This speech-recognition app is an indispensable free tool for emailing, texting and even basic memo drafting

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By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

Dragon Dictation Logo

For some, answering emails and responding to text messages from an iPhone can be cumbersome and bit frustrating. I fall into that category: Holding my iPhone in landscape mode and using my thumbs just doesn’t seem natural. I often hit the wrong key and end up with an autocorrect disaster.

Using my iPhone upright means that I have to peck out messages with an index finger. I’m a fast typist, so doing things this way seems like shoveling snow off a driveway after a blizzard … with a spoon.

But email and texting are, by far, my preferred means of communication. In the article “How an Apple iPad Keyboard and an iPhone Made for One Happy (and Mobile) Lawyer,” we explained how an iPhone could be docked into an iPad keyboard to enable the user to respond to emails and take notes.

In this Lawyer Tech Review post, we highlight the Dragon Dictation 2.0 iPhone mobile app. (Clickable affiliate link.) The speech-recognition app is versatile, surprisingly accurate — and free.

It is my new favorite productivity tool.

I will explain some of the basic features of Dragon Dictation for the iPhone, share punctuation basics and explain how to pause and add information to create longer texts.

Dragon Dictation for the iPhone Basics

The Dragon Dictation app is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Nuance, the maker of Dragon, also offers a BlackBerry app called Dragon for E-mail and Flex T9, an Android app. (I have not tested the Android and BlackBerry apps.)

The Dragon Dictation app is offered in several languages, including U.S. English, U.K. English, European Spanish, Latin American Spanish, European and Canadian versions of French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Once you’ve downloaded the app, simply tap the Settings icon, which is found in the lower right corner of the first screen, and choose your preferred language. (My trial was in U.S. English, and the punctuation table is based on the U.S. English version.)

As the screenshots show, once the Dragon Dictation app is opened, the first screen that appears is the Tap and Dictate screen. Press the red button to start recording.

Tap and dictate Dragon screen

When you’re finished, press Done.

Dragon dictate recording for iPhone

The app processes the information, after which a screen appears with dictated text. In my experiments I found the accuracy quite good. The most difficult words were proper names. Although Dragon was able to handle the name Enrique with no problem, Ryan was converted to Brian.

But making corrections was easy – and still much faster than typing an entire message on my iPhone. In the bottom left corner of the screen is a small keyboard. When you tap on the keyboard icon, the keyboard comes up, allowing you to make changes or corrections. Once you’re satisfied, press the keyboard icon again, and the keyboard disappears.

Dragon dictation keyboard

The toolbar provides a number of options once you’re ready to transmit your message. Simply press the icon in the lower right corner to bring up the toolbar.

Dragon dictate toolbar

The toolbar is a nifty feature of Dragon Dictation 2.0. If you want to send a text, press the text icon, and the app will access your contacts. When you begin typing the name of the person you want to text, Dragon will automatically give you a menu of selections. (The same is true for email.) The toolbar allows you to post status updates in Twitter and Facebook. And the copy feature is good for many purposes – I used it to copy text and place it in my Evernote mobile app. It worked perfectly for me.

Dragon dictate tools

How to Dictate Punctuation Marks in Dragon Dictation for iPhone

In my experiments, I learned that the failsafe way to incorporate punctuation marks into the text is to use voice commands during dictation.

For example, if I wanted a sentence that looked like this:

Henry, thanks for contacting me about the deposition. How does next Tuesday at 10 a.m. work for you?

I would say this:

Henry comma thanks for contacting me about the deposition period. How does next Tuesday at 10 a.m. work for you question mark

Perhaps the trickiest command was that for quotations marks. To insert a quote, I found, I needed to pause briefly between saying the command “open quote” and beginning the first word of the sentence. The same was true for closing the quote. The command was “close quote,” followed by a pause before I started the next sentence.

Here’s a chart of punctuation marks and their verbal commands:

?Question mark
!Exclamation point
“”open quote [then pause] Close quote [then pause]
 For a new paragraph, just say, “New paragraph.”

How to Dictate Longer Texts and Resume Dictating an Open Note

If you’re like me, you sometimes need to pause while you dictate to gather your thoughts and formulate your next sentence or paragraph. You may also want to review what you’ve already said to determine whether you need to add anything.

Dragon Dictation makes reviewing dictated text and adding new text to the same note easy.

Dictate your initial text and press Done. Once the text has been processed and appears on the screen, the red Record button will still be visible at the bottom center of the screen.

Dragon dictate record button

When you’re ready to resume dictating, press the Record button and dictate. Once you’re finished, press the Done button, and your text will be added to the current note.

Have you used Dragon Dictation for iPhone or one of the other mobile apps from Nuance? What was your experience? Is there a tip, trick or shortcut you’d like to add?

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