Transcribe Recorded Dictation with Google Docs
Published October 25, 2017
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.
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.
Transcribing with 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 Dictation
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.
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
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.
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.
A DragonPad window opens and Dragon NaturallySpeaking begins transcribing.
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.
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).
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 begins transcribing in the opened Docs window. Unfortunately, in the image above, it transcribed my formatting directions. That's not always the case.
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.
The easiest way to do it is to get a line in/line out cord (male to male Amazon affiliate link). The setup is simple. Take one 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.
Felicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low tech blogger.
Last Modified: 18 February 2023
Very interesting. Is it possible to listen to the recording while Google Docs is transcribing?
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