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Best dictation software 2020

Best Dictation Software
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PRICE
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Dictation software has come a long way in recent years. It used to be a bit of a gimmick, but today it is changing the way companies do business. 

Dictation software makes it easier to take notes in meetings, keep track of important conversations, or transcribe documents while on the go. It can also empower persons with disabilities who are unable to type using conventional methods. As the software continues to improve, the number of business applications of this technology is rapidly increasing. 

This buying guide goes through our top five best dictation software products to help you make the right choice when investing in dictation software.

  • Want your company or services to be considered for this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to desire.athow@futurenet.com with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line. 

Best dictation software at a glance

  1. Dragon by Nuance
  2. Otter
  3. Dragon Anywhere
  4. Microsoft Word speech to text
  5. Apple dictation

Dragon Professional

(Image credit: Dragon)

1. Dragon by Nuance (desktop software)

Dictation software from an industry veteran

Industry-specific products
Advanced integration of artificial intelligence and deep learning
Lifetime subscriptions so no recurring costs 
Best-in-class accuracy
Expensive
Dragon encourages you to pay for regular updates 
Mobile software must be bought separately
No support for macOS

Dragon dictation software is widely recognized as the best in the business. Dragon products are reliable, easy to use, and among the most accurate available.

Having used Dragon dictation software on our laptop, we can attest to its best-in-class performance. In a 300 word test, the software got 299 words correct. 

Like most advanced dictation software platforms, Dragon software leverages deep learning technology and artificial neural networks. These technologies enable Dragon to adjust its transcription based on several factors, such as the amount of ambient noise, the speaker’s accent, and even the tone with which they speak. 

For businesses, several Dragon dictation products may be suitable. This is because Dragon has gone beyond merely offering one software package for all purposes, and has created dictation software custom-designed for specific industries. The most popular are Dragon Legal, Dragon Medical One, and Dragon Law Enforcement. 

The biggest downside of Dragon dictation software is the cost. For individuals, Dragon Professional costs $300. For industry-specific software, such as Dragon Legal Individual, the cost is $500. For enterprise plan prices, you must contact the Dragon sales team. 

Otter

(Image credit: Otter)

2. Otter

AI-powered dictation software

Both desktop and mobile support 
Competitive free-forever plan
Import audio and video files
Expensive
Limited customer support

One of the few dictation software platforms that can come close to Dragon is Otter. This popular software package is one of the easiest to use. It comes with several advanced features that separate it from some of the lower-ranked providers in this list. 

One of our favorite features is speaker identification. This is ideal for meetings or for when multiple are speaking in succession. When Otter software identifies a change in the speaker, it will signal this in the transcribed text. 

Otter also allows you to record from directly within the app, or import audio and video files stored on your device. And unlike Dragon, an Otter subscription includes a mobile version of the software.

There are three Otter plans available. The free-forever plan is competitive and enables you to transcribe up to 600 minutes of audio per month. The Premium Plan costs $8.33 per month and includes 6000 minutes of transcription per month and a suite of premium features. A Teams plan costs $20 per user per month with all features mentioned above plus enterprise-specific features. 

Dragon Anywhere

(Image credit: Dragon)

3. Dragon Anywhere (mobile software)

Dragon's powerful dictation on the go

Best-in-class mobile dictation software
Add custom vocabulary
Desktop software must be bought separately 
No third-party integrations

So powerful is Dragon’s mobile dictation software that it deserves its own spot on our list. Unlike its desktop counterpart, Dragon Anywhere is purchased through an ongoing subscription, rather than a one-off purchase. The software costs $12.50 per month (annual payment) or $14.99 per month when billed monthly. 

As you might expect, the mobile version of Dragon is a pocket-sized version of the desktop software. There is little if any compromise on performance or accuracy. Dragon Anywhere uses cloud-based datasets and deep learning algorithms to provide a desktop experience on mobile.

Another feature we like is the ability to teach the software new words, expand its vocabulary, and ensure that it works for you, not the other way around. This makes using Dragon Anywhere a stress-free experience.  

One of our only complaints about the platform is that you can only dictate text from within the app. If you want to move the transcribed text to another application, you’ll have to copy and paste it. This puts the platform at a disadvantage compared to in-built dictation software used in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or on iOS devices. 

Microsoft Word

(Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Microsoft Word speech to text

Powerful dictation software included with Microsoft 365

Included with all Microsoft 365 subscriptions
No installation or setup required
Accurate at distinguishing between text and voice commands
Multiple languages supported
No business-specific features
Can only be used within Microsoft Word
Can only be bought with Microsoft 365 suite
Fewer voice commands than some competitors

Although not a standalone dictation software platform, we believe Microsoft Word’s dictation functionalities merit a spot on this list. Built directly into Microsoft Word, and included with all Microsoft 365 subscriptions, it is a powerful and accurate dictation tool. 

The platform relies on vast amounts of training data and artificial neural networks, meaning it is continuously improving its ability to transcribe voice to text. Having tested Microsoft’s dictation software, we’re confident it competes in accuracy and ease of use with the leading dictation software providers. 

There are few standout features to mention, but we see this as a strength. Microsoft Word’s dictation software is straightforward to use, with no setup or installations required. It is accessible directly from the Word application, and it only takes one click to begin voice typing. 

Several voice commands enable you to take control of the document. These include punctuation marks and formatting tools. 

A final thing we like about Microsoft Word’s speech to text software is its support for nine different languages, with many more in the testing stage.  

Apple Dictation

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple dictation (iOS and macOS)

The dictation software you didn't even know you had

Free on Apple devices
No installation or setup required
Not as accurate as others
Can only dictate for short periods

Apple’s built-in dictation software is available for free on all Apple devices. It certainly isn’t the best dictation software overall, but it’s earned the final spot on our list because it is free yet highly functional. 

The software can be accessed directly from the on-screen keyboard on an iOS device, or via a keyboard shortcut on macOS devices. There is no installation or setup required—just activate the software and begin to speak. 

The software is reliable, with an accuracy rate of roughly 95%. However, you can only dictate for short periods at a time, meaning this software isn’t ideal for long texts or for people who dictate throughout their day. 

Apple dictation is ideal for infrequent use or for those who want a free but reliable dictation solution.