Scratchpad to the Rescue! (Dictation and Mac and PCs, Oh No!)

Ok. I am an avid Mac user. My entire workflow is dependent on features in MacOS not found in Windows, such as tags and the integration with my iOS devices. One part of my workflow is PC-dependent, however.

I use Nuance Dragon Professional 15 to dictate. It is faster than typing and doesn’t cause my hands any pain after a several hour session. However, it is PC only and it doesn’t integrate well with Scrivener for PC. I know. I tried repeatedly. The lack of editing features when dictating directly into the app is a pain in the caboose.

Well, for some time I have been dictating on one computer, copying it to the other, and then using Scrivener and various other tools to get the job done. It wasn’t a very pretty setup, to say the least. But it worked. Sadly, I had to use OpenOffice (yes, the older and less loved cousin to LibreOffice) for the dictation since it was free and supported by Dragon. I am not going to spend good money just to have a word count when I am dictating. A moot point, considering what I am doing now…

The built-in dictation platform on the Mac doesn’t really work for me with regards to both my fiction and digital marketing work. Not being able to create separate dictionaries or add/remove custom verbiage easily is a pain in the neck.

I wanted a way to get the benefits of the dictation software without having to actually use Windows. I found that Dragon Professional allows you to transcribe recordings - so I figured why not give it a shot?

The recordings went perfectly, with the output being easily editable and integrated with Scrivener. The transcription tool even allows me to have audio recordings dumped into, say, a Google Drive folder and have the output automagically put into another folder. All without the PC being connected to a keyboard, mouse, or monitor.

So I started doing that and hit my next road block - integrating the transcribed copy into Scrivener. I wanted to be able to just launch Scrivener and get to work, regardless of the project I am dealing with.

We all know how finicky Scrivener can be when integrating material generated by a third-party tool. Even if the documents are simple RTF files with no formatting or graphics. (Which is the case here.) The problem is that I could be dealing with several projects at once and would have to spend time fixing wherever the transcriptions where dumped. At least that is what I thought.

This is the ultimate case of “Read The Manual” I have encountered.

Scratchpad could be set to the output folder, allowing me to review, edit, and send the transcribed text to any project I want. And it seamlessly fit into my workflow.

So Scratchpad is now serving as the linchpin to my dictation/transcription setup and is saving me at least an hour per week in busy work!

Note - I am skipping the saga that was getting recordings from Voice Memo to be automatically copied to Google Drive. Here is a hint - Automator. That is nearly a week of my life I am not getting back!

Now, if you noticed I mentioned the need to have a word count up while dictating. It is an essential bit for my marketing work. Thankfully, after factoring in punctuation, I dictate roughly 180 words per minute. (~200 including punctuation.) So I just look at the time spent and can quickly figure out roughly where I am in the project.

A fringe benefit is that I am now able to dictate on the go. I just load the Voice Memo app on my iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch and speak to my heart’s content. When I get home it is waiting for me in Scratchpad.

It is not as seamless as dictating directly into Scrivener, but it does open up possibilities I hadn’t considered before. For instance, I can get an email from a client overnight requesting a quick blogpost based on something I am familiar with. I can dictate the blog on my phone while reading my email on the tablet while still in bed - as long as I am quiet about it! No more getting up and heading down the hallway to my home office just to spend twenty minutes getting something ready for when I “clock in” at nine!

Thanks for sharing your workflow!

I was wondering, in reading through this, it sounds like the external folder sync feature may be really helpful for how you work? You can think of it as being a lot like scratch pad: you get native files on the disk that can be synced and worked on from anywhere, using any tools that safely work on those formats. The difference is on the Scrivener side: instead of being a little box that is separate from everything, the contents of the folder are automatically two-way synced with one specific project. The updates go straight into the binder where they came from, and snapshots are taken to help you see what changed.

It’s about as close to “…seamlessly dictating into Scrivener…” as you can get.

Read more about it in §14.3, Synchronised Folders, in the user manual PDF.

What scratch pad is nice for are all of those little “notes to self”, where you may not even know which project they should go into yet, or if any project for that idea exists yet.

I thought about that option. However, I routinely work on multiple projects at the same time. For instance, I have three blogging clients in differing industries, and I am working on a non-fiction book alongside several fiction stories. Adding in an additional project for the sole purpose of having to move material out of it would be counterproductive.

The scratchpad in this instance works better.

Though I have found a way to get full voice control dictation within Scrivener on the PC. Sadly, it isn’t with Nuance Dragon Professional. It is with a free* dictation tool that uses the Google dictation API, called LilySpeech. Sadly, when you use that product, you are the product. It is adware much in the same vein as any product directly from Google is, even though it is from a third party. There is a paid version of it that costs $29.99/year that you have to go to the terms and conditions for the free version to find.

It’s nowhere near as bad as Nuance on the surface, though I paid $300 for it when it came out in 2015 so the yearly cost to date is $43 with more features. By the time Windows 10 loses support in 2025, the yearly cost will have dropped to $33. (Version 15 doesn’t play nicely with Win11. Scuttlebutt has it on KnowBrainer [a third-party company and forum] that Nuance has version 16 in the works to address the significant changes.)

So, I am (after spending a week getting the prior system to work!) transitioning back to the PC full time. I am learning more about the indexing options available in Win10 and seeing if I can get an analog to the tags feature from MacOS to work. For secure data storage (I use encrypted DMG files to house sensitive client data) I am going to use VeraCrypt going forward.

I hope next year’s version of MacOS improves the dictation and voice control features. Ventura is a nice improvement, but it isn’t quite there yet for my needs. Especially when it comes to training the dictation engine and utilizing some system commands. My accent, apparently, is different enough from the standard Midwestern twang to make life interesting for Apple! Got to love being from Indiana. lol.

Oy! I will be back after experimenting with a tool I just found on a thread on KnowBrainer. Talon - it is opensource, claims to be as accurate as Dragon, customizable, and… (Drumroll please!) available for Mac with a Universal2 binary!

I am a bored writer with bad hands and am going through the joy of trying to figure out how to get the most out of Scrivener without typing, lol. At least that will be one less thing for the LandL support team to have to experiment with whenever someone asks a question. :slight_smile:

I love Scrivener and the arduous work the LandL team does to make this product work. It has revolutionized how I approach my work as a writer and editor. I feel like I wouldn’t be anywhere near as productive if it wasn’t for the project functionality of the program.

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