MacSpeech Scribe review: transcribe audio files with your Mac

Mac Speech Scribe Voice Transcriptionist

MacSpeech Scribe is a companion application to Dragon Dictate from Nuance.

Dragon Dictate mainly transcribes live audio. You cannot ask it to transcribe from an audio file and correct the transcript phrase by phrase, hearing your spoken audio for that phrase, like you can on Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking for the PC.

So if you have a device like an Olympus digital recorder and you want to dictate onto that and have it transcribed, you need MacSpeech Scribe.

Below is my review. To save you time, here’s a quick summary…

• Scribe is buggy. Its main bug is silly – it splits some words down the middle and then tries to understand the word it splits as 2 separate words. So…

“I like using Dragon Dictate” can be transcribed as ” I like using Dragon dick” “tate” (inverted commas are mine)

Here’s another example of what I got from Scribe…

It’s 1:53 PM on September 13 two thou sand and 11

Why? Scribe split the word ‘thousand’ in 2! And I dictated this short phrase into an app called iTalk Recorder Premium on my iPhone which records in aiff format. And I said the sentence in a ‘clean’ way. When I played back the audio I couldn’t hear any ‘hiccup’ in the word ‘thousand’ – I said it well with no background sound.

This simple bug should have been fixed more than a year ago. Instead, MacSpeech Scribe has not been updated. People like me have posted on the Nuance forum about this problem, but I haven’t seen any response from Nuance staff to these posts.

In addition, you can only feed Scribe with one file at a time. I have dozens of audio files so feeding each file one after the other to Scribe would be very time consuming. With Dragon Naturally Speaking for the PC you can pass it a batch of files to process.

Bottom line: I recommend that you do not buy this product until it is updated! :) (It’s now October 2012 with no software update in the nearly 22 months I’ve owned this product!!)

MacSpeech Scribe is very frustrating to use. Instead, it would be faster if you played your audio files through headphones and re-dictated what you heard into Dragon Dictate.

This is the text I posted onto the Nuance forum in early 2011

I have the same problem with Scribe: I lose the ability to edit the next section of text. So in some cases I have to abandon the editing completely.

My sense is that Scribe is not yet polished enough to be used seriously.
If a friend asked me if I would recommend buying it, I would have to say no.

I dictate a lot of ideas in the car, transcribing thoughts from lectures I listen to as I drive along, into an Olympus DS-40.
I then have to run the wma files through Scribe to convert them.

After 2 weeks of using Scribe, and enunciating my words very carefully, transcription accuracy is about 80%. This is not high enough, and editing the text is very time consuming.

The editing controls, to me, are very confusing. I don’t think the user interface was thought through.
If I press the ‘wrong’ key combination then I lose the ability to edit the rest of the text: Scribe is very unforgiving.

Scribe currently splits words down the middle, then tries to guess the first half of the word in one phrase and the second half of the word in the other phrase.

Scribe also breaks dictations at places other than the end of sentences. I don’t think I have ever seen it present me with a neat phrase or full sentence to edit.

It provides sentences like this…

“Once upon a tie” “muh there lived a prin” “suh <comma> who lived in a castle with” “his mother and father, the king” “and queen. One day a” “black knight appeared at” “the gates. He demanded” “to see the prince, but” “the prince was too afraid to go down so…” etc

For me, editing text like the above is unnecessarily hard work: I have to look to the next phrase to correctly edit the first phrase if Scribe makes errors. Does that make sense?

What I would like is that Scribe reliably presents phrases as follows…

“Once upon a time there lived a prince <comma>” “who lived in a castle with his mother and father, the king and queen.” “One day a black knight appeared at the gates.” “He demanded to see the prince, but the prince was too afraid to go down so…”

Also what Scribe does is that it transcribes all the text and presents it as a solid mass of words.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where I am if the audio file is more than a couple of minutes long.

This is completely impractical, for me.

I would much prefer to have a way to see each phrase or sentence stand out, perhaps even by crudely adding a line break onto the screen like this…

Once upon a time there lived a prince,

who lived in a castle with his mother and father, the king and queen.

One day a black knight appeared at the gates.

He demanded to see the prince, but the prince was too afraid to go down so…

THEN it would be much easier to fix mistakes in the transcription and Scribe would be more fun to use.

The User Guide is complete, but it’s brief. As a result, it’s not helpful. It simply does the minimum, but that’s it.

What you won’t find anywhere is the following…

“We designed Scribe to be used with digital recorders. We focused on the following models for these reasons…  If you have one of these models, set the x mode to position y. Scribe works best if you’re in a room with soft furnishings and you don’t keep pressing the Pause button. If you’re in an echoey type room, do *this* to maximise accuracy, otherwise expect a drop of 10% in accuracy. If you’re in a car, do *this*, but generally expect a 15% drop in accuracy.Let us know if you’re using a different recorder, tell us your results, and we’ll add your info to an easily searchable knowledge base which customers can refer to.”

With the above info, I would happily buy a ‘better’ recorder!

Moving on… Cory in tech support was helpful as he played a recording I emailed him where Scribe split some of my words down the mi dull 😉 and analysed each half separately.  I’ve changed the way I dictate, and I’m still getting this problem.

As I dictate so much in the car, and getting it transcribed by a person via guru.com takes time and checking, I stopped doing this to try out Scribe.

Scribe’s 80% accuracy for me simply means that I can use it to get a good idea what is on each recording. I am currently considering listening to each recording and then re-dictating into Dragon Dictate. I think this would be faster than trying to edit the Scribe file.

I think that Scribe will be far far better in a few months if or when a new version comes out which addresses people’s issues. There may be an additional price to pay if it is rebranded as Dragon Scribe. If that happened, I wouldn’t feel that’s fair as I really believe that Scribe isn’t really at a version 1.0 yet.

It’s more like a version 0.8 with the potential to be really great. :)

-end of post on Nuance’s forum-

What do you think? I’d love to know.

On the positive side, as it has been at least 18 months since this product was last updated, I am enthusiastic that the next update will be far, far better. (After all, it can’t get any worse!!)

Apple Mac Enthusiast rating…

Ease of use: 2.5/5

Results: 2/5

Documentation: 3/5

Support: 2/5

Bugs/issues: 1/5

Overall: 2.5/5

Do please share this content! :)
Christopher John Payne
 

Chris helps coaches, trainers and consultants to double or triple their net income by optimising their website, product funnel, pricing structure, and more. He lives just outside London, England. His main site is at christopherjohnpayne.com.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 9 comments
Sarah

HI, Christopher. Thanks for this review. I am wondering how you are transcribing now. Have you scrapped Scribe and decided to listen to your recording and respeak into Dictate? I am just getting started on a major project and will need to transcribe tons of interviews. I would LOVE to here more about solutions that you have found.

Reply
    chrispayne444

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I have given up using MacSpeech Scribe until a new update comes out – and there hasn't been one for maybe a year.
    My plan at the moment is to get a refund for Dragon Dictate for Mac and buy Dragon for the PC, then update my copy of Parallels and buy Windows as well!! This is an expensive solution, but I don't see any other option to get top quality speech recognition: then I'll be able to drag 100+ audio files into Dragon for PC and leave it overnight to transcribe them.
    In the meantime I'm dictating live into Dragon Dictate, and *every day* I'm finding some really silly issue/bug with it, which I'm logging, and plan to add to my review.
    Then I'll try contacting Nuance again. I've contacted 2 people at Nuance in the last month — one via direct email, and the other via LinkedIn — and not had replies from either of them. Oh well! :)
    Chris

    Reply
      DLA

      Any updates to your issue above? I want to get a MacBook Pro and then get the dictate/scribe, but I'm hesitant given the reviews

      Reply
        Christopher John Payne

        Hi!
        As of October 2012 there is still no update for MacSpeech Scribe. I am hopeful there will be an update by the end of the year. As soon as I know more, I’ll update this page.
        Dragon Dictate version 3 for Mac is worth buying — but it is still very buggy. Just avoid MacSpeech Scribe which is not designed to run under Mountain Lion which will come with any MacBook Pro you may buy.
        Chris

        Reply
Josh

Hi Chris,

I see you're talking about Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium. What makes this version for PC so much better than MacSpeech Scribe? Has it been around a lot longer? I have a PC, so the platform isn't an issue, but I was curious… and how good it really is. I also have tons of files to transcribe!!

Josh

Reply
    Christopher John Payne

    Hi Josh,
    Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium is far more mature product than Dragon Dictate for Mac — even better than the new Dragon Dictate for Mac version 3!
    Dragon Dictate for Mac will transcribe audio files which, say, you recorded in your car or on a walk — but it does the transcription in one go and yif I see an error in the transcription, I can’t click on that word and hear what I said so I can correct it: I have to go through the audio file separately and find where Dragon got confused. Yes?
    (By the way, Dragon Dictate for Mac version 3 is far better than version 2 for general live voice recognition, but it is still very buggy, and a nuisance to use at times.)

    With Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, however, transcription is, from what I understand, far more advanced.

    Chris

    Reply
Douglas

What version did you test. I want to see if there has been an update yet

Reply
    Christopher John Payne

    Hi Douglas,
    There has been no update to MacSpeech Scribe in nearly 2 years. I’m using v 1.1.1.
    When I launch MacSpeech Scribe it says that Mountain Lion (10.8.2) is not supported, so there may be problems running MacSpeech Scribe.
    Today, Tuesday, October 02, 2012, I checked on the Nuance site. The current version number is not listed there, though the product is still for sale.
    I have had many email from Nuance about the update to Dragon Dictate 3 which does simple transcription from audio files (but is nowhere near as powerful as MacSpeech Scribe is meant to be) — but no emails about MacSpeech Scribe.
    I am hopeful there’ll be an update soon though.
    Chris

    Reply
Bella

Just bought Macscibe and its perfect on my mac.Perfect. No more dissertation tears. It still needs to be proof read but since I have alot of experience with voice to text , this is a step up

Reply

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