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Quickview: One Productivity Tool Right Under Your Nose

Few advisors are aware of the powerful dictation services available to use for free.

Bill Winterberg, 05/30/2013

Dictation services have always been a key tool for the productivity-minded financial advisor. Copytalk and Mobile Assistant are two popular services advisors typically use to dictate notes after completing a client meeting. Generally, recordings are sent to employees who transcribe the dictation and then send the written text back to the advisor within 24 hours.

Such "mobile dictation" services work well when time is not of the essence, so what dictation tools should advisors use when they need more immediate feedback, such as when composing an email message?

The most popular commercial dictation software is Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance Communications Inc., which retails from $59.99 to $139.99, and works on both Windows and Mac.

But modern operating systems now include dictation tools integrated directly in the software. Despite the native integration, few advisors are aware of the powerful dictation services available to use for free.

Users of Windows 7 and 8 can activate dictation by performing a search in the operating system for "speech recognition" and then tap/click Windows Speech Recognition. With the settings window open, say "start listening" or tap/click the Microphone button to activate the listening mode. Open the Windows program where you want to enter text and start speaking into your microphone.

Dictating text just scratches the surface of the Windows Speech Recognition, as you can issue operating system commands and other functions. A list of all supported commands and functions can be reviewed at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/using-speech-recognition

Mac OS X also includes built-in dictation, enabled in the System Preferences -> Dictation & Speech menu. In most programs, dictation is activated by pressing the function ("fn") key twice. Since I use a Mac in my business, I use this feature constantly, and it is suitable for dictations that are 30 seconds or less. While operating system commands are not supported in Mac dictation, there is an extensive list of phrases that dictation will convert into text, as described in this support article: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5449

So try the free dictation software that is already built into the software you use every day. Dictate your emails, tasks, reminders, blog posts, and so on and see what additional productivity you pick up each day. Should the free dictation not work well for your needs, consider upgrading to commercial software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or subscribing to transcription services like Copytalk and Mobile Assistant.

Postscript: The majority of this column was composed using Mac OS X Dictation

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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