Dragon Naturally Speaking is far better at transcribing MP3 files into text than it used to be. Transcribing these MP3 files is a lot easier as well. Regardless, this is not a perfect process and I’ve learned a few tips to improve my transcription workflow of MP3 files and help Dragon learn and get better as I proceed.
First, (This is a onetime step) with the current versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking (this works in a similar fashion with dragon dictation) you must follow the process to create and train a profile to work with your MP3 recorder. I use a 5 year old Sony IC recorder ICD-UX70. It was not made specifically for transcription, but works great and cost far less even five years ago than ‘transcription’ friendly versions today. Essentially this consists of reading a chapter or two of a story into your pocket recorder and then running that file through the training evaluation. It’s not difficult, but be prepared to spend at least an hour at this one time task.
Dragon Naturally Speaking Tip! Always plug your MP3 recorder into the same USB drive if you are going to have the files transcribed directly off the device. Sometimes Dragon gets a little confused by a ‘newly recognized’ device that is not new, just plugged into a different port. To avoid this problem, it helps to simply transfer the mp3 file off of your device and onto your hard drive and do everything from your hard drive. I think this is faster too as you do not have to wait for transfer speeds, and if you like to ‘Playback’ a file while you are reviewing the transcription you have to keep the recorder plugged in. Forget and remove it and you might be back at square one with corrections.
Second, simply run the MP3 file through Dragon Naturally Speaking for transcription. BTW I still use Dragon Naturally Speaking 11.50.100.0039. I’ll probably upgrade when Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 comes out if I haven’t switched to a MAC by then.
Dragon Naturally Speaking Tip! While dragon supports transcribing this file to just about any text program, such as Word or WordPad or even an email in Outlook, I recommend always transcribing the MP3 file into a Dragon Pad file first.
Third, once the file is transcribed do not edit the document significantly with your keyboard or mouse. As a first step, play the document back, one paragraph at a time and insure that all the words were captured ACCURATELY! The grammar may need work, but save that for later. Do not confuse Dragon Pad’s playback capability and its opportunity to learn by moving things around, adding sentences between things, or eliminating large chunks of text (and its corresponding recording). Make sure all of your spoken words are transcribed accurately before editing.
Fourth, as you go through the document, if Dragon incorrectly transcribes a word or a phrase, highlight the word or phrase, right click, play it back again to confirm, then right click and select ‘Correct That’ to fix it. If the correct words are not automatically suggested, then click Spell That and type in the correction manually.
Dragon Naturally Speaking Tip! Since you are transcribing an MP3 file into text, this is not the time to turn on a microphone and attempt to use verbal commands to correct things. A microphone plugged in to your computer creating new sounds matched to words for a profile that is supposed to interpret the words from your MP3 recorder is just going to cause problems!
Save your Dragon Pad document after each paragraph. Nothing worse than a computer crash that wipes out a lot of effort.
Once you have confirmed that all the words are exactly how you spoke them, copy the text over into Microsoft Word or an Outlook email. Make sure the grammar checker is on in that program and now you can prepare to do your heavy editing.
Dragon Naturally Speaking Tip! Change your font, font size and font color to something larger and uglier or weirder than you would normally use. This will help convince your mind that you are editing someone else’s words and not your own. This will help put you on guard for mistakes in grammar that you might otherwise gloss over in a quick scan or read of the document. (again this works in a similar fashion with dragon dictation)
Final Dragon Naturally Speaking Tip!
Keep your recordings somewhat short. I do not know where or what the limit is yet, but when I have attempted recordings of up to 2 hours, Dragon Naturally Speaking runs into issues as it cannot both transcribe and keep the mp3 files for playback in a buffer or something. It generates what feels like (but is not) an endless series of pop up warnings that have to be dismissed for the full file can be transcribed to the end. I have had lots of success with files in the 10-20 minute range. I’ll keep experimenting to attempt to determine where the upward bound is.