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ABC: Digital Dictation

By Andrea Cannavina

According to Dictaphone®, in 1952 recorded dictation itself was established as "a time saver over handwriting and stenography among attorneys, physicians and other professionals". In fact, it was in 1973 that the first mini-cassette recorder was marketed, making analog dictation the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8 track tape!

There are several options to capture dictation files, once you have decided to upgrade. They include:


A toll free number is dialed, a pass code punched in and work is dictated into the receiver or speaker of a standard telephone, using the key pad to control the recording functions (play, rewind, insert, etc.). Upon completion of the call, the digital file created is routed through the internet to a secretary, virtual assistant or transcription company.

Dial in dictation has many benefits, including:

no capital expenditure for equipment or software;

no learning curve for portable recorder or dictation software;

24 hour service availability;

ability to dictate from anywhere there is a phone, including while traveling;

works as well for single professionals as it does for large corporations.


Portable digital recorders can be located in any electronics or office supply store, catalog or website. They range in price from as little as $50.00 to $500.00 and up. Along with the recorder, software is provided for the transfer of the digital file created by the unit to a computer, generally through a USB cable or a cradle. A user guide and software included with the recorder usually contain instructions and a tutorial.

Dictating is fairly straight forward and quite similar to an analog (tape) recorder. When purchasing a unit, note button size, shape and location. Be certain that the unit is not so small, or button placement so awkward that it is uncomfortable to use. Also be certain that the recorder has all the functions needed. Some less expensive models, for instance, do not have the ability to insert – that quick rewind to go over what you just said to say it better. Research all the model’s functions before you purchase!

Once a digital file is created and uploaded to a PC, it is ready to be sent through a company’s network, direct upload to a transcription service provider or over the internet to a virtual assistant. Many portable software units require the purchase of separate transcription software and equipment such as a foot pedal.


As with many types of software, development of digital dictation applications range from basic to the extremely comprehensive and industry specific. Most dictation software has a free trial period (usually thirty days) and can be downloaded directly from a developer’s website. In a nutshell, digital dictation software turns a computer’s microphone, speakers, mouse and monitor into a dictation machine. Just as with a portable unit, when the file is complete, it is ready for transfer through your company’s network or over the internet to your transcription provider.

Should you invest in a portable recorder, PC-based software, or use a transcription service and toll free number? Each situation is unique and requires consideration of many factors, including your company’s needs, size, volume of work and technology comfort level.

Andrea Cannavina, CEO of LegalTypist, Inc.,, provides virtual assistance, digital dictation and customized secretarial outsourcing and off site transcription solutions to attorneys, law firms and those who work with the legal industry. Andrea is an EthicsChecked Master Virtual Assistant with over 15 years legal administrative experience. LegalTypist opened its virtual doors in April 2001 and has assisted dozens of firms and businesses in the implementation and configuration of a digital workflow. To contact Andrea directly, please e-mail her at, call toll free: 866-848-2195 x101 or visit her website at


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