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Imagine my elation when I found out I could use Google Docs to transcribe recorded dictation. I couldn’t believe it. I knew it had the capability to transcribe voice to text, but to transcribe pre-recorded utterances? Well, that’s a horse of a different color.

Transcribe Recorded Dictation with Google Docs

As a writer, I often use voice recognition software. My software of choice is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I’ve been using it on and off for several years.There’s a steep learning curve and it has its faults, but after evolving from earlier versions to version 13, I figured I might as well stick with it.

Switching to Google Docs

When my daughter made fun of me for still using Microsoft Word, I decided to give Google Docs a try. It was an easy transition. In addition to being able to use it on all of my devices, it had a neat little feature called voice typing. Being a NaturallySpeaking user, I had to give the voice typing a whirl. I really wanted to compare its accuracy and ease of use to my expensive Dragon software.

I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy and lack of learning curve. No need to train the software or go through an installation process. All I needed to do was click on the Voice typing… menu option and start dictating into my microphone. Hmm, that was easy enough, but could it transcribe recorded dictation?

Recording the DictationRecord Dictation with Voice Memos

Some smartphones come with a voice recording apps already installed. Voice Memos is the pre-loaded voice recorder on iPhones. I’m not sure about the pre-installed app on androids. The good thing is if you don’t like the pre-loaded app (or your phone doesn’t have an app) you can always download one for free. In a later post, I’ll discuss a few of the voice recording apps I’ve used on Android and iPhone.

The app you use doesn’t make a difference as long as it records clearly enough for the transcribing software to hear. The only other thing you might want to concern yourself with is the size of the recorded file, but that topic will be covered in another post.

Several Options for Transcribing Recorded Dictation

I can’t emphasize enough the freedom of using Google docs for transcribing recorded dictation. As a long-time Dragon NaturallySpeaking user, the fact that I can transcribe dictation from any device is liberating. NaturallySpeaking does transcribe recorded dictation, but the drawback is it’s only available on one computer. To use it on more than one computer I’d have to purchase additional licenses.  They’re expensive and it’s just not a cost-effective option for me.

Transcribe Recorded Dictation with NaturallySpeaking

Google docs, on the other hand, is available on all of my computers and devices. No need to purchase additional licenses or wait until I returned home to use my desktop to transcribe (did I mention how liberating that is?)

How NaturallySpeaking Transcribes Recorded Dictation

Being somewhat picky, NaturallySpeaking requires a certain file size and format. Because I am using it on a Windows 10 computer, it will not transcribe files in the m4a format. Also, if the bitrate is too small, NaturallySpeaking throws an error message stating the file size is incompatible

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Error

After making a recording of the right bitrate and format on my phone, I send the file to my desktop computer. The send method is either email or upload to a shared drive. Once the file is in a location accessible to NaturallySpeaking, I click Transcribe Recording… from the Tools menu and dictation and begin the process.

Transcribing with Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon opens a window where I can tell it whether to pay attention to voice commands or not. I’ve found that not using voice commands gives me a more accurate transcription. Next, I locate the file, open it and click Transcribe.

Transcribe Recorded Audio

A DragonPad window opens and Dragon NaturallySpeaking begins transcribing.

Dragon Transcription

How Google Docs Transcribes Recorded Dictation

Similar to the NaturallySpeaking process, I create a dictation file. Unlike Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Google Docs doesn’t care about the file format. It also doesn’t seem to be too picky about bitrate. As long as Docs can pick up the voice clearly, it will transcribe.

Next, I open a new document in Google Docs and click Voice typing… under the Tools menu.

Voice Typing

A microphone appears. I access my recorded file and click play. I then go back to Google Docs and click the microphone to begin the transcription process (always click play on the recording first then click the microphone).

Google Docs Transcribe

It’s good to have the applications opened side by side to make it easier to click play and then click the microphone.

Google Docs transcribing recorded message

Google Docs begins transcribing in the opened Docs window. Unfortunately, in the image above, it transcribed my formatting directions.  That’s not always the case.

Pre-Transcription Setups

The Google Docs transcription method takes fewer clicks to get things going, but there are a couple of pre-transcription steps you must take. You’ve got to make sure the computer can hear the dictated file. To do that you need to link the line in with the line out jack.line in line out cord

The easiest way to do it is to get a line in/line out cord (male to male). The setup is simple. Take on end and plug it into the line in jack and the other end to the line out (headphone) jack. This way what plays is being looped back into the computer for Google Docs to hear and transcribe.

NaturallySpeaking doesn’t require such pre-transcription setups.

What about Transcription Accuracy?

Well, this post is getting rather long so I’ll discuss transcription accuracy in another post.

FeliciaFelicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low tech blogger.

4 comments… add one
  • Michael May 7, 2018, 3:17 pm

    Hello Grandma…
    Thank you for your website. I am 70 years old…definitely not an IT person. I’m trying to help a disabled friend of mine who is unable to type to use the transcription capabilities of Google Docs. He can speak to his iPhone Voice Memos and send it to his Microsoft Windows 10 computer for transcription by Google Docs. But your instructions say the first step is to “create a dictation file.” I have no idea how to do this. So I went to Best Buy to talk to their Geek Squad guys. They didn’t know either. (They didn’t even know that a pre-recorded voice could be used with Google Docs.) So, I’m at a loss. Can you possibly walk me thru this. It would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Bless you…Michael

    • Felicia Williams May 7, 2018, 3:41 pm

      Hi Michael, sorry for my confusing instructions. By dictation file, I mean any pre-recorded dictation.

      Your friend’s recorded voice memo from his iPhone that was sent to Microsoft Windows 10 would actually be the “dictation file.” In essence, he needed a pre-recorded dictation to play from his computer so Google Docs could transcribe it. He could also dictate directly into Google Docs and forgo the need to send recordings to his computer.

      Another alternative is to download the Google Docs app for iPhones. With that app he could dictate directly into a document from his iPhonoe. No need to send it to the computer for transcription.

      Hope I didn’t confuse things further. If I muddied the waters, let me know and I’ll try to put together better step-by-step instructions.

  • Paul January 1, 2018, 6:36 am

    Very interesting. Is it possible to listen to the recording while Google Docs is transcribing?

    • Low Tech Grandma January 1, 2018, 8:43 am

      Hi Paul,

      Good question. I haven’t tried it, but I’m thinking in order to listen to the recording while Google Docs is transcribing, you’ll probably need an adapter or splitter like this one: http://amzn.to/2C8LkX2 It’s the same one I use when dictating into my cell phone with a headset (the default iPhone earbuds don’t work very well).

      You’ll need to plug the male end into the headset jack of the computer. From there you could use one side of the splitter to connect to the microphone jack on the computer and the other side to a headset or speaker for you to listen while it’s transcribing.

      When I get a chance, I’ll play around with it to see if there’s a simpler way to listen while transcribing.

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