Most people know about Dragon Naturally Speaking, and many solo and small firm attorneys swear by its ability to save time typing. However, Android does have one of the best speech to text engines on the planet, and certainly the best engine on any mobile device. Android’s excellent speech engine also means that you can create a makeshift Dragon dictation system using Google Drive and your Android tablet or phone.

I suggest, if you haven’t already, that you familiarize yourself with Google Drive on your desktop and your mobile device app. The program’s actually very robust, providing document editing, spreadsheet, and presentation creation, among other functions.

Getting started

In your Chrome browser, you’ll find Drive in the applications panel on the right side of the screen.


First, open and rename a new, blank document in Google Drive (click Create > New > Document). You can use your desktop or the Drive app on your device. (You can also create a new document directly from Google Docs.)

Let the fun begin

Next, open the same document on your desktop or mobile device (whichever one you didn’t use before). You’ll need the two copies running to take advantage of Drive’s collaborative mode, which enables you to simulate Dragon Naturally Speaking. Alternatively, you could just dictate to your Drive document on your mobile device and come back later at your desktop to edit and complete.

Now, with both documents open, you can begin dictating into your mobile device and watch the words appear almost instantaneously on your desktop.

Speech to Text into Google Drive

File Memo - Google Drive

The real-time transcription is pretty neat, though you lack some of the more useful Dragon commands (especially “select”, “new paragraph” and “replace”) — here are some punctuation commands you can use. Also, be sure to enunciate well, and slow down slightly as you speak, since like Dragon, Android sometimes misinterprets “trick” to mean “dick.”

Once you’re finished, you can edit the memo and save the file locally in a number of different formats. Otherwise, if you’re using Drive to store your files, just leave the file in your folder.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick and cheap method to DIY your own speech to text transcription program, this is the best you’re going to find. Google has significantly improved its speech-to-text functions, and Google Docs does a great job of making use of the speech-to-text engine.

I have a special thanks to California attorney David Casady, for introducing this method. David wrote me about his experiences with the method: “With the same Google doc open on Google Drive and my phone’s Drive app, with my phone’s voice to text function, I was able to dictate an entire memo to file. The file syncs between phone and desktop in real time. Sort of a poor man’s dragonspeak. Anyway, works surprisingly well and if you already have an Android phone, costs nothing.”

This post was originally published May 22, 2013.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


David Casady · May 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

FYI – the “new paragraph” command does work with this method.

    Jeffrey Taylor · May 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    David Casady Awesome! I couldn’t get it to work. It would just type out “new paragraph”. I tried it again, spoke more slowly, and it worked.

Colleen Smith · July 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

Does anyone know if you can number items with it? For example:
I will try the slower speech to get the “new paragraph” to work.

    Jeffrey Taylor · July 20, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I didn’t have any trouble with “new paragraph.” Enunciation is the key.

    I believe a numbered list is beyond the dictation capabilities at this time (or I don’t know a numbered list command – most likely). I had success in creating a numbered list just by starting a numbered list in the Drive document, and then saying “new line” at the end of the sentence. I noticed that there was a space before the word in the new line, but that’s easy to correct in editing later.

Will · April 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I know this is an old topic, but I’m trying to find a way to dictate longer documents hands-free. I’m trying to make use of my commute. My biggest problem is that Android’s voice-to-text works in small batches. If I want to keep working, I have to hit the record button again every few seconds.

Your screenshot shows a “Tap to Pause” button, which leads me to believe you have some way of having the text-to-speech stay open and transcribe continuously. How did you do that?

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    It’s actually just one extra tap on the speech input screen, not on the microphone button. Mine will also pause automatically usually.

mike g. · March 1, 2016 at 7:17 pm

hi jeffrey,
what do you recommend for reliable tablet software to convert handwriting to text/Word?

    Jeff Taylor · March 2, 2016 at 6:19 am

    I’m a big fan of Google’s own Handwriting Input app. It’s not perfect, but it’ll get you about 80% accuracy. One drawback is that it’s hard to operate on a smaller device.

    You can also try Google Keyboard, which features a swipe to type function that I find easy to use and reliable. You can check out my review.

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