Voice recorders

Who is using a voice recorder as a complement for Scrivener? I’ve thought for years to buy one, and it seems current models are easy to use and create files that can be easily transferred into Scrivener for transcribing.

I fear to buy another of the several indispensable tools that now lay around my studio unused. Can you really dictate drafts, that you can really use later in your actual writing? Do you use it for fiction or academic work?


I know some people are good at dictating their stories, but I’m not one of them.

Years ago, I bought a Sony digital recorder (with a Memory Stick to transfer to a computer) but all I ended up with were a lot of notes - untranscribed - that I never referred to again. The particular model I bought was supposed to work best with Dragon, but since it was all Win-only, I ended up not using it.

However, I do think it’s a grand idea if you are willing to take the time to transcribe the notes. Right now, if I come up with an idea that I want to remember but can’t stop to write (usually while driving, but other times, too), I will call myself and leave a note on my voicemail.

I still have to transcribe it, though, and there’s the rub. :confused:

I’ve not thought of it as a specific complement to Scrivener, but I use my VR daily. Thoughts are just too random and mercurial, and experience has taught me not to trust the capacious conk to log the selected few accurately for subsequent retrieval. A quick verbal note to myself works well, and saves the cost of a call, but I don’t dictate. A note is all it is, to be fleshed out later on screen or paper as mood or circumstance dictates.

Of course, if you use iListen:

or Via Voice

They do a lot the heavy lifting for you. Most of what you say is converted to text. I know a couple of people with disabilities who swear by the process. The Australian Journalist Phillip Adams uses a small recorder in his car for all of his radio and newspaper column reports.

It appears that once you get the hang of it it works well. Try entering ‘recorder’ into the search function above. There were several threads that pondered somewhat similar ideas.

There are also a few reliable assistive technology sites around:



Hi there,

I have used MacSpeech’s iListen for a while now and it’s definitely the best voice recognition solution for the Mac. I have used Viavoice in the past, but I don’t think it’s maintained any more. With a bit of practice iListen works quite well. I am a native speaker of German, but I can use it for German and English, which means it must be quite forgiving in terms of accent.

I use it for first ideas. Recognition is slightly above 90% so you do have to edit your writing, but that’s certainly much less strenuous on your wrists than transcribing a recording. You do need some practice speaking for dictation – e DOT g DOT you have to speak punctuation as well COMMA which does require some getting used to PERIOD PARAGRAPH

The software adapts to your voice and writing sty.e. Initially, you do need to “train” it for your voice and speech patterns, but in the new version, the training session is down to a few minutes. It also allows you to “feed” it documents you have written to extend its vocabulary.

You can also use a voice recorder “on the road” and have iListen transcribe it later. MacSpeech has a list of recommended devices on their site. I use the MacMice Microphone.

One last thing: in command mode, you can control your mac with your voice in a much more in-depth way than the built-in speech recognition can.

In short, I highly recommend it. To me it’s not a replacement for the keyboard, it’s an addition.

Hope this helps,

hi ptram,

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I do use a voice recorder for interviewing folks as material for a new project I’m working on. I have an Olympus ws-300m that works well. It’s very small, and I can plug it directly into my usb port and move files. I transcribe them in Scr. and make notes, etc. Works well.


I recently had to replace my old PowerBook with a MacBook Pro, my first Intel Mac, and, as I’ve mentioned in another topic, decided it was time to get Dragon Naturally Speaking, which only runs on Windows and comes highly recommended by David Pogue. Yes, I had to download BootCamp, buy a copy of Windows XP and DNS to do this (I recommend eBay), and I have to reboot in Windows (ack!) every time I need to use it, but it was absolutely, positively worth it. I’ve got iListen and there is just no comparison. The one thing I can say for iListen is that it made me realize how difficult this technology must be to implement. Anyway, Dragon Naturally Speaking is astonishing. It transcribes from voice recorders, too, though I haven’t tried it with my own Olympus yet. I use it to transcribe passages from books and also interviews. (It can’t transcribe other people’s voices, so you have to listen to the recording on headphones and repeat the person’s words into the microphone, which is a little weird, but works well. I know another journalist who uses this method exclusively.)

For those who need to run Windows software on Intel Macs, I can recommend Parallels Desktop, which creates a Windows virtual machine within OS X. Unlike Bootcamp, it is not free, but it also doesn’t require a reboot to run. I can literally copy and paste from Windows software directly into Mac software, and vice versa.


Katherine is right. I went with Bootcamp because I was already going to have to buy a copy of Windows XP and the Dragon Naturally Speaking software, and that was getting kind of expensive just to run one program. By the way, for those interested in trying this, XP is said to be a better system for this than Vista.

A couple days ago I went to an electronics megastore, and bought the cheapest voice recorder I could find (an Olympus VN-1100PC). While not ideal, I needed it quickly for an important interview I had to do the same day, and the only models compatible with the Mac they had were too expensive for my limited needs.

This small device records voice well enough only when set at the highest quality. This leaves me with just a bit less than one hour and a half of recording time, that is enough for long interviews. Then, I must go home and download the files to a PC, and from there move them to my Mac with an USB pen drive.

While testing it, I discovered how good it is dictating ideas and later re-transcribing them in written form. Doing it is just a part of the various writing tasks, so I think it can be done at the next writing session. I agree tht letting them stay there means loosing them - as I’ve experienced with some notes taken with my cell phone.

I plan to try it again, since it seems one of those toys that can boost creativity (at least, until they are new). If it will work, I’ll buy a better one, that can directly interface with the Mac.


Paolo’s new post reminds me. I did finally try DNS with my Olympus voice recorder, basically a test in which I dictated some stuff into the recorder, then plugged it into my MacBook pro running Windows and DNS, and then sent the dictation through DNS for transcription. This only works with my own voice (since that’s the one DNS is trained to recognize), but it’s pretty effective. You’d still have to proof it, but DNS doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. If I were the sort of person who spent a lot of time running around and wanted to keep a record of my impromptu thoughts, I’d be using it all the time. Since I’m mostly using DNS to transcribe notes from print sources, however, it’s easier for me to just dictate straight into the computer.