Although I am re-reading A Game of Thrones, this Saturday Selection has nothing to do with those dragons. Instead, I’m head over heels for the Dragon app on my iPad mini. Let the swooning begin.

My Search for Dragons

I went in search of this app because I HATE typing. Short blog posts and letters are no problem, but I write all my first drafts out in long hand (I just think better with pen and paper). This means I have to convert my scrawl into words on a screen, which in the past has involved hours upon hours of miserable typing that not only takes forever, but also gives me aches in my hands, eyes, head and back.

So, every time I finish a first draft (as I’ve recently done), it’s a “YAY” and then an “ugh” when I think about typing out over 200 pages of text.

Before I had finished the draft, I found the Dragon Dictation software you install on your computer. I thought my problems and pains were solved. Unfortunately, a little research showed my computer doesn’t have the right inner bits to use the software (and I’m not one to put money into upgrading my computer’s inner bits).

After the excitement of thinking this software was the best thing on earth and then finding out I couldn’t have the best thing on earth, I was not a happy writer. Then I thought, “Is there an app for that?” One little search later and holy crap, there was! And it was free! (The software would have cost about $50. Yay bargains!)

dragon appI downloaded it and gave it a little test. Seemed to work; it even managed the curse words my husband urged me to try out on it (we’re not so mature). But the real test would come when the draft was done.

Taking My Dragon for a Spin

The first real test with the Dragon app had me wondering about how well it would serve my needs. Without looking at any of the app’s info, I read the first chapter.

What a mess! It was one long block of text, no punctuation, no line breaks, and several errors. But, still, easier than typing so I thought I’d try chapter two.

This time I read the app directions before jumping in and learned how to insert punctuation, quotation marks, and paragraph returns. There were still some spelling/recording errors, but chapter two looked just like I’d typed it out! Woohoo!

The key thing to remember, is to read what you see rather than reading to “perform” what you’ve written. This is dictation, not your audition for an audiobook reading gig.

Again, it’s not perfect, but for zero money down, I have no room to complain about how this app performs.

Playing Nice with Dragons

By “not perfect” I mean the app does mess words up now and then, but this may have more to do with me not speaking clearly than the app itself. It does seem to “learn” words – for example, my world Osteria at first kept being translated as “Wisteria” but now seems to be coming through as “Osteria.” Magic dragons!

Names are an issue especially in a fantasy novel like mine where I have names like Iolalus, Anathamas, and Nephele. No matter how clearly I say the names, the app tries to put its own interpretation on them with rather funny results.

My suggestion if you plan to use this app (and something I will do from now on) is to make up “normal” names for your characters (say “Ian” for “Iolalus”) as you read aloud and then simply use Find and Replace after you load the text into Word. Just be sure to keep track of the names you used.

dragon, cute dragon
Who’s a good dragon? You are!

Using Your Dragon

Using the app is super easy. Simply open the app, press the start button and speak where it tells you to. Now, this is a free app so don’t expect miracles. It can only remember about half a page of text, so you need to stop every few paragraphs and let it convert the speech into text (this only takes a couple seconds), you can then continue.

To get the converted speech from the app to somewhere useful, you can copy and paste (if you have a word processing app) or you can email it to yourself directly from the app and then later copy and paste it into Word (or whatever you type into). You can then “clean up” anything your Dragon misunderstood.

How Does It Compare to Typing?

I did a quick experiment yesterday to compare the time it took to read, email and clean up versus typing the text directly into Word. One page took me a little over six minutes to type. Using Dragon for 16 pages took a little under an hour.

So, do the math:

  • Typing those 16 pages would have taken 96 minutes (16 x 6 = 96)
  • Using the Dragon app took 60 minutes for 16 pages.
  • Since 96 – 60 = 36, I will save over half an hour every 16 pages (plus the back, hand and eye pain.

So yes, I’m hooked on dragons!

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