Transcribe to Mac
May 17, 2008 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend a solution for transcribing voice to text on my Mac.

Ok. What I want to do is to have a (relatively small) device that I can carry with me, and, when the mood hits, speak into the device and have it record my voice. Later, I want to have my voice transcribed into editable text on my (PowerPC) PowerBook G4, which is running OS 10.5.2. Ideally (though perhaps unrealistically) I'd like to not spend more than about $250. Questions like this have been asked before, but are either outdated, inconclusive, or recommend $400 and up machines without really addressing the transcription issue (or all or the above).

I thought that this would be relatively simple (though I guessed the transcription might be somewhat less than 100% accurate), but I'm having trouble finding any clear-cut solution. I'm willing to be open-minded about solutions, including jerry-rigging (sp?) something. What exactly are my choices here?

First I looked at speech recognition/transcribing software for the Mac. It appears that IBM's Via Voice was discontinued some time ago, and anyway it seems to only be compatible up to OS 10.3 (maybe it was discontinued before 10.4?). MacSpeech seems to have replaced iListen with Dictate, which is apparently not-compatible with PowerPC macs (like mine). iListen, from what I can tell, would work with my Mac. However, my Googling has come up short; where can one find iListen for purchase (or steal)?

Next I looked at digital voice recorders. Wow, what a swamp! Only a few products specifically mention that they are compatible with Macs, but ultimately I'm not even sure what that means. Does this mean that the recorder and the Mac can't communicate at all (like the Mac won't recognize the recorder when its plugged into USB)? Or is it just that the included software is not compatible (i.e. the Mac will recognize the recorder, but you have to use some other software to listen/transcribe the files)?

One last side note: My wife has an old micro-cassette Olympus recorder. I presume that if I could get iListen (or something similar) working on my Mac, I could sit the recorder next to the built-in mic on my laptop (or buy a line-in adapter??) and proceed from there. Any thoughts on that?
posted by segatakai to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
If it plugs into the USB, communication would not be a problem. Most digital recorders just store the recordings in plain audio files (e.g. WAV or MP3) so you should have no problem getting it onto your Mac.

Yes, if you have already got a recorder you can just get an extra cable.
posted by semi at 12:59 AM on May 17, 2008

This is a vexed question; the only realistic software option you have if you are serious about this is MacSpeech's Dictate, which (finally) is a port of Dragon Naturally Speaking's algorithms to the Mac, but you may be SOL, since it requires an Intel Mac, I believe, and it is still, like all Speech Recognition software, far from perfect and in need of lengthy training to your voice

You will pull your hair out using any prior solution, trust me - I've been following this for years and have tried everything there is to try
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:27 AM on May 17, 2008

Any old digital mp3 recorder will do, by the way; the better the mics, though, the better the SR

I would not use anything less expensive than a Zoom H2 (about $200); I've settled on the Edirol R09 as the best pocket-sized unit for most purposes however (about $400); there are options from Sony, Marantz, Nagra, M-Audio, and others out there, but forget the old Olympus unit you've got
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:29 AM on May 17, 2008

Back to point out that speech recognition requires good audio quality, so that's why I am saying to abandon any hope of playing the audio from an already crappy micro-cassette recorder into the mic on your laptop -- the loss of signal quality will be so egregious that nothing will be recognized by any SR application; you need a direct upload of a well-made audio recording, and by definition micro-cassette is crap anyway

iListen is a waste of money and effort; like viaVoice, it is hopelessly underpowered and inaccurate; MacSpeech Dictate is the first and so far only decent SR algorithm for the mac, and MacSpeech has (I think) discontinued iListen since getting their hands on the DNS algorithms for Dictate
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:06 AM on May 19, 2008

Try Jott. It's a free web app where you call it from your cell phone, speak whatever you want into it and it saves as text on your account. You can also get the text as emails, text messages, appointments, lists. Hope this helps!
posted by carofowler at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2008

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