When you need to take a note, but you don't have both hands free, what do you do? You dictate. If you take a look at the Google Play Store, you'll find plenty of tools ready to take your notes. Some are straight-up audio recorders; others are voice-to-text apps. Both options are viable solutions, so I decided to highlight some of each here. Whether you're looking for an audio recorder or a speech-to-text note tool, one of these will certainly meet your needs.
Note: This article is also available as a screenshot gallery.
1: Google Now/Keep
I'm going with the obvious first. If you're using Android, most likely you're using Google Now and its hands free voice interaction system. But you may not know about the Note To Self option. Just say your Google Now activation phrase (mine is "Okay Google Now") followed by "Note to self." If you've configured it properly, you can then record a note that will automatically save to Google Keep (Figure A).
Once the note is saved to your Google Keep account, it will be available to Google Keep on all your devices that are attached to your Google account. From my experience, this is one of the best ways to dictate notes to Android. Of course, I happen to depend upon Google Keep, so this is a no-brainer for me.
2: Smart Voice Recorder
If you're looking for an excellent voice recording app, you can't go wrong with Smart Voice Recorder (Figure B). It offers silence detection, sample rate settings (all the way up to CD quality), date/time file naming, live audio spectrum analyzer, mic gain calibration, customized file save location, audio sharing (via the built-in Android sharing system), pause recordings, 2 GB file limit size, and more.
The skip silence feature alone makes Smart Voice Recorder worth using. If you tend to pause while you dictate, you'll find skip silence an absolute must.
There are ads with the free version of SVR. You can get rid of them with an in-app purchase ($1.49 USD).
3: Note to Self 2.0
The developers of Note to Self have released an updated version of their speech-to-text tool, Note to Self 2.0 (Figure C), which improves on the interface. This app is simplistic but does an outstanding job of converting your spoken word to text notes you can then share (using the built-in Android sharing mechanism), delete, or edit.
You won't find any settings for the app and the interface is minimal. If you tap on a note and then tap the Edit button, you can edit the saved note (on the off-chance the speech-to-text misheard you or when you just need to add more information after the fact).
4: Voice Recorder
Voice Recorder (Figure D) offers a feature that may well make it a must-have for those who prefer taking notes in the form of audio. When you start recording a note, Voice Recorder can record in the background. You will see an entry in your notification pull-down that you can then tap to go back to the app and pause or end your recording. This means you can record memos while working in other apps. Need to find out a bit of information while you're recording? Voice Recorder allows that.
You can save files in either MP3 or OGG format, as well as in lower or higher quality sample rates (lower being 8 kHz and higher being 44 kHz). Voice Recorder also allows you to define the location for saving your files, which means you can house the files on an SD card to save your internal storage.
If you're looking for an app that does a good job of offering both standard text notes and speech-to-text notes, ListNote Speech-to-Text Notes (Figure E) might be the one. With its easy-to-use interface, you can tap on Text or on Speech Recognition to either manually enter a note or use the speech-to-text feature.
ListNote also lets you create categories so you can better manage your notes. To record a speech-to-text note, tap the category button, select your category, tap the Speech Recognition button and immediately start speaking. Once you've finished recording your note, tap Done and the note will be saved. You can then edit the note manually or trash it.
If you need to take notes when you're on the go, one of these apps should fit the bill. Whether you're looking for a straight-up audio recorder or a speech-to-text tool, you now how the apps to get the job done.
Do you have a favorite voice note app that didn't make this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.