In a recent column, Memos on the Go, I briefly mentioned Jott. It's a free service that transcribes voice messages you send it into text, then e-mails a transcription of the message to you. The idea is to make it easy to record memos and reminders for yourself.
I didn't have the space to get into more detail about Jott then, but the service is definitely worth a longer look. In fact, like PC World's Steve Bass, I've become a fan. In my opinion, Jott is a fantastic productivity tool that every busy mobile professional should try. Here's why.
The Big Idea
Jott's concept is beautifully simple and extremely useful.
After registering online for the service, you can easily create reminders or dictate memos for yourself--or others--using the cell phone that's attached to your hip.
Let's say you've had a "Eureka!" moment while in the car. Dial Jott's toll-free number (866/568-8123) or, even better, push the speed-dial button you've assigned to it.
Almost immediately, a female voice responds: "Who do you want to Jott?" If the message is for yourself, just say, "Myself." After the beep, start talking. Messages can be up to 30 seconds long. When you're finished, simply stop talking. A few seconds later, the voice will say, "Got it." Then hang up or continue with additional memos.
Within a few minutes, the message you dictated is transcribed and delivered via e-mail, text message, or both.
That's just one way to use Jott. Here are some others I've tried:
Create a reminder. You can tell Jott to create a reminder for a specific time. Jott will send you an e-mail and text message reminder 15 minutes before the event.
Create a Twitter, Blogger, or TypePad post. After linking my Jott account to my Twitter microblog using Jott Links, I dictated a new Twitter post using Jott. Within 3 minutes, Jott had flawlessly transcribed my voice message and posted it to my Twitter page. The microblog post even had the commas I had dictated.
Send e-mail or text messages to your contacts. Need to send an e-mail or text while you're driving? Not a problem, as long as you've previously imported your Outlook or other contact database entries into Jott. When you're ready, press your Jott speed-dial button on your phone and tell Jott to whom you want to send a message. The service will verify the name or ask for clarification. Dictate your message, hang up, and your contact will receive your message as a transcribed e-mail and/or SMS text message. You can send one message to multiple people, too, as long as you've set up a Jott Group.
Jott had some difficulty identifying my requested contacts when I was in a moving vehicle. Most likely, the ambient noise interfered with its speech recognition system. When I was paused at stop lights or driving along quieter streets, Jott understood my contact names without a problem.
Create a Google Calendar item. After setting up a Jott Link to your Google Calendar, you can dictate new calendar entries using Jott. The entries will automatically appear on your Google Calendar within a few minutes.
Google recently released a tool that automatically syncs Google Calendar with Microsoft Outlook at user-specified intervals. The combination of the Google sync tool, Outlook, Jott, and a smart phone creates an almost surreal circle of convenience. For instance, I recently dictated a new calendar entry to Jott. The entry was automatically added to the correct date and time on my Google Calendar, and then appeared in my Outlook calendar on my PC. Once I synced my Palm Treo 755p with Outlook, the calendar entry appeared on my Treo, too--the same device I had used to dictate the calendar item in the first place.
Tip: Be careful to clearly enunciate "Sunday" and "Monday" when dictating calendar items. On one occasion, Jott added my Sunday calendar entry to Monday on my Google Calendar.
What's Not to Like?
I'd appreciate receiving my original Jott recordings as audio file attachments to e-mail, just in case I want to archive or share them via e-mail. But the audio recordings are accessible for playback from the Jott site, so this is a minor complaint.
At any rate, that's all the griping I can come up with. Jott's transcriptions of my voice messages have been nearly always 100 percent accurate. The service is especially useful for use with basic cell phones or smart phones with awkward keyboards. With either device, Jott eliminates the need to tiresomely tap out e-mail or text messages.
Some might worry they'll get hooked on the free service, only to be charged for it down the road. When I asked about paid versions of Jott, the company's founder John Pollard responded: "Someday we will offer a premium version of Jott for a reasonable price in addition to a free version. The feature set of a fee-based service has not been set in stone, but I can tell you it will include the ability to record longer Jott messages, as well as some nice additions we're cooking up."
So there you have it. Honestly, I can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't, pardon the expression, Jott yourself.
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Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.
Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.