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Best dictation software of 2021

A person speaking into a smartphone.
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PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

The best dictation software makes it simple and easy to take audio notes and transcribe documents, on your desktop or mobile device.

Dictation software has come a long way in recent years. It used to be a bit of a gimmick, but today it is changing the way companies do business. 

Dictation software makes it easier to take notes in meetings, keep track of important conversations, or transcribe documents while on the go. It can also empower persons with disabilities who may struggle to type using conventional methods. As the software continues to improve, the number of business applications of this technology is rapidly increasing. 

Although we're seeing voice commands becoming increasingly common for some software platforms, here we'll feature the best dictation software to work with all of the software on your devices, from desktops to laptops to smartphones.

We've also featured the best text to speech software.

Get Dragon Anywhere at no additional cost (worth $150)

Get Dragon Anywhere at no additional cost (worth $150)
Get a free USB headset ($34.99/£24.99) and Dragon Anywhere mobile speech recognition app (worth $150/£110) at no additional cost when you buy Nuance Dragon Home or Professional or Legal, with prices starting only from $200/£200 with code TECHUSB.


(Image credit: Dragon)

1. Dragon Professional Individual

Best dictation software overall

Reasons to buy
+Industry-specific products+Advanced integration of artificial intelligence and deep learning+Lifetime subscriptions so no recurring costs +Best-in-class accuracy
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Mobile software bought separately

Dragon Professional Individual dictation software is widely recognized as the best in the business. Dragon products are reliable, easy to use, and among the most accurate available.

Having used Dragon dictation software on our laptop, we can attest to its best-in-class performance. In a 300 word test, the software got 299 words correct. 

Like most advanced dictation software platforms, Dragon software leverages deep learning technology and artificial neural networks. These technologies enable Dragon to adjust its transcription based on several factors, such as the amount of ambient noise, the speaker’s accent, and even the tone with which they speak. 

For businesses, several Dragon dictation products may be suitable. This is because Dragon has gone beyond merely offering one software package for all purposes, and has created dictation software custom-designed for specific industries. The most popular are Dragon Legal, Dragon Medical One, and Dragon Law Enforcement. 

The biggest downside of Dragon dictation software is the substantial cost for a license.

Read our full Dragon Professional Individual review.

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(Image credit: Dragon)

2. Dragon Anywhere

Best dictation solution on the move

Reasons to buy
+Best-in-class mobile dictation software+Add custom vocabulary
Reasons to avoid
-Desktop software must be bought separately 

So powerful is Dragon’s mobile dictation software that it deserves its own spot on our list. Unlike its desktop counterpart, Dragon Anywhere is purchased through an ongoing subscription, rather than a one-off purchase.

As you might expect, the mobile version of Dragon is a pocket-sized version of the desktop software. There is little if any compromise on performance or accuracy. Dragon Anywhere uses cloud-based datasets and deep learning algorithms to provide a desktop experience on mobile.

Another feature we like is the ability to teach the software new words, expand its vocabulary, and ensure that it works for you, not the other way around. This makes using Dragon Anywhere a stress-free experience.  

One of our only complaints about the platform is that you can only dictate text from within the app. If you want to move the transcribed text to another application, you’ll have to copy and paste it. This puts the platform at a disadvantage compared to in-built dictation software used in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or on iOS devices. 

Read our full Dragon Anywhere review.

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(Image credit: Otter.ai)

3. Otter

Best value dictation software

Reasons to buy
+Both desktop and mobile support +Competitive free-forever plan+Import audio and video files
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Limited customer support

One of the few dictation software platforms that can come close to Dragon is Otter. This popular software package is one of the easiest to use. It comes with several advanced features that separate it from some of the lower-ranked providers in this list. 

One of our favorite features is speaker identification. This is ideal for meetings or for when multiple are speaking in succession. When Otter software identifies a change in the speaker, it will signal this in the transcribed text. 

Otter also allows you to record from directly within the app, or import audio and video files stored on your device. And unlike Dragon, an Otter subscription includes a mobile version of the software.

There are three Otter plans available. The free-forever plan is competitive and enables you to transcribe up to 600 minutes of audio per month. The Premium Plan includes 6000 minutes of transcription per month and a suite of premium features. A Teams plan offers all features mentioned above plus enterprise-specific features. 

Read our full Otter review.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Microsoft Word speech to text

Best solution for Microsoft 365 users

Reasons to buy
+Included with all Microsoft 365 subscriptions+No installation or setup required+Accurate at distinguishing between text and voice commands+Multiple languages supported
Reasons to avoid
-Only with Microsoft 365

Although not a standalone dictation software platform, we believe Microsoft Word’s dictation functionalities merit a spot on this list. Built directly into Microsoft Word, and included with all Microsoft 365 subscriptions, it is a powerful and accurate dictation tool. 

The platform relies on vast amounts of training data and artificial neural networks, meaning it is continuously improving its ability to transcribe voice to text. Having tested Microsoft’s dictation software, we’re confident it competes in accuracy and ease of use with the leading dictation software providers. 

There are few standout features to mention, but we see this as a strength. Microsoft Word’s dictation software is straightforward to use, with no setup or installations required. It is accessible directly from the Word application, and it only takes one click to begin voice typing. 

Several voice commands enable you to take control of the document. These include punctuation marks and formatting tools. 

A final thing we like about Microsoft Word’s speech to text software is its support for nine different languages, with many more in the testing stage.  

Read our full Microsoft Word review.

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(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple dictation

Best free dictation solution for Apple users

Reasons to buy
+Free on Apple devices+No installation or setup required
Reasons to avoid
-Not as accurate as others-Can only dictate for short periods

Apple’s built-in dictation software is available for free on all Apple devices. It certainly isn’t the best dictation software overall, but it’s earned the final spot on our list because it is free yet highly functional. 

The software can be accessed directly from the on-screen keyboard on an iOS device, or via a keyboard shortcut on macOS devices. There is no installation or setup required—just activate the software and begin to speak. 

The software is reliable, with an accuracy rate of roughly 95%. However, you can only dictate for short periods at a time, meaning this software isn’t ideal for long texts or for people who dictate throughout their day. 

Apple dictation is ideal for infrequent use or for those who want a free but reliable dictation solution.

We've also featured the best speech-to-text software.