TalkingDesktop, Tazti and e-Speaking.
If you’ve been typing for, well, years, then a speech-to-text program is going to take some getting used to. You have to retrain your brain to stop reaching for the mouse and instead verbalize the commands that are second nature for your arm and hand. Each program incorporates a tutorial and learning segment to teach you how it works while the software begins learning your voice. If you have an accent or talk fast, it could take some extra time for the software to understand your speech patterns. It’s best to put in the time to dictate the learning passages and go through the tutorials, since it will improve the system’s accuracy when you’re ready to get to work. The hardest part may be remembering to say “comma,” “period” and “new paragraph” as you go along. It shouldn’t take long to get the hang of it, though.
If you’re watching every penny and you’re on a PC, the Windows program is a perfectly good choice. It covers all the basics and the price is right. The Dragon programs have some tempting features, though, for PC and Mac users alike. From Bluetooth microphone compatibility to an increased slate of commands, these programs can handle just about any user’s needs. The newest PC version includes an option to use your Android or iOS device as a remote wireless mic, and the Mac version lets you record audio files on your iOS device for later transcription into a document. That means you could record sections of your next paper while you’re in line at the DMV, sitting in traffic on your way to work or enjoying your child’s soccer game. It’s like finding extra hours in your week.
Weigh the Benefits
If you have the patience to learn the voice commands for the interface, speech-to-text software is a tempting tech tool to help you get through school. The software is a relief for those who are slow typists or are unable to type at all. It’s especially useful for students in online degree programs with a heavy load of papers and online postings to deal with. The set-up cost won’t bust the budget, and the time savings should easily offset the investment in an upgraded program and microphone. It’s just too bad there’s no app to do the research for your paper too.