Transcribe Recorded Dictation with Google Docs

Published October 25, 2017

Imagine my elation when I found out I could use Google Docs to transcribe recorded dictation. I couldn’t believe it. I knew it had the capability to transcribe voice to text, but to transcribe pre-recorded utterances? Well, that’s a horse of a different color.

Transcribe Recorded Dictation with Google Docs

As a writer, I often use voice recognition software. My software of choice is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I've been using it on and off for several years.There’s a steep learning curve and it has its faults, but after evolving from earlier versions to version 13, I figured I might as well stick with it.

Transcribing with Google Docs

When my daughter made fun of me for still using Microsoft Word, I decided to give Google Docs a try. It was an easy transition. In addition to being able to use it on all of my devices, it had a neat little feature called voice typing. Being a NaturallySpeaking user, I had to give the voice typing a whirl. I really wanted to compare its accuracy and ease of use to my expensive Dragon software.

I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy and lack of learning curve. No need to train the software or go through an installation process. All I needed to do was click on the Voice typing... menu option and start dictating into my microphone. Hmm, that was easy enough, but could it transcribe recorded dictation?

Recording the Dictation

Record Dictation with Voice Memos

Some smartphones come with a voice recording apps already installed. Voice Memos is the pre-loaded voice recorder on iPhones. I’m not sure about the pre-installed app on androids. The good thing is if you don’t like the pre-loaded app (or your phone doesn’t have an app) you can always download one for free. In a later post, I’ll discuss a few of the voice recording apps I’ve used on Android and iPhone.

The app you use doesn’t make a difference as long as it records clearly enough for the transcribing software to hear. The only other thing you might want to concern yourself with is the size of the recorded file, but that topic will be covered in another post.

Several Options for Transcribing Recorded Dictation

I can’t emphasize enough the freedom of using Google docs for transcribing recorded dictation. As a long-time Dragon NaturallySpeaking user, the fact that I can transcribe dictation from any device is liberating. NaturallySpeaking does transcribe recorded dictation, but the drawback is it's only available on one computer. To use it on more than one computer I'd have to purchase additional licenses.  They're expensive and it's just not a cost-effective option for me.

Transcribe Recorded Dictation with NaturallySpeaking

Google docs, on the other hand, is available on all of my computers and devices. No need to purchase additional licenses or wait until I returned home to use my desktop to transcribe (did I mention how liberating that is?)

How NaturallySpeaking Transcribes Recorded Dictation

Being somewhat picky, NaturallySpeaking requires a certain file size and format. Because I am using it on a Windows 10 computer, it will not transcribe files in the m4a format. Also, if the bitrate is too small, NaturallySpeaking throws an error message stating the file size is incompatible

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Error

After making a recording of the right bitrate and format on my phone, I send the file to my desktop computer. The send method is either email or upload to a shared drive. Once the file is in a location accessible to NaturallySpeaking, I click Transcribe Recording... from the Tools menu and dictation and begin the process.

Transcribing with Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon opens a window where I can tell it whether to pay attention to voice commands or not. I’ve found that not using voice commands gives me a more accurate transcription. Next, I locate the file, open it and click Transcribe.

Transcribe Recorded Audio

A DragonPad window opens and Dragon NaturallySpeaking begins transcribing.

Dragon Transcription

How Google Docs Transcribes Recorded Dictation

Similar to the NaturallySpeaking process, I create a dictation file. Unlike Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Google Docs doesn’t care about the file format. It also doesn’t seem to be too picky about bitrate. As long as Docs can pick up the voice clearly, it will transcribe.

Next, I open a new document in Google Docs and click Voice typing... under the Tools menu.

Voice Typing

A microphone appears. I access my recorded file and click play. I then go back to Google Docs and click the microphone to begin the transcription process (always click play on the recording first then click the microphone).

Google Docs Transcribe

It’s good to have the applications opened side by side to make it easier to click play and then click the microphone.

Google Docs transcribing recorded message

Google Docs begins transcribing in the opened Docs window. Unfortunately, in the image above, it transcribed my formatting directions.  That's not always the case.

Pre-Transcription Setups

The Google Docs transcription method takes fewer clicks to get things going, but there are a couple of pre-transcription steps you must take. You’ve got to make sure the computer can hear the dictated file. To do that you need to link the line in with the line out jack.

line in line out cord

The easiest way to do it is to get a line in/line out cord (male to male Amazon affiliate link). The setup is simple. Take one end and plug it into the line in jack and the other end to the line out (headphone) jack. This way what plays is being looped back into the computer for Google Docs to hear and transcribe.

NaturallySpeaking doesn't require such pre-transcription setups.

What about Transcription Accuracy?

Well, this post is getting rather long so I’ll discuss transcription accuracy in another post.

Felicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low-tech blogger.

Last Modified: 20 June 2023


  • Robert April 25, 2020, 3:23 am

    Hi Grandma.

    From one writer to another I just wanted to thank you for your helpful posts. I too was a Dragon user and I was also introduced to voice typing on google docs. My question to you is what is the best way to transcribe audio interviews i have saved on my computer. Some are WAV files and some are MP3. I’ve had limited success using Dragon and want know if you know a way to do it with google.

    Thanks again.

    Have a great weekend.


    • Felicia April 27, 2020, 9:24 am

      Hi Rob,

      I’d set up Google Docs the same way as if I were transcribing one of my own pre-recorded dictations. I’m not so sure if Google Docs can discern one voice from another as I haven’t tested it with interviews, but it should be able to transcribe them whether it’s .wav or .mp3.

      Just make sure you follow the pre-transcription set up as indicated in the post. You must make sure your computer can hear the recording. You’re basically looping the sound of the recording back into the computer for it to transcribe.

      Hope that makes sense (and helps).

  • Roxanna Harrison January 6, 2020, 7:30 pm

    I want to know if I can get dictation in and transcribe myself on Google? hi e

    • Felicia January 9, 2020, 7:12 am

      If you have a microphone, Google Docs is able to transcribe dictation. It doesn’t have to be pre-recorded.

  • michel December 6, 2019, 2:36 pm

    Google docs will happily transcribe my live voice. Google docs will not transcribe from my unplugged recording device (by that i mean that there is no cable connection between recording device and my pc) My Samsung phone is better in that an occasional word is recognised. Both of them are on full volume,and both have been used at varying distances from the pc mics.

    The impression i have from your post is that if if i load an audio file to my pc,put a link between headphone and mic jackplugs,and play the audio that Google docs will happily transcribe,even though you indicate that the playing audio cannot be heard without the use of headphones and a splitter. Are you saying that somehow Google docs can transcribe without audible audio.

    • Felicia December 10, 2019, 11:27 am

      Hi Michel,

      Sorry for the late response. I’ve read your comment a few times and am not sure if I understand you.

      Google Docs will transcribe an uploaded audio file as long as the computer is set up so the line in/line out jacks are connected. At least that worked for me. The sound has to play back to the computer for the app to transcribe it.

  • MICHEL trehorel December 11, 2019, 11:39 am

    ok Grandma, i have followed your instructions exactly. With the double ended jack plug joining input to output, i and more importantly, my laptop microphone, are unable to hear any audio. Is this correct.

    • FeliciaDecember 11, 2019, 12:54 pm

      Let’s see if we can solve this issue.

      Back when I originally wrote this post in 2017, I was using an old Windows laptop. That laptop did not have any external devices connected to it such as speakers or microphones. As such, all I had to do was plug the jack into the line in and line out and the computer was able to transcribe the recording.

      I’ve since gotten rid of that laptop so I just tried it again with a desktop computer. This computer, however, has external speakers and I also use a Microsoft headset for dictation. In other words, this computer has several sources for sound and an external microphone.

      What I did this time was I connected the jacks to the line in and line out, but had to open up Control Panel and set the default Playback and Recording devices as shown below:

      Sound Settings

      Once I did that I was able to play the pre-recorded dictation and Google Docs transcribed it.

      Although Google Docs was transcribing, I could not hear the dictated audio file because the sound was being directed back into the computer.

      I hope this helps.

  • Inner Eye November 24, 2019, 3:59 am

    Hi. Nicely explained. May I know how to use laptop for transcribe prerecorded audio/memo? Laptop have only one audio jack. It has no line out/line in. Recording microphone os with the web cam only. Awaiting your guidance.Thanks in advance

    • Felicia November 24, 2019, 7:58 am

      Hi Inner Eye,

      I guess I’ll need to answer your question with a question. What type of laptop are you using? The reason I ask is that I’ve got a Chromebook with only an audio jack. However, when I insert a line in, I have the option of telling it whether it’s an input or output.

      When I first insert the device I get this image:Headphone Jack

      If I tap on the headset I get the following option: Input or Output

      Maybe your laptop offers a similar option.

  • Angela February 27, 2019, 12:12 am

    Hi Felicia i have been doing research on how to do transcriptions and came across your website i saw where one blogger said google docs voice typing only recognize human voice for the direct transcription to occur in text, my question have you ever used a audio player like voicemeeter to play recorded audio to google docks to transcribe to text or is it just easier to use the male to male audio jack in out feature on the sound card, does the voicemeeter have an advantage in that it may help to clear up distorted not so clear audio.Would love some advise on what i need to start out with Transcription using Google docs my husband just built a new ryzen desktop pc so i am willing to use a desktop at home to do transcription your help would be deeply appreciated thanks in advance.

    • Felicia February 27, 2019, 8:17 am

      Hi Angela,

      I want to make sure I understand your question.

      First, I’ve got to say that I’m not familiar with Voicemeeter, but from my quick web search, it appears to be a rather impressive voice recording app. I’m guessing you’re installing it on the PC so you can use it to pre-record dictation. Once you record the dictation, you’ll have a dictated file on your computer that you want Google Docs to later transcribe. Hope I’m understanding things correctly.

      If that is the case, then from my experience, you’ll still need to use the line-in cord to loop the sound back for Google Docs to transcribe it.

      I’ve found that voice recording software built into the Microsoft software is more than adequate for transcribing dictation. Google Docs is pretty accurate. However, if you prefer to use Voicemeeter, I’m sure it will do the job.

      Hope my answer was helpful.

  • Michael May 7, 2018, 3:17 pm

    Hello Grandma...

    Thank you for your website. I am 70 years old...definitely not an IT person. I’m trying to help a disabled friend of mine who is unable to type to use the transcription capabilities of Google Docs. He can speak to his iPhone Voice Memos and send it to his Microsoft Windows 10 computer for transcription by Google Docs. But your instructions say the first step is to “create a dictation file.” I have no idea how to do this. So I went to Best Buy to talk to their Geek Squad guys. They didn’t know either. (They didn’t even know that a pre-recorded voice could be used with Google Docs.) So, I’m at a loss. Can you possibly walk me thru this. It would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Bless you…Michael

    • Felicia Williams May 7, 2018, 3:41 pm

      Hi Michael, sorry for my confusing instructions. By dictation file, I mean any pre-recorded dictation.

      Your friend’s recorded voice memo from his iPhone that was sent to Microsoft Windows 10 would actually be the “dictation file.” In essence, he needed a pre-recorded dictation to play from his computer so Google Docs could transcribe it. He could also dictate directly into Google Docs and forgo the need to send recordings to his computer.

      Another alternative is to download the Google Docs app for iPhones. With that app he could dictate directly into a document from his iPhonoe. No need to send it to the computer for transcription.

      Hope I didn’t confuse things further. If I muddied the waters, let me know and I’ll try to put together better step-by-step instructions.

  • Paul January 1, 2018, 6:36 am

    Very interesting. Is it possible to listen to the recording while Google Docs is transcribing?

    • Low Tech Grandma January 1, 2018, 8:43 am

      Hi Paul,

      Good question. I haven’t tried it, but I’m thinking in order to listen to the recording while Google Docs is transcribing, you’ll probably need an adapter or splitter like this one: It’s the same one I use when dictating into my cell phone with a headset (the default iPhone earbuds don’t work very well).

      You’ll need to plug the male end into the headset jack of the computer. From there you could use one side of the splitter to connect to the microphone jack on the computer and the other side to a headset or speaker for you to listen while it’s transcribing.

      When I get a chance, I’ll play around with it to see if there’s a simpler way to listen while transcribing.

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